Tag Archives: valentine’s day

Love for Friends, a Tribute on Valentine’s Day

Women are frequently taught to compete with each other, to view others as rivals in the challenge for ‘finite’ resources like men’s attention, work opportunities, and seats at the metaphorical table.

‘Philia’ is a great love that develops over a deep, long-lasting friendship. In classical philosophy, it is noted to be as powerful as Eros (romantic love), Agape (selfless/sacrificial love), Pragma (dutiful love), and Storge (love for family).

Female friendships are essential to our health and they can even help us live longer lives. Platonic closeness gives us a healthy, stress-busting boost of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin—all vital to emotional wellbeing and physical longevity. Now more than ever, the intimacy we share with friends helps us avoid feelings of isolation, increases our sense of belonging, and helps us cope with the world around us. Friends wipe our tears, make us try the scary things, scrape us off the floor, tuck us in when we are absolutely done, check on us, make us laugh raucously, show up.

Notable aspects of female friendship have been explored by writers, poets, artists, and psychologists.

Soi Patano
The early 20th century Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote with eloquence tinged with jealousy, about the friendship between his wife and her best friend, the activist, Amala Das, sprawled together on a divan,  deep in conversation, their affection and respect for each other completely transparent. He desired to have the intimate and heartfelt conversations that came so naturally to the friends.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, upperclass Hindu women formalized the friendship ritual (known as Soi Patano, in Bengali). They gave each other small gifts, came up with personal nicknames, had inside jokes, turned to each other for advice, wrote each other letters, and became each other’s confidantes. In a largely patriarchal society, this was a space that was safe, intimate, and private.

Modern Friendship-Courtship
Memes, text messages, girls’ night out, shared interests, new interests, advice, laughter, the shoulder to cry on; friendship is an immortal tradition. From book clubs to women’s encounter groups, women have gravitated to sharing their experiences with other women, with the concomitant closeness, conflict, grief, and loss. As couples therapists, we do more and more ‘friendship therapy’. Friendship ruptures and breakups can be incredibly painful, sometimes more than romantic ones. Interestingly, clinical psychology research shows that like romantic relationships, platonic friendships start with chemistry; an attraction and interest in getting to know a future friend.

Shine Theory
The psychologists Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman coined the phrase ‘Shine Theory.’ It states that by consciously investing our full selves into our friendships, we can become allies instead of competitors. And when we encourage our friends to be their best selves, we also encourage ourselves. When we cultivate relationships based on mutual and unwavering support, we create the perfect conditions for long-lasting and deepening friendships. Instead of having feelings of rivalry, mindfully surrounding yourself with compassionate, creative, talented, stylish, successful friends, makes everyone better. Shine theory: when your friend shines, you shine.

Golden Girls
Friendship, across the lifespan: the concept of seniors moving in together and intentionally sharing a home has become known as the “Golden Girls” trend — named for the popular ‘80s sitcom in which four older, single women lived together, and it’s been gaining popularity among retired women. Older, single adults interested in aging in place and preempting isolation are embracing the trend of moving into homes together. In turn, they share companionship, household duties, resources, and financial responsibilities. While there are certainly pitfalls to be considered, it’s notable that there has been an exponential growth in this lifestyle for senior women.

There is another type of love described in classical Greek philosophy: Philautia. Self love and self esteem. No doubt, strong friendships contribute.

Dedicated to my friends, with gratitude.
Happy Valentine’s Day. ❤️🌹

The Love Multiverse

Love has been notoriously hard to define, though many have tried, from poets to psychologists.  According to psychologist Dr. Robert Sternberg who runs the human development lab at Cornell University, his team’s extensive research narrowed down three key elements in a love relationship: Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment.

His ‘triangular theory of love’ states that the concept of love is a triangle that is made up of these three essential components that may shift over time in how they present themselves within a relationship.

  • Intimacy involves feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness. Intimacy includes trust, reciprocity, and effective communication.
  • Passion involves feelings and desires that lead to physical attraction, romance, and sexual intimacy. According to Dr. Sternberg, how excited a person gets in thinking about or being with their partner is a great indicator of the passion component of love.
  • Commitment involves feelings that lead a person to remain with someone and move toward shared goals. There is a decision component to this; partners volitionally decide to remain together.

All relationships have their own version and levels of the three components. Dr. Sternberg referred to a balance of all three within a relationship as Consummate Love.  He also found that consummate love was not an endgame, but a process that required ongoing effort and insight by both partners.

Sternberg‘s research led to his interest in universal love stories. These are predominant ideas we have internalized about love and what we think a relationship should be (among others, he discusses the fairytale prince and princess story, the successful business couple story, and the adventure/travel story, as three possible types of relationship stories that we carry within us, that unconsciously define how we see love). These stories naturally affect how our relationships play out.

A recent psychology study (published in the Journal of Sex Research, August 2020) studied 7300 participants across 25 countries, and found that the triangular theory of love holds true across the love multiverse. Seen through different cultural lenses and traditions, intimacy, passion, and commitment seem to be pillars of this thing called love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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