Agape, Selflessness, and True Love
Is there an emotion that rises to the level of being called “true love?” Does true love exist? The stability of marital relationships has been declining for more than 40 years. Although the divorce rate in the United States decreased slightly from 2013 to 2016, typical marriages still have about a 50 percent chance of ending in divorce. Marriage rates may be declining in part due to the fact that young adults are waiting longer to get married. Many young adults say that they don’t ever plan to marry.
It’s not old-fashioned to believe that love will be proven true if it lasts. Relationships grow from first kisses into long-term commitments and can last forever. But how can we discern if a romantic relationship will last?
Most relationships contain mixed emotions. Lovers generally expect that even a true-love relationship will involve emotions that aren’t always positive and passionate. They know there will certainly be ups and downs through the years. So conflicting emotions are one defining characteristic of true love.
Despite heartbreak and hurt, feelings can be described as true love when partners feel incomplete without each other. Ultimately, it is this sense of completeness that serves as the core of romantic relationships. So a relationship may be true love if we feel incomplete when we’re without our lover. Research indicates that most people share the same general image of what it means to be loved.
Common ways to know someone loves you include:
- Feeling supported without expecting anything in return.
- Experiencing compassion in hard times.
- Enjoying spending time together.
- Verbal expressions that you’re loved.
- Feeling appreciated and special.
- Receiving forgiveness when you apologize for doing something wrong.
On the contrary, most people agree that we feel unloved when the other person tries to control us or is possessive of us.
Types of Love
What does it mean to love with true or pure love? Researchers have documented many different types of love:
- Eros, or passionate and romantic love, is based on physical intimacy and attraction.
- Ludus, or game-playing love, is characterized by permissiveness and tolerance for a variety of partners.
- Philia, or friendship love, has stability and companionship at its foundation.
- Pragma, or logical love, has personal and social compatibility at its core.
- Mania, or possessive love, is intensely emotional, jealous, dependent, and jealous.
- Agape, or altruistic love, is selfless and self-giving, with no demands for anything in return.
The way we love different people certainly will vary in the relationships we have with them. But can a single style of loving embody what we define as true love? Each style of love involves the desire to find the one person who will most fully satisfy our own yearning to be loved. But just one style, agape love, reveals our capacity for what may most closely be defined as pure, true love. Agape focuses on the best interests of the person we love, rather than our concern over how the relationship will benefit us. Agape love is the one that puts the other person first.
Researchers explain that in an agape-style love relationship, a person will always try to help the person they love through difficult or trying times. They will sacrifice their own hopes and dreams to let the other person reach theirs. They endure all for the sake of the one they love and would readily suffer in the place of the person they love. The essence of this selfless agape style of love reaches far beyond the emotional level and encompasses behavioral commitment.
There are many benefits of agape love that have been discovered through research. Caring selflessly is associated with commitment, loyalty, satisfaction in the relationship, intimate communication, and deep love. Couples in agape-love relationships are more likely to effectively deal with stress by dealing with problems jointly and by supporting each other. This presents a united front and promotes their sense of togetherness. Employing healthy coping methods deepens commitment levels and strengthens overall satisfaction within the relationship.
There are costs to loving in this selfless way. There are psychological consequences of practicing altruistic love. One would expect that the deep bonds and strong commitment would lead to great emotional pain should the relationship fail. Research suggests, as anticipated, that feelings of profound sadness and loss can result from the end of a rich committed relationship. The more rewarding a love was, the greater the loss when it’s gone. Inherent in the selfless and all-giving nature of agape love is the risk of having to pay such a high price one day.
It is possible for us to love in that non-demanding, all-giving way.? Research indicates that although true agape love is rarely, if ever, fully practiced, it may well be an ideal we can all strive toward and hope for. In our search for true love, we should redirect our energy from receiving, and focus instead on giving. Research proves that people who practice others-focused love are far less likely to have to pay a hefty price for their sacrifices.
There really is such a thing as true love. And it certainly can endure!