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Love’s Three Ingredients

Love. There are as many definitions of love as there are people, but what do they share in common? In this article, I propose a framework of love – a way of breaking down love into three fundamental ingredients. A case is made for these ingredients as the foundation for all relationships which serve a function or purpose.

Before we begin, we first need to distinguish categories of love:

· Relational (Love based on a function or purpose)

· Non-relational (These are loves which exist without a purpose)

· Agapé (Universal love for everyone)

Agapé is a subcategory of non-relational love; love without purpose. Agapé is singled out because it is love for love’s own sake. While Agapé in some cases is the easiest love to give, the more we know a person, or the more we think about them, the more difficult it is to unconditionally love them. Our own bias creeps in, distorting the image and ultimately creating a very different reality from the one that is true – that we are all connected, and should love each other.

Non-relational love may be described as “True Loves” (Where you love someone no matter what they do, or love everything about them with no self-interest whatsoever, for betterment like in a parent/child relationship, or worse, in the case of an abusive relationship). They also have been coined negative terms: “Innocent”, “Ignorant” or “Impossible” Love. Regardless of their labels, these expressions of love exist as a function of choice. Everything is a choice, including choosing to love someone without condition. While ideal in its broadest sense, there are complications with loving someone without condition: it is a high-risk venture to love without conditions in a relationship that also serves a purpose. This brings about the next type of love, and the focus of this article: love with a purpose, or what is termed here as “Relational Love”.

Relational love has many sub-categories of which many are familiar (listed in increasing order of value):

· Acquaintance/Colleague

· Friendship

· Best-Friendship

· BFFs (Best Friends Forever)

· Love

· Lover

· Soul-Mate

There are also types of love which are less-positive, yet still serve a purpose, even if that purpose is psychological (positive or negative)

· Unrequited (One-sided love)

· Generous Love (The love derived from giving of oneself to another)

· Selfish Love (The love derived from taking from another)

· Fantasy (These are people we believe we love, but in fact we are only projecting our loveof love onto them)

Relational love is based on a consistent commitment. Whether it’s friends

hip or romantic love, or the many forms in between, love lasts as long as both parties are committed to maintaining the relationship. When it’s consistent, it increases in favour (Friendship to best friendship to even romantic partners in some cases). Perhaps, when it is at its peak, we call that “soul-mates” (See the next article for a detailed breakdown of the mystery of “soul-mates”). As we develop and increase the commitment of our relational loves, we attain higher levels of certainty about our relationships, increasing their value to us, the more time and energy we invest in them.

So then, how do commitments work? Are they just a matter of choice? In a discussion with a mentor, I realized that commitments come with expectations, or conditions. These conditions help fulfill the purpose of the commitment, which serves the purpose of the relationship or love. (See the diagram above. Note that the arrows indicate a flow in both directions – when you have relational love, you will consequently have a consistent commitment, and when you have your commitment that is consistent, you also will have relational love, etc.)

Conditions are a difficulty for many to accept. People don’t like the idea of living up to the conditions of another in a relationship. People actually just want to be themselves. Conditions mean compromise, which means changing, and people are quite content the way they are. While change can often be for the better, it is intimidating to many – many will tell you that change does not come easily without dedication. The fact that we have to compromise is often the first road-block to relationships forming. Initially, it is not difficult to form simple commitments to people. As a friend, it is relatively easy to maintain a friendship with contact once a week. A long-term romantic relationship, however could expect normal contact to occur regularly, with gaps no longer than six hours.

So then, what conditions form a functioning relationship? These conditions vary, depending on the purpose of the relationship. As was mentioned above, a friendship is defined with very few parameters. However, best-friends come with more rigid conditions and higher expectations. Romantic relationships, soul-mates particularly, come with the most in many cases.

Are there any common “types”, or categories, of conditions? As was shown in the figure above, there may be three most essential: Respect, Generosity, and Reciprocity. Respect is key, as the basis of treating another human in an honourable and decent manner is the foundation of all conduct between people. All relationships should have respect, even with acquaintances. Generosity is also important: placing another’s needs before one’s own. While it is very easy to give to a stranger, it becomes very taxing when generosity is taken advantage by a close friend or relation. This causes the third condition: Reciprocity. A person should want to take care of your needs as much as you want to take care of their needs. If a relationship has these three fundamental ingredients, it can proceed to fulfill its other purposes.

The other purposes take on the function of the relationship. The fun, and sometimes intimidating, part of forming a relationship involves defining these expectations with the other person. What matters to both of you? Can you meet the expectations of the other? Can they meet your needs? The compatibility between these expectations often determines what status the relationship will reach. For example, family relationships are about taking care of each other (typically). Friendships are often centered on the mutual enjoyment over a topic, while best-friends are based on enjoyment over another’s personality, approach to life, joie de vivre, and so on. Romantic relationships tend to involve a physical dimension, in addition to the previous. Personal gains from a relationship are also a consideration of function: financial, comedic, joyous, synchronous interests – these are all personal gains which serve as a possible function of any relationship. Serious romantic relationships typically lead to cohabitation and/or marriage.

This is where the biggest conditions must be met. People now have to function essentially as a business: they will manufa

cture a family. They must agree on the process, materials, training programs, vacation time; they must also agree on how to spend money, eat, practice spiritual and familial traditions. It is no wonder that marriages are the pinnacle of human relationships – they involve the seamless cooperation of two persons, where it is more commonly known that “two become one”.

Soul-mates bear noteworthy mention. Note that this topic will be explored in more detail in the next article, but let us examine soul-mates under these three ingredients. One does not necessarily marry one’s soul-mate, but may find their soul-mate anyway. They may never find one, it may not even exist. It may just be the recognition of the one-ness of all that is. Let’s assume that whether it exists, or does not exist, the idea of a human relationship that has reached its pinnacle is possible. What function would this relationship serve?

One function is the sense of completeness. This is in the very definition of soul-mate: two halves of a soul unite as one. However, one should never enter into a relationship seeking completion. It creates undo stress on the other, a need that can only be fulfilled by the self.

So if not completeness, what then does it serve? Perhaps, it is finally finding someone in whom you can be genuine, or authentic. We have this special gift: ourselves, and it is made up of all our thoughts, emotions, experiences and so much more – it’s our state of being. The dream of it all is to share that gift with as many as we can….but one is where it all starts, finding someone in whom we can just Be.

They are someone who understands when you’re happy, sad, angry. They know what you’re thinking, and even if they don’t, they are very good at taking enough interest in you that you don’t no

tice anyway. They are someone who likes you for your idiosyncrasies, not in spite of them. They are someone who sees your potential better than you do, and pushes you to do it. They are someone who supports your way of being, while holding you accountable to one that is free: free from self-doubt, from solitude, from shame and guilt and anger and hatred; free to just be silly, loud and obnoxious, or serious, or boring, or bored; free to just be. And they are someone in whom you wish to do all of these things in return. And what does that take? Respect. Generosity. Reciprocity.


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