marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Love = Love? What Kind of Love is Pragma?

Love is not an easy, one-size-fits-all word. It means different things depending on the context.
If you missed our introductory discussion, or any of our past discussions of Philautia, Ludus, Eros, Mania, or Storge, the links are here. Check them out.

Today we’re going to discuss the kind of love called ‘pragma’.

What is pragma?
Just as storge is a love that is more comfortable than more passionate kinds of love than eros or mania, so pragma is a calmer love with practicality behind it. It’s logic-driven.
John A. Lee defined pragma as ‘rational love based on practical considerations, such as compatibility and perceived benefits. Indeed, it can be described as ‘love with a shopping list.’[i]

Dysfunctional Pragma
Pragma, like any other kind of love, can be taken to extremes.
One way this can be done is to create unrealistic expectations for the person we want to marry. He must be a returned missionary, and work in a certain kind of profession, and never be without unemployment. She must be able to cook and keep house and entertain clients and raise well-behaved children, and never burn dinner, and she must be able to do this even if she works full-time. 

This person must always be in a good mood, and never be cross or angry. Perhaps they must think exactly like us, or they’re wrong. Their testimony of the gospel must always be strong no matter what. 

If dysfunctional pragma doesn’t get its benefits, there’s no reason to continue the relationship. This sort of stringent level of requirement can lead either to late-or-never marrying, or being too quick to divorce if the spouse doesn’t live up to the dreamed or imagined expectations. 

Often, we don’t consider that we’re holding others to a standard we ourselves could never meet.
Another way that pragma can go out of balance is when we attempt to work through the difficulties in our relationships entirely through logic. 

Logic and reasoning are excellent for researching solutions to difficulties we encounter. The Lord expects us to ‘study things out in our own minds’[ii], but if we want to be successful in our married relationships, there is more required than simply study and reason.

Pragma at Its Best
When balanced love holds elements of pragma, we want to do what it takes to live together peacefully for a very long time. In the case of an LDS couple, for eternity. Therefore, we tend to look for companions who share our religious views, moral and ethical standards and perhaps our background, our level of education, and someone who would be supportive of our vocation or other interests.

Functional pragmatic lovers support each other in their growth and progression. President Hinckley and his wife set a beautiful example of this.
“One evening when President and Sister Hinckley were sitting quietly together, Sister Hinckley said, “You have always given me wings to fly, and I have loved you for it.” Commenting on that expression from his wife, President Hinckley said, “I’ve tried to recognize [her] individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way. Get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.” Sister Hinckley was likewise supportive of her husband—as a father, in his personal interests, and in his extensive Church service.”[iii]

How does Pragma Affect an LDS Married Couple? Some Considerations…
When the General Authorities teach us about taking care when we choose to marry, and about making a temple marriage our goal, they’re speaking from a pragma mindset. 

Setting criteria for our relationship is a way of showing love, both intimate and otherwise. However feeble these efforts, they’re meant to prevent pain for ourself and our spouse, our children and our extended family through avoiding incompatibility issues and bad decisions.

The commandment to marry, and not only that, but to marry in the house of the Lord, requires that we take our decision to marry with utmost care and seriousness.[iv] No other decision we make in mortality has such far-reaching consequences.

In addition, we can allow for the influence of the Spirit, once we have come to a decision. The Lord’s ways ‘are higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts.’[v] We can use reasoning to come to a decision, and that decision can seem wise to us, but by itself in the long term can end up very short-sighted, simply because we don’t have the higher vantage point that the Lord enjoys.

We must have a certain amount of pragma in our search for a spouse, as well as other kinds of love to help guide our decision. Still, everyone comes with baggage, and a wise pragmatic lover would want to add to their list a person who would love them and that they could love enough to help carry and unpack that baggage – no matter what it may be. 

Incorporating pragma into the storge phase when it sets in helps us during that transition phase, when we realize the Prince or Princess Charming we married has warts. Pragma helps us to be okay with this realization, and to continue to love each other, warts and all.

