Speak It Out

Work is my commitment. Learning is my passion. Faith is my strength. Love is my life.

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Location: Manila, Philippines

The name Ardythe:good war (Anglo-saxon); flowering field (Hebrew); spiritual prosperity (Swedish); Norwegian goddess.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Real Love

Real love
By Michael Joseph B. Luistro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:53:00 02/13/2008

One of the frameworks that I use to explain love to my Psychology class
comes from Robert Sternberg. In his "Triangular Theory of Love," Sternberg
differentiates among the different forms of love by first identifying three
basic elements: passion, intimacy and commitment. Different combinations of
these elements lead to different kinds of love, he says.

Passion, said Sternberg, refers to "fire and desire," those intense emotions
associated especially with the beginning of a relationship. It is as if the
heart cannot be contained: it yearns, covets, and demands to be with and
united with the other person.

Intimacy, on the other hand, has "a foundation that is deep," which
characterizes friendship, Sternberg says. When someone shares a level of
intimacy with another, in this framework, one is not necessarily into
physical relationship with the other. Intimacy is derived from shared
experiences, especially the disclosure of personal things to the other.
Friends know each other well, and this makes their level of intimacy high.
On the other hand, acquaintances do not have a deep level of intimacy, and
even less so strangers.

Finally commitment means a person's decision to keep a relationship "in good
times and in bad, no less than 100 percent," as I read on a friend's
T-shirt. People with a very high degree of commitment stick it out, even
when they face the most difficult trials, even when they feel like pulling
his hair or smashing the laptop against the wall.

"Romantic love" is characterized by a high degree of intimacy and passion,
but a low degree -- or even a total absence -- of commitment. People
experiencing romantic love usually are friends who are driven by intense
emotions. Most love songs probably refer to this kind of love. And those who
feel this way tell each other, "I will love you forever," "I will never
leave you," or "I will stand by you forever." Their commitment, however, is
unfortunately usually weak, and I say this because love is expressed by
deeds, not sweet words.

A friend of mine, who was in a relationship, once sought my advice. "What do
you think is the best thing for me to do?" she asked. "I feel that we are
not growing in the relationship anymore. I think I am not happy anymore.
Sometimes I feel it is best for us to go our separate ways."

"How long have you been feeling this way?" I asked her in turn.

"It's already been more than three weeks," she told me.

"But how long have you been together?"

"Three years already."

I then asked her, "Three years is how many more weeks compared to three

Some people claiming to be "in love" are merely feeling infatuation, which
is characterized by a high degree of passion, an intense yearning for
another person, but with very low levels of intimacy and commitment. They
know the other person superficially, and the amorous words they profess
quickly prove to be just that, words.

These feelings are kinds of love, yes. And they are valid emotions. But
perhaps there is another kind of love that one has in mind, one is in search
of. It is the kind of love that people seek and desire, which some are
unable to attain, because of misconceptions about the nature of love, and so
they give up.

One of the simple yet profound analogies I picked up during the Second
International Congress on Love, Sex and Life referred to the four legs of a
table as representing the different elements of love (Dr. Colleen Mast used
four elements in her framework, using self-mastery as the fourth). If one of
the four legs is short the table becomes rocky. That is why we must learn
how to balance these elements and master the appropriate times and forms on
when and how to express them. Learning these entails active, purposive
effort. Many times, the learning process can be painful.

I remember a time when I could not stand the fighting, bickering and blaming
going on between my dear Anne's mom and dad. "Oliver," I told a friend, "for
more than 20 years now, Anne's mother has been suffering. From the
beginning, through his deeds and unfaithfulness, Anne's dad has been making
her mom cry." I thought that it was stupid that they continued to stick
together. Useless, I thought. Her dad had been given enough chances and kept
on committing the same grievous offenses. Her mom was at a breaking point.
She wanted a separation, finally. And I wanted to see it through.

Smiling calmly, Oliver replied, "But what did her mom and dad say, 23 years
ago, in front of a lot of relatives and friends? 'In sickness and in health,
in good times and in bad, for better or for worse, I will love you.' Right?
Tell her mom, 'Hey, I know this is hard, but it just so happens that at this
moment, now is another of those bad and worse times, but this is what your
commitment is, right?'"

Stupid. But the next time I met her, with a heavy heart, I told Anne's
weeping mom Oliver's advice instead of what I thought.

That was about a year ago. Looking back, I am glad I relayed Oliver's advice
instead. In fact, I was touched recently when I saw a birthday card given to
her dad that he had posted on a wall. Anne wrote there, "Dad, thank you for
staying with us."

Thinking about these experiences reminds me of the idea that when we say
"yes" to love, we have to keep saying "yes" every day. A great person put it
this way: "It is easy to be consistent in the hour of enthusiasm; it is
difficult to be so in the hour of tribulation. And only a consistency that
lasts throughout the whole life can be called faithfulness." Another great
person wrote: In the end, even the "yes" to love is a source of suffering,
because love always requires a denial of the "I," in which the "I" allows
itself to be pruned and wounded. Love cannot exist without this painful
renunciation of the "I"; otherwise there can only be pure selfishness, and
love ceases to be.

Are we capable of renouncing the "I"? Is the other [person] important enough
to warrant my becoming a person who suffers? Does truth matter enough to
make my suffering worthwhile? Is the promise of love enough to justify the
gift of myself?

These words of a friend made me understand why this must be so: "Why are you
surprised to see thorns beneath that beautiful rose?"

As I ponder these words, I glance at a picture at my side, and tell her in
my heart, "Admirable Mother, teach me so I may also learn how to keep my
love real. Help me, so that through my lectures and my example, I can also
teach others to keep their love real."

*Michael Joseph B. Luistro, 24, teaches general psychology and principles of
learning at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. He enjoys reading
books, jogging around the academic oval, and taking walks around the UP
campus. He frequents a study center and is also a member of a youth
organization whose aims are scholarship, leadership and service.*


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