Love can be beautiful, and desire serious. But, romance? Romance is a wonder spell. We all enjoy seeing the hero get the girl. Happy endings make for happy evenings. But the real work in a relationship begins after the credits roll. In this age of ghosting (thanks to Snapchat) and ‘swipe right’ (as in Tinder), romance is often postponed. Well, almost.
Valentine's Day Special: Take this quiz and we'll reveal what kind of a romantic are you
Romantics, like me, would still vote for that famous line from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, “Love, no matter what else it might be, was a natural talent… You are either born knowing how, or you never know.”
But to love in the age of social media is a tad complicated. The other day I was with a girlfriend in a coffee shop and discussing relationships. Technology buzzed all around us. Romance, she said, was boring, adding that she had stopped seeing her partner.
I told her it was her wired overstimulated brain that was to blame. Maybe if her boyfriend came with a Facebook share button, she would like him?
‘I guess,’ she said, ‘to love and lose in our Insta lives is so much of a hard work.’
So, here we are a week before Valentine’s Day, trying to help you figure out what kind of a romantic you are. Are heart-shaped chocolates boxes your thing or do you believe romantic love is reserved only in books and theatre?
Tanuka Gupta, a consultant clinical psychologist with 25 years of expertise in helping clients to build emotional resilience, says, ‘while romantic love is the one we think of when we think of Valentine’s Day, The Triangular Theory of Love proposed by psychologist Robert Sternberg in 1985 proves there is more to love than only romance.
‘According to Sternberg’s theory, love has three components: Intimacy (feelings of closeness, connectedness); Passion, (feelings and desires that lead to physical attraction) and Commitment (feelings that lead a person to remain with someone and move towards shared goals).’
The three components go on to generate seven possible combinations, but remember, no relationship is likely to be a pure case of any one of them:
1. You rate high on passion: When you are attracted to your partner but do not feel very close to each other enough to plan for a long-term future. This love can be called “love at first sight.” It is difficult to sustain this bond once passion wanes off.
2. You are high on passion and commitment: When you have the fire of passion and need to feel committed without deep liking for each other. This love could be termed as “fantasy love” where the zeal to commit is based on passion rather than mature emotional closeness. This love can result in much chaos and emotional turbulence in the relationship.
3. You rate high on commitment: When you see it as a form of duty to preserve a relationship. The passion and intimacy are missing here. Most often seen in the beginning of arranged marriages or year-old marriages where “staying together” becomes the main element rather than passion or emotional bond.
4. You rate high on intimacy and passion: When you believe in the unbelievable meeting of body and mind without a care in the world and no fear of the future, which means the commitment aspect is missing. You prefer to live in the now with the constant heady feeling of “being in love.” This is mostly seen in young adults or in teenage years.
5. You rate high on intimacy and commitment: When you share powerful emotional bonds as best friends and unparalleled commitment to each other’s welfare but lack of passion makes it a chaste arrangement. This love is usually found in older relationships, and can be a very satisfying relationship.
6. You rate high on intimacy only: When you are friends with your partner without the passion. You end up liking the person and being comfortable around him/her. You want to stay together but are not connected by passion, body or mind. This is found in friendships as well.
7. You rate high on all three components: When you believe in consummate love. The seven-year itch has not impacted you as you are deeply in love, connected, committed to each other’s physical and emotional needs. This is blissful love.
Sternberg had once said “Love is a verb” and Gupta echoes him when she says, ‘We have to keep working with the three elements of intimacy, passion and commitment in a relationship even if you are in the most satisfactory consummate love.’
Dubai-based Evelyne L. Thomas, trained in Emotionally-Focused Therapy, says, ‘Impulsive romantics might be more inclined to surprise their partners in a way that suits their lifestyle. For example: a trip to a foreign country, rather than a romantic candle-lit dinner. However, the needs for safety and security remain the same. We are happier when we are in a safe relationship, when we know our partner will have our back. We feel safer when we can rely on each other and trust each other. We feel happier when we know we feel connected. The need for connection has not changed.’
