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Love Print E-mail
Gregory Grove   
Wednesday, 17 May 2006


I wonder how many people have a consciousness of what they are saying when they say the words "I love you". They trip off the tongue very glibly, but what are the implications of uttering these words to another person? What are the implied promises and commitments? Have you ever told the person who is hearing these words from you what these words actually mean for you and what it is that you are really saying? And do these meanings change with time?

Some maintain that love cannot be defined and is simply an emotion or feeling. That it is a powerful emotion is beyond doubt, but if it remains purely in the realm of "fuzzy-wuzzies" how can it be nurtured and maintained? Perhaps it is this lack of consciousness of what we mean by "I love you" that contributes to the high divorce rate?

There are many different types of love - the love of our intimate partner, the love of our siblings, our love for our parents, the love for our friends…

Each of these is a different type of love and each carries different connotations with areas of overlap.

I believe the Greeks have the right idea - they have many words that define the different types of love. Let's have a look at some of these, especially as they pertain to intimate relationships. This is the relationship that appears to cause the most grief.

In the early stages of an intimate relationship the type of love is likely what the Greeks call Eros, which is passionate or sexual love (hence the word 'Erotic'). This is characterized by a longing to be in the beloved's presence and an insatiable desire for physical contact with the beloved. This is also being "in love" with another.

Some psychologists claim that this is actually a form of insanity and can lead to irrational behaviour. Certainly infatuation has frequently been confused with love and has led to hasty marriages and painful divorces.

In this condition, saying "I love you" may mean no more than "I want you" or even "I want to own you!"

However, after ten years of marriage the words are likely to have different connotations - likely (if the years have been good) the words will now be meant to convey respect, appreciation, trust and a caring that goes deeper than sexual desire alone. (Talking of respect, how many of us speak to our partners in a way that we would never dream of speaking to a stranger or a colleague?) The Greeks have a word for this type of love, Agape, which is pure, unconditional love.

"Agape" is also used to describe the love between man and God.

The Greeks also have the word philia, which means friendship and the love of family and community. Philia as a suffix means the love of whatever is meant by the prefix. For example: whilst a couple is in the grips of Eros love, they can be said to suffer from apodysophilia and clinophilia.

So, when you are say these words to your intimate partner, what are you actually saying? How will the fact of your love affect your attitude and behaviour towards this person? What are you prepared to do for them? What are you not prepared to do? Are they aware of what you mean when you say these words to them? In short, when you say "I love you", what does this mean for the recipient of the words?

What if you were to write down exactly what it is that your love for your partner means for you and then share this list with them? Some will feel that this reduces love to the mundane, but my feeling is that it could lift the relationship to another level. Then, when you whisper these words into your beloved's ear, they will know that the words have some substance and weight. And from time to time, check and update your list. Love is not static.

If you are clear about what you mean, it becomes possible to monitor your performance and bring to your awareness the areas of the relationship that need more effort. Love is not automatically self-sustaining - it is work.

All relationships require TAPE to hold them together:


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