When we speak of relationships we tend to think of one sort of love. Early love. The light, airy head, the butterflies of neophilia, the strange conflict of socially approved lust and impressions of purity, the fascination of their mystique, the euphoria that comes with feeling like all of the future is an open possibility.
Due to a combination of popular media and the fascination with retaining our teenage experiences as long as possible, this is almost the only acceptable form of love to pursue and discuss.
Which is unfair on almost everyone, because nobody’s love is quite so contradictory. Human love is multifaceted. There are, arguably, three faces to romantic love and each of them has its own spectrum.
We have affection. This is the sort of love that, on its own, is also accepted as love in our world, though many people would not consider it enough for a romantic relationship on its own. Affection is clean, pure, basically born of simply liking someone or something. It includes sweetness and tenderness, respect, a desire for the other to be well. It’s basically the sort of love everyone seems to aspire to, as though it were a complete romantic love on its own.
But there are two other faces to romantic love that need to be there to make it complete. And these faces are often seen as impure caveats to affection, rather than natural, decent forms of love.
Then we have purpose. This is the sort of love that results in altruism, child-rearing urges and nestmaking. Some purpose is instinctive, like a woman’s urge to hold a child. Some purpose is cultural, like a person’s desire to provide for their partner. Purpose covers anything where you are neither acting out of lust or affection, but out of a sense of duty to the other person. This sort of love is devalued because it is seen as lacking genuineness. It is a noble thing to give someone money or even kill yourself for someone out of pure affection or even out of lust. It is shameful to do the same because you feel it is your responsibility to do so.
Then we have lust. This is the sort of love that is born of the desire to procreate. It is arguably essential to human romantic love. And it is also demonized. It needs to be compensated for with affection, otherwise it isn’t good. For example, your romantic love is supposed to be born of affection and develop into lust. Which is odd considering that is rarely the case. We are attracted to someone biologically before we feel bonded to them. Lust is purely superficial.
But just because purpose is cold and heartless and lust is superficial and selfish doesn’t mean they are kryptonite to romantic love. They are as necessary in love as affection is. A love free from lust and purpose isn’t better by virtue of innocence. Neither is it more likely to last.
Rather, all three need to be combined just right to make a relationship durable and enjoyable.