“I am in love with him most of the time.” —Blake Lively, describing her husband, Ryan Reynolds.

Lively’s claim that she loves Reynolds most of the time runs counter to the nature of profound love. She probably desires him sexually most of the time, but loves him all the time.

Acute, Extended, and Enduring Emotions

      “The heart never forgets, never gives up, the territory marked off for those who came before." —Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

We can distinguish three major types of emotional experiences: acute emotions; extended emotions; and enduring emotions. Acute emotions are tempestuous — intense and brief, almost instantaneous occurrent experiences. Extended emotions involve successive repetitions of acute emotions that are felt to belong to the same emotion — for example, making love throughout the whole night. Enduring emotions involve a dispositional and actual nature, as well as a process of meaningful development or deterioration. Acute emotions are part of both extended and enduring emotions.

The Dispositional Nature of Profound Love

     “The rose that you gave me has faded, and wilted away. But, the love tucked in deep inside remains in my heart forever.” —Unknown

     “I could lay next to you forever...or until we decide to go eat.” —Unknown

Koldunov/Shutterstock
Source: Koldunov/Shutterstock

A major difference between an acute and an enduring emotion is the dispositional nature of the latter. An enduring emotion is dispositional in the sense of having an inherent potential to be actualized and move from the background of the emotional experience to its foreground. Sexual desire is an acute emotion, while romantic love can be an enduring one (Ben-Ze'ev, 2017).

Romantic love consists of both friendship and caring, as well as sexual desire. Friendship and caring have a dispositional nature and can last for many years, while further developing and becoming more profound. Hence, you cannot say that you are profoundly in love with a person or are a deep friend of someone for five minutes, or from time to time. Time is an essential element of profound love, deep friendship, and great caring.

Sexual desire expresses a more superficial attitude that is much briefer and has no dispositional existence (in the above sense). The brief nature of sexual activities is expressed in the morning-after effect. As an older divorcee said, “Men’s love for me lasts as long as my makeup does. Their intense romantic desire at night disappears in the morning when my makeup dissolves.”

Enduring romantic love is dispositional in the sense of being able to move from the background of our awareness to the foreground. Such love is present in the background of our emotional experiences, even when we do not think about the beloved. It is like pleasant background music that enables us to engage in other activities, while from time to time the music moves to the foreground of our attention. Even when love is in the background, it still includes an evaluative stance that is expressed in the lover’s behavior. A woman’s long-standing love for her partner does not show itself in continuous acute emotions, such as sexual desire, but it influences her attitudes and behavior toward the partner and other people. For example, it influences her interest in what he does, the things she does in his company, her desires toward him and other people, and so on. Similarly, a mother can grieve for a lost child for a very long period during which she often feels intense sadness and inability to concentrate on any complex activity.

Romantic Profundity and Intensity

     "I thought I was promiscuous, but it turns out I was just thorough." —Russell Brand

     “Young men do not know what they do, but they do it for the whole night.“ —Madonna

Romantic intensity is a snapshot of an emotional peak at a given moment; it refers to a momentary degree of passionate, often sexual, desire. Romantic profundity goes beyond mere romantic intensity in that it includes the temporal dimension.

Profound love can endure over a long time, even when the frequency of sexual interaction is low. In the same manner that you cannot say, "He is my spouse and friend most of the time," you cannot say, "I am profoundly in love with him most of the time." Profound love, as friendship, endures continuously over time, even when the friend sometimes behaves in ways that seem to be different from the norms associated with friendship.

The peaks of romantic intensity are temporarily limited. Nevertheless, they can extend in time — for example, when making love for the whole night. If we wish to describe such frequency and temporal extensions, we might say something like, “I am intensely attracted to him most of the time.”

Loving Berta for 60 Years

     “I have loved Berta for 60 years.” —Ya'akov Hazan

When at age 92, Israeli politician and social activist Ya'akov Hazan said that he has loved Berta for 60 years, he did not mean that he thought about her or sexually desired her every hour during this long period. Romantic love is a complex emotion, and it also exists when thoughts about or sexual desire for the beloved are not present.

Romantic love can endure even when the two lovers are not together. In fact, in many cases not being with each other all the time enhances the endurance of such love, as it provides greater personal space. Romantic love includes the desire to be close to the beloved, but there are increasing numbers of romantic couples who live at a geographical distance. Compared to close-proximity relationships, such distant relationships are characterized by higher levels of relationship quality on several indices, including relationship adjustment, love for the partner, fun with the partner, conversational quality, and improved communication. In this regard, distance seems to be the new romantic closeness. (See here.)

Lively’s Love for Reynolds

     “The secret to our marriage is our unwavering friendship…We were friends for two years before we were ever dating. And I treat him like my girlfriend.” —Blake Lively

Lively considers friendship to be the foundation of her loving relationship with Ryan. Friendship is indeed the basis of enduring profound love. Like profound love, you cannot be a friend just "most of the time."

If Lively is profoundly in love with Ryan Reynolds, her love is continuous and exists even when they fight with each other. She probably means that such love is at the center of her awareness most of the time, but she does not mean that it disappears when they are not making love or actively thinking about each other.

Profound romantic love is a complex emotional attitude that includes occasional eruptions of intense positive emotions, such as sexual desire, and of negative emotions like resentment, anger, and jealousy. Those acute intense emotions can be frequent, but they cannot be present continuously; they can recur often or only infrequently. Profound romantic love is continuously present all the time.

I am sorry, Blake, but it seems that, after all, you do love Ryan all the time, although you might sexually desire him “only” most of the time.

References

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2017). Does loving longer mean loving more? On the nature of enduring affective attitudes. Philosophia, 45.

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