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.
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.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
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.
[ii] Beam, Joe, PhD, I’m Married But In Love With Someone Else, https://www.marriagehelper.com/married_but_in_love_with_someone_else.php
[iii] Lee, John A. as quoted by Benokraitis, Nijole V. in Marriage and Families: Changes, Choices and Constraints, Pearson-Prentice Hall. 2005. Pg. 150