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The Evolution of Love in Relationships

Love can be a testament to the human capacities to choose and persist.

Key points

  • When we enter into a committed relationship, we join in a union with that person.
  • That union contributes to a greater connectedness throughout the cosmos and time.
  • Love has a spiritual, mystical dimension in the human experience.

Love is the most universal, formidable and mysterious of cosmic energies…the very blood stream of spiritual evolution. -Teilhard de Chardin, Building the Earth, cited by Duffy (2016)

Mikhail Kayl/Shutterstock
Source: Mikhail Kayl/Shutterstock

Is love more than an emotion we feel in relationships? Is it a deliberate choice we make despite its inherent risks? When we reflect upon our personal experiences with love, what comes to mind? Asking these questions can help us mindfully observe how love can shape our lives—and even our existence within a broader context. When we choose to love someone, we seek to achieve a union with that person and, perhaps unknowingly, with the greater cosmos (Duffy, 2016). In this article, we’ll explore love’s role in evolution, the spiritual energy of love, and how love can help us develop as partners with our loved ones and with humanity writ large.

What is love in the context of evolution?

While evolution has a biological aspect, the concept can also shed light on our spiritual journey and development (Welch, 1990). We all sense love is more than strong feelings, partly because our understanding of it changes over time and experiences. Our younger selves may have taken lovers and friends for granted, while our more experienced selves may have grown to appreciate others—including others we may not know—for their unique gifts and foibles. As we develop into more unselfish people who love others for their own sake, we may realize that our love develops as we experience life and has broader implications than our immediate reality.

camera obscura USA/Shutterstock
Source: camera obscura USA/Shutterstock

As we evolve by developing into more loving people, we tend to sense an ineffable connection with others: past and present, known and unknown, friend and foe. Ilia Delio (2013), a Franciscan scholar of religion and science, observes that “We all have a part in this unfolding love… We are one body, and we seek one mind and heart, more personal and unified in love. This urging toward oneness is an invitation to evolve the Christic” (p. 208). Put another way, we seek to merge with that which is greater than our individual selves in order to participate in a universal love that is deeper and richer than anyone could imagine. We may not readily see such underlying, omnipresent love, but we certainly seek it.

Love as spiritual energy? Really?

In the spiritual life, regardless of faith tradition, love is a choice to seek freedom by achieving the purpose of human experience: to love God and fellow human beings unencumbered by attachments (May, 2003). In this sense, love is a choice to release ourselves from energy-sapping idols (e.g., fear of past mistakes or anxiety of future problems) that may distract us from mindfully living in the present with our loved ones (Beverley, 2004/2008). When we decide to take a risk and give in to the mystery of the love of something greater than ourselves—God, the Great Spirit, etc.—we allow our self-constructed egos to be transformed. Some describe this experience as a lifelong spiritual journey to which each of us is invited (May, 2003; Welch, 1990). As a result, spiritual love directly charges our intimacy with ourselves, our lovers, humanity, the cosmos, and with our God.

Gaelle Marcel / Unsplash
Daily efforts to make a relationship work can lead to a love-filled partnership.
Gaelle Marcel / Unsplash

How can love change us for the better?

One way I have found helpful to release my ego-centered attachments has been through contemplative prayer. Centering Prayer is one form of contemplation that involves opening one’s heart and mind to the presence and action of God within oneself. It has been a very helpful and transformative practice for coping with my OCD-induced obsession-compulsion cycles (Culkin & Culkin, 2021). The practice involves sitting quietly in an upright posture and being present to your God or grounding force. When thoughts, images, or other distractions inevitably occur, just say a sacred word (mine is “love”) you have chosen to symbolize your intent to consent to God’s presence and transformative action within you.


We examined the energy of love within evolution, spiritual development, and relationships. As we grow by expanding our understanding of the potential power and reach of love energy, we would be well advised to remember de Chardin’s admonition that love is the very driver of our spiritual journeys as individuals, families, and a cosmos—an evolution that we cannot ignore.

How are you cultivating a deeper love to develop in your relationships?


Beverley, J. (2004/2008). Creating Loving Relationships: Living a Life of Authenticity. Aurora Canyon.

Culkin, D., & Culkin, M. (2021). OCD and Marriage: Pathways to Reshaping Your Lives Together. Specialty Press, Inc.

Delio, I. (2013). The Unbearable Wholeness of Being. Orbis Books.

Duffy, K. (2016, August 22). The Power of Love in an Unfinished World. Center for Christogenesis.,Earth%2C%2045%2C%2049

May, G. (2003). The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth. Harper Collins.

Welch, J. (1990). When Gods Die: An Introduction to John of the Cross. Paulist Press.

For more information about Centering Prayer and its theology, check out Contemplative Outreach.

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