What is love? What makes a relationship work? I've heard, read and experienced a lot.
Basically, what it boils down to is: find the best human you can. Not the most helpful, not the most attractive. The best human. The person you admire most for what they are. Try to be that person yourself. That couple will have mutual respect. Strong character. The relationship will be stable and secure.
Based on some real love theories (from people who know a heck of a lot more than I do) I've gradually developed what I call my 3 C's theory of love.
Chemistry is that connection. That primarily physical and emotional attraction. When you look into someone's eyes and you understand what they're thinking because you're thinking the same thing (Jim and Pam). When you touch someone and it's like you can almost feel what they're feeling. You're connected. It's undeniable. It's an understanding. It's emotional. When this is the only part of love, it can be deadly.
Chemistry is the part of love where they say "opposites attract." Masculine and feminine.You have high levels of chemistry with people to whom you are attracted who may have different personality traits. The differences make life fun. It's shocking to see someone so different from you and suddenly realize you're exactly the same and you share a deep connection of understanding that you just don't have with other people.
A relationship of just chemistry is a fling. I think that's why chemistry/attraction gets a bad rap. It's unsustainable. However, it's an important part of Consummate Love. Because realistically, you will find people throughout your life with whom you have that chemical spark to varying degrees. You will definitely want to have it with your spouse.
Compatibility can take a little more time to feel out. It's more mental and spiritual. Compatibility is the part of love where it's best to be as similar as possible. It's having the same values and life goals.
The thing about values and goals...is that most humans value the same things. Most humans value God, family, service, education, hard work, kindness, good jobs, looks, money. BUT they value them in a different order. That's why it takes time to feel out. It's easy to say, "Family is important to me." Of course it is, you're not a heartless beast. But is it more important or less important than money? Than service? Than looks?
For example, I really value my religion. If someone cares more about looks than religion, we're probably not compatible. I really value caring for my family. If someone is more concerned with prestige, we're probably not compatible. I really value public health. I tease about it a lot, but if someone can't connect with me on this important thing, it's not going to work. If two people disagree with each others' very passionate values they're probably not compatible, because that's part of who they are at the core.
Compatibility comes when your major values and goals are ranked in (at least close to) the same order. There may be slight differences, but the closer they are the better. And compatibility increases over time, because people's vision becomes more and more united as they share experiences together. A relationship of just compatibility, is a friendship. You're like brother and sister. You love to talk and work together, but there's no attraction.
Commitment is being both willing and able to sustain a relationship. Willing, means you both want to make it work. If you have great chemistry and great compatibility, but one or both aren't ready to commit, it can't last.
You both have to be able to commit. A lack of self-esteem can cause someone to be unable to commit. So can unstable life circumstances. Or immaturity- needing to grow up and develop character. Or recently getting out of a relationship.
Commitment is what keeps a relationship going even when you're not feeling that spark. When you disagree. It's the work, the effort, the choosing each other every day. It's doing the "little things" to sustain, protect and nurture your relationship and make the other person feel valued and safe. It's refusing to let other people come between you and your partner. It's making plans for the future with your partner. Selflessly sacrificing and meeting the other person's relationship needs. It takes maturity and character.
A relationship of just commitment is a relationship of duty and honor. Some people are afraid of the idea of loveless commitment and therefore don't like to exercise commitment. Ironically, though, consummate love can only be achieved when the sometimes difficult, growth-inducing matter of commitment is in action.
When you have all 3 C's, you have consummate love. This is the strongest love. It involves passion, unity, and security. Chemistry, compatibility and commitment. This is the kind of love that will survive every internal and external threat. This is the kind of love we want to carry us through the eternities.
Interesting to note is that none of these things can be easily changed or forced to be different. They are all intrinsic to the way we temporarily or permanently are. Most breakups are just from discordance in one of these areas. So the goal, rather than to be exactly what someone wants, is to cliche-ly just be yourself. Be so true to yourself. Be as excellent a human as you can. And meet someone you admire, with whom you're a good match. Get to know people. Get good at building relationships.
If you liked this post, you might also like: The Dating Treatment Matrix.