Some say there are three kinds of love. Agape, which carries the meaning ‘to treat with affection,’ philia a kind of brotherly love, and eros the love that drives us to procreate. These three we all recognize but we think we could coin a term for a fourth kind of love.
Healthy marriages require a love that is sustaining and sustainable. Eros of course, is important to that kind of love, but eros will not fully carry it. Loving based on eros tends to have a short shelf life.
There is companionship – agape – in marriage. We all know though that good companionship while a necessary part of a good marriage is not itself enough to sustain deep commitment.
To love one another as a sister would a brother or a brother a sister, philia, is a beautiful description of caring yet we all want that and much more in our relationships.
Loving fully within marriage contains these three and requires more. I want to suggest that to grasp the fullest possibilities of loving within marriage we need a kind of ‘sustaining belief’ love. This love would include the willingness to embrace conflict, the seriousness of a well considered philosophy of marriage and the capacity to return to the garden that birthed our love in the first place.
What’s needed is a reservoir of energy for loving. It would show up as curiosity, attraction for the other, a certain kind of lightness of being, passionate commitment, deep belief and/ or wonder. It would look like continued and sustainable interest in our partner’s life, their challenges, their discoveries as well as a natural willingness to share our own.
I coach couples. Many have stopped growing and are recycling old wounds. Many hang around the water cooler of complaints, analyses or diagnosis of their partners. Some live with one foot out the door. They live in the fantasy of an ‘exit strategy’ not allowing the belief which originated with their love, to inform their daily interactions with their partners.
We might consider coining a new term for the kind of love needed – a love that is willing to contain all the necessary qualities of loving that not only hold a couple in deep relationship but that also drive the desire to mine the gold hidden within that relationship. Such a love has no time for analysis, complaints or diagnosis of a partner.
I’ve considered the root word for enthusiasm, entheos, because that word carries the idea of a god within. Certainly there is something majestic and awesome about an individual’s conscious choice to love deeply. There is also something holy about our decision to not indulge our petty diagnoses of one another but instead to take full responsibility for loving. We grow best by loving. It is fundamental to achieving a high quality of life. I’d welcome your suggestions for naming this more inclusive loving so necessary to reaping the possibilities within long term partnering.
St. Valentine’s Day is an artificial creation mainly designed for merchandising product. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use it for higher purposes. Use it to remind us that loving is a choice, that we all want to be special, considered, seen. That the love that got us started in the first place wasn’t an illusion, a ‘mistake,’ or merely the result of a hormone rush.
Healthy people choose partners for more reasons than they know. Marriage is about discovering the full range of possibilities within that choice. Embrace it with enthusiasm.
Monday, February 11, 2008