The Best Kind of Love
The Best Kind of Love
“I’m sorry but it’s just not working out,” Nolan said as he walked out the door and out of our relationship. Devastated and confused, I closed the door behind him, thoughts speeding through my head, trying to figure out why a relationship I thought had been going well had ended so abruptly. Was there a type of love that I was missing out on? My desire for love is not unlike other’s desires around me; for finding love is something that is important to every young man and woman. But, in order for a lasting connection to be made, is there a certain kind of love that people, and college students in particular, should seek?
In college, there is an intense amount of pressure and expectation to find a husband or wife. The term “Ring by Spring” is thrown around, enticing the women and nagging at the men. It seems as if everyone is on the lookout for a potential future spouse. As the search to find that perfect partner ensues, are college students really prepared to make a decision about marriage? What should they be looking for in a future spouse? No young man or woman wants a relationship that will not last. As divorce continues to become increasingly common, students fear of losing out on a lasting marriage is also growing. It is because of this situation that they ask themselves if there is a certain type of love that is a “must have” in order for a relationship to work? There are many different points of view, but which type of love is best?
To begin with, a well known Christian writer, Joshua Harris, holds the position that “Smart Love” is the best type of love to have in a relationship (Harris). He believes that a person should wait to show affection and even date until they are ready to make a lifelong commitment of loving (Harris). All too many relationships are based on an imitation of true love which can only lead to heartache. This conditional love Americans have resorted to is frustrating, hurtful, and even suffocating. Conditional love is affection that is based on what the other person can bring to the relationship, it is dependent on actions and therefore proceeds to change depending on whether or not the person measures up to a set of ambiguous standards. On the other hand, unconditional love is unselfish and unwavering. No matter what happens, the love remains constant and forms an unbreakable bond between a couple. Greg Baer, writer of the “Real Love” books, conveys that “our emotional need for unconditional love is just as great as our physical need for air and food” (Baer). He goes on to explain that humans spend their lives seeking to find this love and will often resort to imitations of unconditional love to fill a void in their hearts (Baer). It is clear that unconditional love is extremely rare and for this reason Harris attempts to persuade youth to wait until the time is right to pursue a relationship. Only when two people’s number one priority is to love each other unconditionally should a relationship take place. Short term romance is a selfish pursuit and in actuality has nothing to do with true, genuine love (Harris)! Harris quotes Philippians 1:9-10 which says, “learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush” (Harris). By loving “smartly,” people can protect their own heart and the heart of their future spouse by choosing to remain blameless and pure (Harris). Harris believes that loving someone enough to wait for the right time to enter into a relationship built on unconditional affection, is the best type of love to have.
Another perspective on love, that a combination of eros and agape love is most important, is held by Alan Goodboy and Melanie Booth-Butterfield (Goodboy). This viewpoint differs from Harris in that it does not encourage waiting to date but instead emphasizes picking out a partner that is both physically attractive and willing to love unreservedly. Goodboy and Booth-Butterfield did a study on the six different types of love styles. Each style is demonstrated in a different way and ranges from game playing love, to obsessive love, to practical love (Hammock). At the end of the study, the two most valuable styles of love to have in a relationship were discovered to be Eros and Agape love (Goodboy). Eros love is defined as affection brought on by physical attraction. Eros lovers tend to put lots of emphasis on revealing personal information to their partners and desire high satisfaction in their relationships (Hammock). Since they have a base layer of initial physical attraction, they are willing to more openly engage with their partner and start to bond on an emotional level. In addition, Agape love is defined as a self-sacrificial love. The emotions and actions of the individual are selfless and servant hearted because they care more about their partner than themselves and therefore maintain high levels of commitment and trust (Hammock). This agape love is very close to the unconditional love Harris touches on, except agape lovers are focused on actively serving their partner not only just passively loving them no matter what circumstances come along. The study can benefit college students pursuing dating relationships because the findings show that the styles most conducive to healthy and lasting relationships are both Eros and Agape. Knowing this, students can evaluate a potential partner on both physical appearance and strength of character portrayed through a servant’s heart. By seeking to fulfill both love criteria, they can experience optimal relational satisfaction.
Finally, Gary Chapman, a counselor for couples and a man who gives marriage seminars, believes that there is no best kind of love (Chapman). He presents his ideas about the five different love languages: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch and states that each is needed in a relationship in order for it to thrive and grow (Chapman). Chapman says the most important thing is not choosing the right type of love, but is instead discovering what a person’s partner’s love language is so that a he can love her the way she most likes to be loved. Therefore, the ideal love is tailored specifically to each person (Chapman). This theory does not just apply to romantic relationships but also to relations with friends, family, coworkers, and more. People are wired differently and have various ways of expressing their passion for something or someone. If only one type of love language is “spoken,” miscommunication could take place and a relationship could suffer. For example, if a young woman tells her boyfriend she loves him and constantly texts him compliments and encouraging words but never spends time with him, he might start to second guess her feelings. He needs to spend some quality time with her, hold her hand, and see her face to be able to truly know how she feels. But on the other hand, maybe the reason she sends him thoughtful messages so often is because she needs to hear some words of affirmation from him to be confident in his love for her. If he takes the time to reciprocate and fulfill her desires, their relationship will remain strong and surely grow. Clearly, it is quintessential that a person discovers their partner’s love language and uses that knowledge to display their affection in a way that will be most effective.
In the end, I think that Gary Chapman has the best way of looking at love and how it should be expressed. The best type of love is the kind that a person’s partner needs most. Loving them in their ideal way will speak to them most clearly and by discovering how to best love someone, the relationship has potential to last and remain stable. Knowing this unique “method of loving” would have been beneficial to me last year in my relationship with Nolan. If I would have taken the time to get to know his needs, I could’ve possibly prevented such a sudden break up. Looking back, I spent too much time trying to “love” him in the wrong way. Would his feelings have been different if I’d taken the time to love him through serving him or spending quality time with him instead of just praising him with words of affirmation? My failure to display a greater variety of affection could have possibly been a heavy contributor to our break up, but now that I know how to love someone best, I will try to apply my knowledge to future relationships and truly seek to understand my partner’s needs.
Baer, Greg. "What is Real Love?." Real Love. N.p., 2012. Web. 25 Feb 2012. <www.reallove.com>.
Chapman, Gary. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 1992. Print.
Goodboy, Alan K., and Melanie Booth-Butterfield. "Love Styles And Desire For Closeness In Romantic Relationships." Psychological Reports 105.1 (2009): 191-197. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 Feb. 2012.
Hammock, Georgina, and Deborah South Richardson. "Love Attitudes and Relationship Experience." Journal of Social Psychology. 151.5 (2011): 608-624. Web. 5 Feb. 2012.
"I Kissed Dating Goodbye" by Joshua Harris. Dating. Jennifer A. Hurley, Ed. Teen Decisions Series. Greenhaven Press, 2002. Excerpted from I Kissed Dating Goodbye, by Joshua Harris. Copyright © 1997 by Joshua Harris. Reprinted by permission of Multnomah Publishers.