Mature love is expressed in a cognitive, behavioral, and emotional stance toward another. Gradually this beloved’s well-being becomes as important to us as our own. We are willing to sacrifice our own comfort, even our own safety, on this person’s behalf.
In love we stand ready to devote our time, our resources, and our ingenuity to supporting the one we love. Our relationship matures as the arousals of early attraction and romance expand to include a love that is a chosen and cultivated commitment.
The expression of unconditional love is central in the ethical systems of most of the world’s great religion traditions. Love draws energy from its arousals — of compassion, of altruistic concern. But love as caritas or agape is more than an emotional arousal. Love fuels unselfish actions that move beyond ourselves. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that love matures as it draws the energy of romance to nurture a wider range of responsiveness and responsibility.
Intimacy names the ability to commit ourselves to a particular person in a relationship that lasts over time. Intimacy moves us beyond idealized expectations to embrace real persons in their particular uniqueness (and peculiarity!). Intimacy strengthens the intellectual and emotional resources that enable us to pledge our future, based on what we know in the present.
From one perspective this might seem like a foolish endeavor; the future is unknown. How can we pledge ourselves to be constant when so much of the future remains hidden? Who will you be, who will I be, what practical circumstances will shape our life together? Yet without this capacity to pledge our future, we will remain alone — we will not thrive.
Nourishing the Spirit: The Healing Emotions of Wonder, Joy, Compassion and Hope
James & Evelyn Whitehead
Background on James & Evelyn Whitehead