As human being there is the thought that love is difficult to understand. Why are some people attracted to the people that they are attracted to and what is it that draws them to each other? Understanding the dimensions of love and knowing attachment styles clear up some of the confusion. There are three dimensions of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. These are known as the triangular theory of love (Sternberg, 1986, 1987). Intimacy refers to mutual understanding, warm affection, and mutual concern for the others welfare (Baumgardner, 2009).
Intimacy is imperative to a relationship if it is going to last. With intimacy there is a bond or a closeness between a couple. If a couple has intimacy, they are connected on more of an emotional level than a couple who only experiences passion. Intimate couples have more of a chance to move on to commitment as well. While intimacy is a big step toward commitment, having intimacy does not necessarily mean that there will be commitment on anyone’s part. There may be nothing more to the relationship other than the passion and intimacy which is romantic love.
As long as neither person plans to be with this person for a long time there is not a commitment. Passion means strong emotion, excitement, and physical arousal, often tied to sexual desire and attraction (Baumgardner, 2009). Passion can be lustful infatuation but is also an important element to a happy and strong relationship. A relationship without any of these components could be in danger of dissolving, however, in our society today, sex and passion is very important. The importance placed on sex by society is taught to children early in life, most before they know what it is.
A couple without passion could lose the bond they have created through intimacy without any passion and risk them falling out of love. Commitment is the conscious decision to stay in a relationship for the long haul (Baumgardner, 2009). Being committed does not necessarily mean that there is intimacy and passion involved. Many couples decide to stay together for different reasons even though there is no love involved. Some couples stay together for the benefit of the children if there are any, others may be bused or have low self-esteem, or it may be ma simple matter of convenience.
Consummate love combines high levels of all three dimensions to create a complete love. This is a love where some of the components may fade but are never completely gone. Intimacy, passion, and commitment may be stronger in some couples than others but they are happy and in tune with each other. These couples prefer the company of each other over going out with a group or crowd. They always touch or have some type of contact with each other and prefer to be close to each other most of the time.
The attachment theory raises the intriguing possibility that some of our most basic, and perhaps unconscious, emotional responses to intimacy are shaped by the relationships we have with our parents (Baumgardner, 2009). Infant attachment styles look at the relationship between children and their caregivers. There is an assessment of attachment styles known as the strange situation test. This experiment involved an infant, the child’s mother, and a stranger in a room equipped with toys.
The test involved seeing how the child would react when the mother left the room, then again when the stranger left and came back in a specific order. Most infants showed a secure attachment style. This style shows that the child is secure and confident while the mother is in the room, and as the mother leaves, shows some distress and plays with less of the toys. After the mother returns, so does the child’s confidence. Some of the children exhibited no signs of distress when their mothers left the room and even avoided the mother. This is avoidance attachment style.
The anxious-ambivalent attachment style is the style used to describe the minority of children who both seek and avoid the mother’s attention. They played very little and showed great distress when the mother left the room. The parenting style of the mothers to these children were avoidant and almost neglectful, showing mixed feelings toward the child. There are four adult attachment styles also. Secure attachment, preoccupied attachment, fearful avoidant attachment, and dismissing avoidant attachment. Secure attachment style describes people who are confident in their relationship, with no anxiety or avoidance.
A relationship of a couple with secure attachment style experiences positive emotions and sensitivity toward each other’s needs. The preoccupied attachment style represents people who want intimacy but have high levels of anxiety and low self-esteem. Their actions are centered more on themselves that those of the people they claim to love even though they may seem loving and caring. The fearful attachment style describes people who are high in avoidance and anxiety because of their low self-esteem and fear of being rejected. These people display a lack of love for themselves and therefore, feel they cannot be loved.
These people show little to no trust toward people and may come off as hostile or distant. Dismissing avoidant attachment describes people who are high in avoidance and low anxiety. This type of people are usually self-reliant, independent, and confident. Basically their view is that they do not need other people because they, themselves, are all they need. Relationships with these people are usually without commitment and less intimacy than those of secure or preoccupied attachment styles (Baumgardner, 2009). People’s attachment styles define what their relationship will be like.
For example, a person who exhibits the fearful avoidant attachment may be alone most of his or her life because they are too afraid of rejection to ask for or accept a date. People with secure attachment have healthy relationships and seem more satisfied with their lives. If a person is unhappy with themselves the idea that no one else could love them could destroy a relationship. To make sure both parties are equally happy, compromises and considerations need to be thought of. Getting to know all of the things a person likes and dislikes is the most exciting part of a new relationship. If done well, it will result in a well-rounded couple.