Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More On The Love Axis

I got a great question from a reader regarding the relationship axes, and I would like to address it today.
I find I always have a great deal of trouble understanding what "romance/love" is in contrast to friendship and physical attraction. I hate to say this, because there's a part of me that thinks it shouldn't be true, but a lot of times it seems to me that the only difference between a romantic/love relationship and a deep friendship is the physical intimacy.

To help me understand the axis labeled "love" a little better, can you tell me what a "love" relationship would be if there were no friendship component and no physical intimacy involved?

Put another way, if you take the Ideal Romantic Relationship, and remove the physical and friendship components, what's left?

Or, put even another way, imagine meeting someone new. After getting to know them for about a week, you realize that you feel love/romantic attraction for them, though you don't find them physically attractive, and don't think you'd be particularly compatible as friends. Is this even possible? It seems to me like the "love' axis is somehow intrinsically dependent on the other two axes, and that in order to have a "love" relationship with someone you either need to be good friends or f***buddies first.

Please help me understand.

This is a very interesting question. The love axis is unique among the three in that it is the only one where relationships that are only on that axis are generally a bit peculiar. A relationship exclusively on the friend/connection axis would be friends. Exclusively on the physical/sex axis is seen in one night stands and purely physical relationships.

There are a few situations where one might find single-axis love relationships. A situation in which two partners correspond but never meet could be this kind of relationship. Courtly love would be a historic example. The lovers would never have physical contact, and they did not really know each other as people, but as ideals of love. Were they to actually consummate their relationship, they would probably have found the love to fade and reality rushed in.

A modern equivalent would be some Internet lovers. They share a deep connection, but because it is only in writing, they do not know the whole truth of each other. I do say 'some' and not 'all'. Some online relationships do get very personal and build the friendship axis, but others are simply an opportunity for two people to project their fantasies onto one another.

On the diagram, I placed crushes into the love-only category as well. Again, this applies to some, not all, but one often will develop a crush on a person that they do not know well. Of course, this relationship is not reciprocal, which one might well argue makes it not a relationship at all. Courtship, on the other hand, which I also included in the love-only circle could be an example of a love-only relationship. In a proper courtship, a relationship develops between the two people, but there is no physical element, and, given the stilted nature of the encounters, it is difficult to develop a true friendship as well.

I hope that you have found this helpful. I certainly enjoyed writing it. I feel that this kind of deconstruction is valuable for gaining a deeper understanding of our relationships and of how we interact with the people around us. Keep the questions coming.


  1. maybe romance would be a better word, maybe there is another more ideal word but i don't think you can have love without friendship. maybe you just have a different definition than me, but to me a crush isn't love, just infatuation.

  2. I can't imagine love being all that enjoyable without the friendship element. That's something I love about my relationship with my boyfriend, is we were wonderful friends for years first.