Two types of love are acknowledged:
- Passionate love
This is a deeply emotional and all-consuming form of love that involves high levels of physiological arousal and yearning for the partner. Sexual feelings are intense and thoughts of the other frequently pervade consciousness.
This involves affection and caring, and deep levels of commitment to being there for the other. It is more stable than passionate love which can evolve into companionate love further down the track.
Sternberg, 1988, proposed a triangular model of love in which passion, intimacy, and commitment are all components. This overcomes the problem of companionate and passionate love being viewed as categories rather than dimensions of relationships.
According to this model, ‘consummate love’ which incorporates high levels of all 3 components is the most satisfying. It is also the most difficult to attain, more difficult to maintain, and is the best foundation for a long-term relationship.
Shaver et al., 1988, found a link between early childhood attachments and adult relationships. Those with a ‘secure attachment’ style demonstrated caring, intimacy, support and understanding in adulthood. These people also considered themselves to be friendly, good-natured and likeable, and tended to view others as trustworthy, reliable and well-intentioned.
Those who had ‘avoidant attachment’ relationships with their parents were uncomfortable with intimacy in adult relationships and tended to be suspicious and cynical about love. They also tended to view others as being unreliable and too eager to commit.
Those with an ‘anxious-ambivalent’ attachment style tend to have mixed feelings about relationships. They have conflicting emotions with regard to such things as affection, anger, physical attraction and so on, which leaves them with many doubts. They often see themselves as being misunderstood and not appreciated. They also doubt their partner’s trustworthiness and love towards them, despite wanting to commit themselves.
Influence on the counsellor
Although these findings are not quite as clear cut as they may seem, they have important implications for the counselling process, not least because of the impact of early attachments on later relationships, but also the extent to which avoidant and anxious-ambivalent relationship behaviours can be changed.