A quick guide to deciphering relationship types

Paula Dsouza helps you decipher your relationship.

Being in love with love is easy, but seeing it for what it is and understanding if love is what your relationship is based on, is perhaps not so easy. A little sugar and spice and everything nice does have a nice ring to it, but there’s more to a relationship than pomp and flash. After all, just believing in something, doesn’t necessarily make it true. Blind love has been and always will be the bane of any kind of relationship and its only antidote is comprehension and communication.

What’s love got to do with it?

Love has been called many a thing, but at its root is a connection between two people. Like most others, Robert Sternberg, a renowned psychologist, had his own opinion on it. He believed that love is made up of three simple elements – Intimacy, Passion and Commitment. And together, they form the three verticals of a triangle. 

“Romantic love in its purest form exists when all three corners of the triangle are present. Without passion and commitment, you get mere friendship. Without commitment and passion, you get a lustful version of love that is only physical. And without intimacy and passion, you get empty love, tied by only a marriage contract and sacrifices,” says relationship expert Sameera Sullivan. 

The best kind of love has all three elements and the least strong love has only one element. So, how many elements does your relationship have? Take this test… 

The ‘One Element’ Group 

The Early Friendship 

Ever had a person you appreciate having around? Someone you seem to be able to talk to and would love to meet more often, a friend. That’s what the early friendship type of relationship majorly constitutes. Or to put it simply, a relationship based on ‘liking’.

A seemingly unnecessary but vital element to fortify a relationship. It is characteristic of intimacy in the form of a close bond without paying much heed to passion or long-term commitment. A friendship leading to a relationship? What’s not to love? 

Think Jai and Aditi from ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’. 

Relationship traits: Relatability, connection, amicability and understanding. 

The Love At First Sight

Some people tend to have a charisma that instantly stirs a little infatuation. There is an intense and almost immediate attraction. This relationship is built on a love in which passion is so immensely present that there seems to be no room for intimacy and commitment. Even though this is a comparatively unstable way to start a relationship, one could still grow, provided it is cared for. Christian Grey and Anastasia  Steele from ‘Fifty Shades Of  Grey’ are a pretty good example. 

Relationship traits: Lust, physical attraction and sexual tension.

The Dying Pact

Yes, this type of relationship can be as sad as its name. And that’s because there is a deep sense of emptiness at its core. The good thing though, is that nothing lasts forever, so you always have a chance to turn it around. A love that is empty is one where all you are is committed and nothing else. Most often arranged marriages start off like this. But that doesn’t mean love can’t grow. Kamal and Neelam from  ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ bring this type of relationship to life. 

Relationship traits:  Contractual, void of emotions, dry and logical.

The ‘Two Element’ Group 

The Modern-Day Jane Austen

Ah, the stuff of fiction, the ideal kind of love. Onlooker or partner, everyone seems to love this particular type of love. The kind where there is passion and excitement. The kind of love writers lament about and filmmakers glorify. It is romance at its finest. However, nothing is as perfect as it seems. Reality check – commitment is scary and definitely hasn’t been considered. The best way to work around this one is to take a long, hard look at where both people in the relationship want to go. Look to Carrie and Big from ‘Sex and The City’ for a glimpse of what this type of relationship could be.

Relationship traits: Magical and unrealistic.  

The Heat Of The Moment

Would you say you’re a little in over your head? Too much commitment too soon based on an incredible few weeks or months? If your life to your dread is starting to resemble something like a whirlwind, then maybe this is you. This is the kind of love where commitment is present but solely due to passion and nothing else. A momentary lapse in judgment with monumental consequences. Our advice? Maybe try being friends before getting into a marriage. Just think about Joe Goldberg and Love Quinn from ‘You’.

Relationship traits: Doubt, impulsiveness and physical attraction.

The Forever Alliance 

This is a love that to the outside world seems most blissful, but somehow has something missing. Companionate love can sometimes feel like one of the best friendships or most trusting relationships you could ever fathom to have. And still, it constitutes this prolonged drain of excitement which can definitely be a bother to certain people. However, with just a little passion, your spark can always be reignited, just like with ‘Breaking Bad’s’ Walter and Skyler.

Relationship traits: Sexual frustration, closeness and phlegmatic.  

The ‘Three Element’ Mission 

The Holy Grail 

You could say this is something like the ‘ultimate goal’ or ‘the holy grail’. This love is Sternberg’s ideal, the best that could ever exist. One where intimacy, passion and commitment are all actively and equally present. However, a love like this is much harder to maintain than it is to achieve and its main facilitator is action.  Some would say the former First Lady of the USA Michelle Obama and husband Barack Obama are the ideals of this kind of relationship. Or perhaps Nathan and Haley Scott from ‘One Tree Hill’. 

Relationship traits: Relatability, physical attraction and long-term security. 

Find your true love

“So many of us are raised on fairy tale versions of perfect love built on passion; when this illusion pops, many hearts are broken. It’s clear that passion can only take you so far. When partners rely on physical attraction to keep a relationship alive, hurt and disappointment ultimately arise. Although passion is certainly an enticing element, it’s shared values, dedicated effort, and emotional investment that keeps relationships alive in the long term,” says Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist, relationship expert and author of ‘Date Smart’. 

That just goes to show the need for effort. No matter how bright your spark, if you don’t nurture it, it will go out, or as Sternberg once wrote, “Even the greatest of loves can die without it being expressed.” Funnily enough, no matter what you have deciphered in reading this article, every predicament has a solution rooted in action and communication. 

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