Categorizing Love

Categorizing love? The threshold to the infinite definition of love is many. Although many cynics like me, may have thought it impossible, sociologists over the past several decades have been attempting to categorize and quantify the notion of love. Sternberg in 1986 sees love in terms of the interaction among three independent aspects: passion, intimacy (two components of love that many of us need no help in identifying or do I dare say practicing? ) and the “C” word that sends many of us rushing to the door faster than the politicians can flip-flop on their policies, COMMITMENT.

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Yes, I said it. A whisper of the word is all that is needed to make many of us quake in fear. The intensity of each of the three aspects tells us how a relationship can be characterized. According to Sternberg, he defines liking as the type of love resulting from a high degree of intimacy but low on commitment and passion. How many of us are guilty of thinking that this “liking” we feel for someone is something more meaningful? Many times, we bear this ideology and plunge into relationships but only to find it, lack of a better word, stale.

When passion is the only component that is strongly felt, infatuation best describes the relationship. Synonymous with adolescence, emotions are charged with testosterone and estrogen. When infatuated, we are thrilled, but not happy, wanting to trust, yet suspicious. There are lingering, nagging doubts about our “partner in infatuation” and their love for us. We’re miserable when they’re away, almost like we’re not complete unless we’re with them. In yet another categorization, Lee in 1973 divided love into six varied styles, each with its own name.

Eros is love based on one’s ideal images of their perfect partner. A love that is known in certain circles as the superficial love, it is based on looks and love at first sight that is only skin deep. Ludus is a playful, teasing, game playing of love where one invests on keeping their partner guessing about the commitment and the longevity of their relationship. This type of love is the “trend” in contemporary society where many tend to indulge in “open relationships” so as to not officially commit to their partner.

This inclination according to the study of Hendrick and Hendrick (1986) is mainly seen by (hold on to your horses) yes, you guessed right, men. Storge is friendship love, based on the development of deep friendship. Pragma is logical love in its most practical sense compared to a trip to the grocery store, picking all the things you desire and placing it in your shopping cart. This shopping list approach in choosing your partner for ambitious purposes is a most finely crafted art that according to research, women have scored higher than males.

Then comes what I famously refer to as the “stalker love” known as mania, an unhealthy form of love that is possessive, obsessive, fanatical, bordering on neurotic. Often made into thriller movies, where the stalker usually ends up dead or behind bars cooking up yet another plot, realistically, I have seen this type of love (choking on my own vomit)…… flourish. Yes, I did say flourish. Not all people who love their partners eternally, perpetually and undyingly are murderers (Go figure). Finally agape, the altruistic love, the Romeo and Juliet love, the “Don’t let go” love of Jack and Rose.

This selfless “I would rather suffer than let my partner suffer” or “I wouldn’t hesitate to give everything I own to my partner” has not ended well for many of our literary heroes and heroines. Many of them have, I hesitate to type this, but, many have of them have died. Relationships baffle me. Being the cynic that I am, the usual jargon of love, “soul mate”, “the one”, “my only love” and whatnot, do not come easily to me. But that’s just me. However, I do ask you, which type of relationship do you belong to?

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