The idyllic phase
Romantic love needs to be distinguished from carnal love, affectionate bonding and self aggrandizing love. What distinguishes romantic love is its intensity, the strong mutual identifications the lovers feel, and their longing for sexual union with its associated transcendental aims. This is the one form of love that allows for self transformation.
Carnal or sexual love is founded on the short lived passion of physical attraction, based on the often short lived urgent need to possess the beloved sexually.
The lover does not seek to know the beloved’s subjective self, but only the beloved’s sexual self. This is what distinguishes carnal love from romantic love where the goal is to know and embrace the beloved body and soul. Carnal love is destined to fade when the goal of possession is achieved. It is a form of love prized by those for whom power is more important than surrendering to love.
Affectionate bonding is the form of love most touted by mental health professionals. A couple gradually develops deep and reliable ties of mutual caring, interests and loyalty. They come to believe in one another and to feel assured of the on going sustaining nature of their relationship. This kind of love may or may not have intense sexuality connected with it. However, it is praised for its reliability, predictability, safety and warmth and for the lovers realistic appraisal of one another as contrasted with the mutual idealizations of romantic lovers.
The song from Fiddler on the Roof illustrates the difference between romantic love and affectionate bonding.
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Tevye wants to know if Goldie loves him, by which he means, does she idealize him. Tevye is unhappy because he fears that all Goldie feels is Affectionate Bonding. He wants Romantic Love where she idealizes him. Goldie eventually admits that she does feel Romantic Love for him.
In Self aggrandizing love (or vanity love) the goal is to form an attachment in large part as a means to an end; to achieve money, social advantage or to prop up one’s vanity or ego. A typical example of vanity love is that between an insecure and wealthy man and a beautiful woman. The woman is sought not for her qualities but for the pride of manhood she confers.
These forms of love are rarely pure. Vanity love may evolve into romantic love or visa versa.