Pragmatic love means not only just creating lists before we’re married of what we want our spouse to be like, but also to continue making those lists after marriage, of what we will do to help ensure the marriage will continue to succeed, both inside and outside the bedroom. Both spouses also need to interdependently unify those lists, which takes time and practice.

In the marriage itself, pragma manifests itself through trust, which extends into the bedroom. Couples who trust each other and feel that they’re both moving and working together towards the same temporal and eternal goals tend to feel safer to fully open to each other sexually.

Pragma also comes into play in the maintenance of a couple’s sexual relationship. When eros and mania die down, when the early passion subsides, pragma can help us continue having sex and building our spousal relationship, even on days when we might not ‘feel’ like it, as we did in eros and mania.

 If our spouse has a more spontaneous drive than we do, the spouse with the more cultivated desire can use pragma to give their spouse the gift of intimacy, and thus maintain the intimate connection between them.

Deliberately setting aside time to build our intimate relationship takes time and effort and planning, which is pragma love. A marriage doesn’t grow and succeed by mania alone.[vi]

In our last "Love = Love" article, we will evaluate agape, and consider how it incorporates with the other kinds of love.

[i] Lee, John A. as quoted by Benokraitis, Nijole V. Marriage and Families: Changes, Choices and Constraints. Fifth Edition. 2005. Pg. 150
[ii] D&C 9:8
[iii] Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016, Chapter 10: Nurturing the Eternal Partnership of Marriage:

[iv] “Marriage is perhaps the most vital of all the decisions and has the most far-reaching effects, for it has to do not only with immediate happiness, but also with eternal joys. It affects not only the two people involved, but also their families and particularly their children and their children’s children down through the many generations.” – Spencer W. Kimball, “Oneness in Marriage”, Ensign, Mar. 1977, 3.
[v] Isaiah 55:8-9
[vi] Brotherson, Laura, see the section ‘Making Time for the Relationship’(102) in Knowing Her Intimately: 12 Keys for Creating a Sextraordinary Marriage. Inspire Book: Boise, ID. 2016.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Love = Love? What Kind of Love is Storge?

In case you missed part [1], Philautia, Ludus, Eros, or Mania

In the previous article on the different kinds of love, we discussed how mania/limerance is a powerful passionate force we sometimes feel for each other when we are first married. This chemical storm in our system is not only a form of love, but it also has a blinding effect. It blinds us from seeing the other person’s flaws, lowers our inhibitions and fills us with longing to be in the other person’s presence all the time.

We also briefly discussed how this form of love only lasts approximately six months to four years into our marriage. At this stage, when we’ve had a chance to satisfy our sexual urges and begin the responsibilities of married life, the chemicals that drive limerance or mania begin to wear off. Our marriage and sex life then settles into a comfortable homeostasis state.

Marriage counselor Mark Gungor said,

“… when you experience sex in the early stage of marriage, you are typically filled with high levels of desire and emotional connection—that’s just the way it is. The buzz and rush are there because of the newness and excitement, and it should be that way.
All that desire and emotion go a long way in bonding a brand-new husband and wife together. The thing to know and remember is that it just doesn’t stay that way, and when you set that as your standard, you are in trouble.
After a while the honeymoon does wear off and you eventually grow into a stage where it is more of the safe, comfortable married sex that is still very enjoyable, fun and pleasurable. It just isn’t going to be the Fourth of July experience with fireworks and bombs bursting in air every single time.”[i]

Dr. Joe Beam supports this idea as well:

“Your emotions are intense now, but they won’t be forever. Within a couple years, if not before, you’ll discover that the Cinderella or Price Charming you’re in love with isn’t quite as wonderful as you think.
In the ecstasy of new love people overlook flaws, quirks, and problems in the other. When that emotion evolves, as it must and will, you’ll start to be bothered by things that never bothered you before. You will discover that Cinderella and Prince Charming exist only in fairy tales. All the rest of us are flawed and at times hard to live with.” [ii]
It's at this stage we’re told that our 'real' marriage begins. Not only do we start to see the other person’s flaws with more clarity, but we also settle into a less passionate and more comfortable state of being with our spouse.

