In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we should talk about love. What is love? How do we build a successful relationship based on love? And how can wisdom, intelligence and creativity be applied to love? In a recent paper by high profiled love psychologist Robert Sternberg, he sort to answer these questions. Love, according to Sternberg, is a prism, depending on how we look at it, we can see different faces to the same phenomenon. We can look at it structurally, with love being a combination of passion, intimacy and commitment; today, however, I would like to focus on love as a story and how compatible thinking can contribute to a loving relationship.
Every person has their own love story. How we form our love story depends on a multitude of factors; how we were raised, the relationships of our parents and friends, the books we’ve read and the movies we’ve watched. According to Sternberg, it is the interaction between our personal attributes and the environment which forms our story of love. Some more recognisable love stories could be:
Addiction: Clinging to a partner, anxiety about them leaving you, anxious attachment
Collection: Your partner fits into your overall scheme, they are viewed detached
Fantasy: Your knight in shining armor or damsel in distress
War: Love is a constant and continuos battle, which we all must fight
Ideally, for a relationship to work we need to find someone who’s story is similar to our own. It would be a difficult relationship if one partner looked at love as a business relationship when the other saw it as roses and romance. For a love stories to be complimentary, we need to have compatible thinking. Thinking styles play an important role in how we live, communicate and structure our lives. Compatible thinking styles allow partners to share direction and goals, and more generally, their view of the world.
There are three final things that Sternberg believes are necessary to create a loving relationship. Creativity is needed to adapt; circumstance change, that’s life, we need to be able to adapt and be flexible if want our relationships to succeed. Intelligence is needed to face challenges and recognising when issues become problematic. Lastly, wisdom is required to understand a partners viewpoint and realise that a good answer to a problem can change over time.
Wisdom, intelligence and creativity in combination with compatible thinking and love stories can help greatly for those who wish to have loving relationships. There are many other factors, of course, which can affect a relationship’s success or failure and there are many other faces of love. Nobody said understanding love would be easy, if it was what would we write all those songs about?