There is but one topic to write about on this day…
Love and the Capacity to Love is one of the twenty-four character strengths identified in Peterson and Seligman’s book Character Strengths and Virtues. Love and the Capacity to Love is defined as “valuing close relations with others, in particular those in which sharing and caring are reciprocated; being close to people” (pg. 29). Love and the Capacity to Love join Kindness and Social Intelligence to form what Peterson and Seligman call the humanity virtues – “interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others” (pg. 29).
Peterson and Seligman go on to identify the three prototypical forms of love:
- Child’s love for a parent
- Parent’s love for a child
- Romantic love
On this day, Valentine’s Day, we tend to think of this later type of love, but the researchers go on to explain, “Relationships can involve more than one type of love. For example, best friends may love each other in both a child-parent and a parent-child way in the sense that each leans on as well as looks out for the other. Relationships can involve different types of love at different points in time. For example, people may gradually shift from a child-parent to parent-child form of love as they grow up, and their parents get older. Relationships can begin with one type of love and acquire other types over time. For example, dating couples may initially love each other only in a romantic way but eventually begin to love each other in child-parent and parent-child ways as well. Mate relationships are unique in being the only social tie that encompasses all three forms of love” (pg. 304).
Peterson and Seligman go on to explain, “Humans have theorized about love and relationships for as long as they have theorized about anything. Surprisingly, it has only been in the last 30 years or so that the methods of empirical science have been applied to the task of understanding and explaining love. And for much of this time research proceeded along two separate pathways, with developmental psychologists investigating parent-child bonds and social psychologists studying adult romantic relationships. Recently these two areas of inquiry began to merge, and the integration has thus far proved fruitful. The capacity to love and be loved is now viewed as an innate, species-typical tendency that has powerful effects on psychological and physical health from infancy through old age. It has also been established that this capacity can be affected in deep and lasting ways by early relationship experience” (pg. 305).
I recently asked Chris Peterson if there were any new trends related to Love and the Capacity to Love from the VIA database (to determine the rank order of your character strengths, take the free VIA survey online). Although he said there was nothing new, he has found that “Love not surprisingly is a robust correlate of life satisfaction – perhaps the chief one.”
Given that love can have such a profound impact on the quality of our lives, it’s not surprising that the topic often shows up in coaching conversations – even in corporate coaching engagements where career tends to be the primary focus. The Wheel of Life exercise is one way to get the dialogue going.
The Wheel of Life is a reflective exercise whereby the client takes stock of his life – his whole life – and how all the pieces fit together: Career, Family/Friends, Finances, Personal Growth, Health, Fun/Recreation, Physical Environment, and let’s not forget Romance. Here are the steps – give it a try:
Step 1: On a scale from 0 to 10 (0 = dismal; 10 = awesome), where you are today in each of the 8 categories. Some clients express great joy when we get to the Romance slice of life, while others express deep sadness, especially when they are in a committed relationship, but the romance has faded.
Step 2: Envision what a “10” would look like.
Step 3: Develop some tangible next steps to create the life you want. Much like setting goals for one’s career or finances — why not romance?
Today, on this most romantic of all days, I urge all of us to take one small step to create more romance or love in our lives. Forget the commercialization of this holiday, and instead think about love from the three prototypical forms of love.
You may be thinking “But I don’t have a lover in my life right now.” To you I say, profess your love to a friend, parent, child, and/or grandparent.
You may be thinking, “Romance? What’s that? We’ve been together for years now.” To you I say, it’s the small stuff…the stuff that makes someone feel special —that really matters. For example, actively/constructively responding to your mate’s good news with a heartfelt “You must be so proud! Tell me more” rather than a perfunctory, “That’s nice dear” as you continue to read the newspaper or check email.
Ok, I must admit I am no “love” expert, but Love and the Capacity to Love is my number one strength, and I have been happily married for nearly 23 years to a very special guy.
As Jimmy Durante crooned decades ago:
Love is the answer,
Someone to love is the answer…
Make someone happy,
Make just one someone happy,
And you will be happy, too.
So what will you do today to make someone happy?
Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Whitworth, L., Kimsey-House, H. & Sandahl, P. (2007). Co-Active Coaching, 2nd Edition: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and, Life, 2nd edition. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing. Contains the wheel of life exercise.
Big Heart of Art – 1000 Visual Mashups courtesy of qthomasbower