This stage of love is called “storge” (pronounced ‘store-gay’), and is another form of love referred to by John A. Lee, as a 
‘slow-burning, peaceful, and affectionate love’ that just comes naturally with the passage of time and the enjoyment of shared activities.
Storgic relationships lack the ecstatic highs and lows that characterize some other styles; sex occurs late in the relationship [meaning that couples wait until marriage to have sex] and goals are usually marriage, home, and children… (Lee, 1974).

The storgic lover finds routine home activities relaxing and comfortable. Because there is mutual trust, temporary separations are not a problem. In storgic love, affection develops over the years, as in many lasting marriages. Passion may be replaced by spirituality, respect, and contentment in the enjoyment of each other’s company (Mursten, 1974).[iii
 It’s a long-term form of love, enjoyed by people who have been together for a while. It’s common to see this kind of love in marriage, after the mania has burned itself out, if mania was ever involved in the relationship.

The Dysfunctional Side of Storge

To some people, when storge sets in, they may be tempted to think that love has actually gone out from the relationship. This is easy to do if you’ve been taught your whole life that ‘love’ can only be eros, or mania, and nothing else. Many people then break their covenants, whether made with God or with government, and end their relationships at this point.

Others may feel that love has ended, but they refuse to break their promises they’ve made when they married. But they may not put any more effort into maintaining their relationships, thinking that it won’t help. These couples end up living more like roommates than lovers.

Storge is much less emotional than eros or mania. Those who are living in it can tend to take their spouse for granted, thinking that they will always be there, always the same, for the rest of their lives. Making such assumptions can cause spouses to grow emotionally starved.

The Functional Side of Storge

Storge is the next natural stage after eros and/or mania in a relationship. For some couples, their entire relationship might involve more storge than any other kind of love. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Storge is easy, and requires no effort to maintain it once a couple have come to that point. It’s more comfortable to live that way day-by-day over a long period of time.

When a romantic love becomes storge love, it grows more logical and predictable, and becomes less of a roller-coaster ride. It has habit on its side, as each spouse grows to be a part of each other’s lives, and become more interdependent with each other.

What Role Does Storge Play in an LDS Marriage?

An eternal marriage is a marathon, not a sprint – a short-term passionate marriage that ends does us little good in becoming like the Lord long-term.

It is storge that makes the marathon possible, and as comfortable a ride as possible. Storge is at its most calm when we’re living the principles of the gospel in our lives, and not just on Sundays.

At the same time, we need to remember the value of the other kinds of love we’ve experienced up to this point (the self-regard of philautia, the friendship of ludus, and in our relationship, the moments of eros and mania that brought us together in the first place).
If we settle into storge, and never re-incorporate the best qualities of these other kinds of love, our relationship goes out of balance. The sexual relationship with each other can grow stale and empty, lacking intimacy.

The best and easiest way for a married couple to reintroduce the other forms of love into a storge relationship is to continue the courtship after marriage. Dating reminds us why we fell in love in the first place, and builds a supply of good memories together we can draw on in more difficult times.

Without continuing the habit of courting each other, and continuing to incorporate the basics of the gospel in our lives (couple prayer, scripture reading, taking the Sacrament, Family Home Evening, service to others including our spouse), storge can settle in. Like flaxen cords, we can get bound into rigid habits of taking each other for granted over time.

Listen to what happened to one LDS couple in that regard:

Next time we discover another kind of love, called pragma, and how it differs yet again from other forms of love.

[i] Gungor, Mark, Sometimes Sex Is Just Sex, (2010,1)

[ii] Beam, Joe, PhD, I’m Married But In Love With Someone Else,

[iii] Lee, John A. as quoted by Benokraitis, Nijole V. in Marriage and Families: Changes, Choices and Constraints, Pearson-Prentice Hall. 2005. Pg. 150