Meaning-Focused Therapy

Meaning centered counseling Lecture No 9

The Meaning of Love

Paul T. P. Wong, Ph.D. C.Psych
Tyndale University College, Toronto, Ontario


  1. “The meaningfulness of human existence is based upon the uniqueness and singularity of the human person” (p.132).
  2. “Love is living the experience of another person in all his uniqueness and singularity” (p.132).
  3. Love is a unique intimate relationship out of millions of possibilities.
  4. Love is a grace and one of the most precious gifts.
  5. Love provides opportunities for fulfilling experiential values.
  6. Love is enchantment, which makes everything beautiful.
  7. Love has enormous power. It can either enrich or destroy our lives

The different stages of development love

  1. Undifferentiated eroticism
  2. Infatuation with someone unattainable
  3. Attraction to someone attainable
  4. Attraction to the wrong person
  5. Attraction to the right person because of his or her inner personality rather than the physical attributes
  6. Committed to the love partner because of the essence or spiritual core of that person
  7. It is reciprocal love – the directing of core of personhood towards each other
  8. Marriage is more than a spiritual partnership; it needs to meet certain societal and biological conditions
  9. Remaining definitively faithful to the marriage partner

The nature of true love

  1. The timeless uniqueness of the person is the basis for true love
  2. True love is its own warranty of permanence and guarantee of fidelity, because the spiritual core does not change
  3. Once we experience true love, we will abide with this truth for ever
  4. True love is a more than an emotion; it is a responsible choice and an intentional act
  5. Love is stronger than death; true love does not die
  6. True love is an exclusive, monogamous relationship
  7. True love is free from jealousy, because it is based on trust
  8. True love sees not only the inner essence but also the potential values of the lover partner
  9. According to Scheler, true love is “a spiritual movement toward the highest possible value of the loved person” (p.149).
  10. True love approximates agape. Von Hattingberg: Love sees a person the way God sees it.
  11. “Love must necessarily enrich the lover” (p.150)
  12. True love imbues life with meaning and happiness
  13. The inner enrichment of love realizes experiential value

Problems of divorce

  1. If true love is forever, why the high divorce rates?
  2. Is there any truth to the seventh year itch?
  3. Is it unrealistic for people to stay together for life since life span has greatly increased?
  4. Do people radically change their attitudes?
  5. Is the problem caused by working closely with the opposite sex at work?

Love and sex

  1. Sex is not primary in love; it is not an end in itself; it is a means of expression
  2. Love can exist without sex
  3. Sex appeal cannot be the basis for true love, because such sexual attraction is bound to decrease over time
  4. Love at first sight is primarily based on physical attraction rather than knowledge of the inner being of the love object
  5. The spiritual self gives shape and form to love
  6. Physical unattractiveness should not lead to resignation, which breeds resentment.
  7. “The individual who neither loves nor is loved can still shape his life in a highly meaningful manner” (p.141). Life is full of opportunities of realizing creative values
  8. Neurotic striving for maximizing erotic happiness in love only leads to unhappiness, because preoccupation with sexual performance may result in sexual dysfunctioning and weakening of relationship
  9. Those who devalue unattainable sex in order to make themselves feel better may actually block their own way to erotic happiness.
  10. Those willing to let go of sex may allow their personality to shine through: “By abstaining we obtain” (p.142).
  11. Stress on appearance leads to general overestimation of the value of ‘beauty’ in erotic life. It may lead to a disregard of the qualities of the personality.
  12. All flirtation disregards the other person’s inner personality

Unrequited, unhappy love

  1. “Infatuation makes us blind; real love enables us to see. Love permits us to see the spiritual core of the other person” (p.131).
  2. The pain of unrequited love protects the children or adults from the fire of sex; it will also teach them not to repeat it.
  3. Historically, romantic loves comes from the unrequited love of the medieval knights for their ladies.
  4. It is also possible for people to be caught in the vicious circle of infatuation and unrequited love. Instead of being open to new opportunities, they escape into the safe unhappiness of hopeless love.
  5. Unrequited love is hopeless and desperate love with a phantom to meet a deeply felt need.
  6. Unrequited love may be regarded as a form of addiction.

Typology of love according to Lee (1973)

(1) Eros — lovers search for someone with specific physical characteristics
(2) Pragma — potential love-objects are rationally considered
(3) Agape — the person loves without expectation of reciprocation
(4) Ludus — the person treats love as agape
(5) Storage — it is similar to compassionate love
(6) Mania — manic lovers as extremely possessive and needy; it is similar to addiction love

Sternberg’s (1986) triangular structure of love

Three components: intimacy, passion and decision/commitment. Various combinations of these components result in eight kinds of love:

1) Nonlove (absence of the three components)
(2) Liking (intimacy in isolation)
(3) Infatuation (passion)
(4) Empty love (decision/commitment)
(5) Romantic love (passion and intimacy)
(6) Compassionate love (intimacy and decision/commitment)
(7) Fatuous love (passion and decision/commitment)
(8) Consummate love (which includes all three components)