What Makes Love Last
KEENE, TEX. – We are remarkably made by a Creator who intended for us to have intimate relationships. According to the psychologist Abraham Maslow, the need for love is one of our most basic needs. It motivates us to continuously strive to achieve and maintain loving and intimate relationships. Intimate relationships also offer us protection from stress-related illnesses, depression and accidents, and they increase our self-esteem.
God gives us the blueprint for not only how to love each other, but how to sustain a loving relationship. When describing love, 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NKJV) states, “[It] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Research supports what the Bible teaches us about the important relationship between love and trust.
In the field of psychology, there are several theories about love. One of them is Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love. Sternberg theorizes that love is composed of three key elements: intimacy, commitment and passion. Interestingly, out of those three components, intimacy is unique in that it is at the core of all loving relationships. This means that intimacy is a crucial factor in our loving relationships with our parents, spouses, children, friends and God. When comparing short-term and long-term relationships, Sternberg found that both commitment and intimacy are present in long-term relationships. If we want to cultivate loving relationships throughout our life, we need to nurture the central component of intimacy. It can be easy to mistake intimacy with romantic physicality, but when discussing intimacy, we are referring to feelings of closeness and connectedness in loving relationships.
When we closely examine intimacy, researcher Hook found that it is created through the presence of love, affection, trust, personal validation and self-disclosure. So how do we strive to always trust like 1 Corinthians states and cultivate intimacy in our loving relationships?
We find that trust is built through our everyday conversations and interactions. According to the researcher and psychologist John Gottman, couples can benefit from learning the art of an intimate conversation. An intimate conversation has four components: putting your feelings into words, asking open-ended questions, following up with statements that deepen connection and expressing compassion and empathy. Incorporating intimate conversations into our everyday interactions will fortify our trust and self-disclosure, therefore increasing our intimacy levels with our loved ones. These everyday interactions are what helps make love last.
Although the research focuses on interpersonal relationships, I cannot help but wonder about our everyday interactions with God. Are we engaging in intimate conversations with God? Are we being intentional about deepening our connection, or are we simply using a repetitive prayer that does not self-disclose our true thoughts and emotions?
Throughout the Bible, God repeatedly asks us to trust Him and lay our burdens at His feet. These actions allow us to have intimate conversations with Him. Through these conversations, we build a long-lasting, loving relationship with God and others.
By Zaira Rico, Assistant Professor
Education and Psychology Department