According to Thomas, there are five types of romantic individuals. They are:
1. Not romantic: You have a more practical approach to love and relationship. You love but don’t have interest in showing it especially when it is expected of you, like during Valentine’s Day.
Disadvantage: Your partner may feel neglected and unimportant and give up on the relationship.
Any changes? Ask yourself if you are in the right relationship. Maybe you have not yet found the right partner.
2. Private: You are not flashy in your approach. You may even be a little cynical and you don’t have illusions about love.
Disadvantage: Your partner may not like your style and get really hurt.
Any changes? Find out what your partner likes, be attentive and try to show that your love is real.
3. Impulsive: You show your love and please your partner when you want to. You follow your heart and feel free.
Disadvantage: Again, your partner might have expectations when there is a special occasion like Valentine’s day or a birthday.
Any changes? Find out how romantic is your partner. You don’t have to match their style but try to remember special occasions.
4. Hopeless: You believe in love and for you it’s an adventure. It brings thrill and excitement. You are generous and you get excited about giving to your partner.
Disadvantage: There is nothing wrong in being hopelessly romantic but be aware that this is not for everyone. You might expect the same in return and get disappointed.
Any changes? Don’t expect the same in return.
5. Traditional: You believe in finding your soulmate. You believe in everlasting love. When you meet someone you throw yourself wholeheartedly in the relationship.
Disadvantage: You might get hurt as your expectation of love and of your partner could be too high.
Any changes? Try to have a more realistic view of relationship and love.
Missing passion, intimacy or commitment? Here are tips for enhancing your love relationships
When passion is missing
1. Arrange for date nights at least once a week where you are left undisturbed by children, work, or other commitments. Have Valentine’s Day weekly.
2. Make your best effort to “look good” keeping in mind your partner’s liking.
3. Be creative, not necessarily expensive, in getting gifts for your partner.
4. Engage in private displays of affection. Hug and kiss each other often.
5. Be generous with honest and loving compliments.
6. Watch romantic movies together.
7. Go on walks together.
8. Keep talking about memories, good times together or anything that both of you enjoy sharing.
When intimacy is missing
1. Build up intimacy through communication. Talking and listening are crucial.
2. Engage in physically intimate touching, words of affirmation, encouragement, sharing likes and dislikes, the day’s events and visions or dreams.
3. Ask what the other would like to receive on this special day.
4. Discuss your fears and vulnerabilities.
5. Connect on similar interests, do things that you both enjoy.
6. Focus on being loyal.
When commitment is missing
1. Share positive experience with your partner.
2. Offer physical help: help out in chores.
3. Express your love and tell him/her that you care.
4. Show that you care e.g. get tickets to a game, get flowers to celebrate her promotion or even for no reason, remember important dates that are significant for your partner, offer emotional help.
5. Do acts of service for each other: keep food ready if your partner is coming home late and tired, make some adjustments to make room for the other.
6. Devote your attention when you are with the person.
7. When together avoid all distractions especially digital intrusion.
8. Spend time talking about reasons for being together, decisions about marriage, children, career, money, responsibilities and old age.
9. Discuss about each other’s future and try to visualise how it would be with or without them.
Both Tanuka and Evelyne believe that an essential aspect of any relationship is communication. This magical power of language has been beautifully penned by Dr. Gary Chapman in his now immensely popular book The Five Love Languages, which describes the way we feel loved and appreciated.
Words of affirmation — Using words to build up the other person by acknowledging and appreciating what they do for you.
Gifts — A gift says, “I am thought of in special ways. My wishes mean a lot to him/her”.
Acts of service — Doing something for your spouse that you know they would like. Getting the groceries, cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, are all acts of service.
Quality time — Giving your spouse your undivided attention. Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off — talking and listening.
Physical touch — Holding hands, hugging are all expressions of love.