The word “love” has been worn-out in our culture. It is used for everything from ice cream to deep intimacy. It causes at best confusion and at worst a disillusionment with each other in an intimate relationship.
Social psychology has identified two stages of love in intimate relationships. The first is referred to as “passionate love,” and the second is “companionate love.”
Passionate love is what most often comes to mind when western culture thinks of relational love. It is the infatuation stage when the fireworks are going off. During this time, it is easy to be with a person. Endorphins are high and there is a high level of positive regard. It is said that the brain can maintain this level of endorphins for only 36-48 months. The feelings then taper off to a lower level in the stage called Companionate love. The positive emotion although not as high, becomes more stable and long-lasting. As the level of endorphins decrease, some fear that they no longer “love” their partner. This is a time when marriages end, and partners seek the “right” person—someone who prompts the fireworks.
This is so unfortunate. What is missed is the sweetness of the phase of companionate love. It may not be the high level of emotion, but it is about the covenant of marriage. It is commitment to one another and the building of a history together. It is developing the security with each other to know that I can count on you and you can count on me to be there even during the tough times. It is offering a safe haven for each other in this tumultuous world.
God is a god of relationship and created us to be in relationship. What a gift it is when we view our relationship as an offering to another as we commit to “love” them beyond what is easy.
Grace and peace,