What is the key element in a marriage?
It’s a simple question, and almost everyone would give the same answer, “love.” Love is the key element of starting a marriage, and also an important element of having a good marriage.
But what is love?
That question is pondered by every romantic since the beginning of time, and not everyone has the same answer. The reason is that there are three elements that make up love, passion, intimacy, and commitment. 1
Passion is the sexual desire we have for our spouse. It is the feeling that leads us to have romantic moments. Passion that has no control is dangerous, but with control it can create a strong desire for your spouse. Passion is important in marriage, but it’s not the only thing in a marriage. Passion alone will burn out the marriage quickly.
Intimacy is the personal connection we have with our spouse. When we have intimacy, we have a closeness built on honesty. People often say, “I married my best friend,” which is a good thing, but it’s only part of the equation. But, being intimate without passion and commitment leads to a marriage that is passionless and if commitment is absent leads to divorce.
Commitment is the staying power in a marriage. When a marriage goes through difficult moments, commitment keeps the marriage going through those moments. Long-lasting marriages are not long-lasting because they got lucky, its because they are committed. But, commitment without passion or intimacy makes marriage more of a chore instead of a relationship.
Marriage that is well balanced in passion, intimacy, and commitment is the best way to stay married, but also to keep a marriage healthy. When when of those things start lacking, you just need to make an effort to build them back up. If passion starts to lack, go on a romantic date. If intimacy, go to a coffee shop or any place you can sit down and chat. If commitment, seek marriage counseling or a marriage retreat.
Strong marriages just don’t happen; it takes effort. If you think your marriage is strong by chance, I am guessing your spouse is doing a lot more work than you realize.
This theory is proposed by psychologist Robert Sternberg called the triangular theory of love. For more detail information on this subject, you can read his book, “The Triangle of Love: Intimacy, Passion, Commitment” ↩