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“Sleepless in Seattle” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” Term Paper

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Harrison and Shortall (727) define love as the deepest and most significant of feelings. The authors acknowledge that the feeling has been given a myriad of meanings that range from sexual attraction to compassion. Every individual can attest to falling in love, being loved, and loving others. Madey and Rodgers (76-77) argue that past definitions of love have recognized the feeling as being an integral part of life and living. Moreover, people base romantic relationships on the notion of love regardless of the level of affection experienced. According to Harrison and Shortall (728), love is a fundamental part of marriage, especially in the western culture.

The authors also define love as a socially created entity that has transformed and advanced its role within the society. It is unlikely that the society would be united without the presence of love. Madey and Rodgers (77) indicate that relationships range from purely platonic to romantic forms. All these relationships need love and commitment to survive, an indication of the vital role played by love. Therefore, it is important to understand how love operates and assess its role in the creation or breaking down of relationships.

The aim of the current research is to provide an understanding of love and the existence of different kinds of love. Additionally, the essay analyzes the types of love in the films Sleepless in Seattle and Mrs. Doubtfire. The selection of the two films is based on the fact that they provide interesting perspectives on the different kinds of love and the role of love in relationships.

Understanding love

Soloski, Pavkov and Sweeney (774) report that love takes different dimensions in different relationships. Prior to the creation of any relationship, each partner constructs a mental picture of the kind of interaction that he or she wants to have with the other partner. Madey and Rodgers (77) also note that such constructs are present in parental love, as parents tend to imagine how the relationships with their children will be.

These dimensions led Sternberg to develop the triangular theory of love. According to Harrison and Shortall (730), the theory postulates that complete love can only be expressed and felt in the presence of passion, intimacy, and commitment. In reference to Madey and Rodgers (79), intimacy refers to the familiarity, attachment, and the bond that couples experience in relationships. Additionally, passion refers to the force that stimulates romantic feelings, sex, and the physical attractiveness of the partners in a relationship. Lastly, commitment is the choice that one partner makes to love the other. Such commitment may be short or long term. Specifically, short-term pledges involve making the decision to love while the long-term aspects involve maintaining the feelings of love.

There are different types of love and they enhance the understanding of the different kinds of relationships. Relationships can never be pure or complete without the presence of one or more types of love. The most common types of love described in literature include; liking, non-love, infatuation, empty love, consummate love, compassion, and romantic love. Non-love is characterized by the absence of passion, intimacy, and commitment.

Harrison and Shortall (730) note that it is possible for a partner to make the decision to love in the absence of one or two components of the triangular theory. This is referred to as empty love and it mostly develops from the deterioration of other kinds of love. Commitment still characterizes this love, but intimacy and passion are absent. This kind of love is common in arranged marriages, which occur in non-western cultures. Madey and Rodgers (79) indicate that liking is a kind of love that consists solely of intimacy. Thus, it is the type of love where passion and commitment do not exist. Intimate liking plays a vital role in strengthening the bonds between friends.

Another type of love is infatuation, and it is characterized by passion. It is usually referred to as ‘love at first sight’ and it is short-lived (Harrison and Shortall 728). However, an infatuated couple may decide to be intimate and committed to each other. This results in the modification of infatuation to other kinds of love. Romantic love comprises of emotional bonds, and the partners are intimately and passionately involved with each other.

Consummate love is defined as the ideal kind of love that many relationships want to have. Madey and Rodgers (79) note that the difficulties in maintaining this kind of love results from its demand for actions. Lastly, compassionate love lacks passion and it majorly occurs in marriages that survive for long periods. It is characterized by deep commitment, fondness and little or no sexual desire. Parental love and the love between family members are a form of compassionate love. In summary, the different kinds of love determine the type and course of a particular relationship.

Analysis of love in Sleepless in Seattle and Mrs. Doubtfire

The movie Sleepless in Seattle provides an example of how love can be created between strangers. In the movie, Sam is an upcoming architect who loses his wife to cancer. It is clear that the couple had a consummate kind of love as he falls into depression after her death. As Madey and Rodgers (76) indicate, love is the foundation of relationships and its absence makes life lose meaning. Sam seems to be having mental struggles and often remembers the love that once existed between him and the wife. Although Annie and the fiancé are about to get married, the kind of love they share seems to be empty and uneven.

This could explain why their love does not develop into marriage. According to the triangular theory, love can only be understood by analyzing the three elements in a metaphorical triangular form with intimacy at the top, passion at the left corner, and commitment at the right-hand corner. Madey and Rodgers (78-79) indicate that the triangular theory is dependent on two main factors. First, the amount of love expressed by each partner; this is based on the different ideas that the parties have on the course of the relationship. Second, the balance of love expressed by the partners. This determines whether both partners feel the same about each other. While her fiancé expresses deep liking for her, Annie seems to display empty love. It also lacks the closeness described in intimacy.

Initially, the bond between Sam and Annie seems to be just an infatuation. This is because they fall in love with each other without knowing how the other partner looks like. Madey and Rodgers (78) acknowledge that it is one thing to love another person, and another thing to transform the love into actions. Infatuation is rarely characterized by actions and hence not a true kind of love. Annie was just in love with the thought of finally meeting up with Sam as they both lived in different cities.

After they meet face-to-face, they fall in love deeply, marking the beginning of their romantic relationship. At this juncture, the three components of love seem to be present. Each of the components must be followed by actions for it to have meaning. An example is the presence of constant communication in displaying intimacy. Touching and gazing are important in expressing passion, and the decision to stay together can be expressed through an engagement or marriage. Harrison and Shortall (730) report that the actions associated with the components of love are dependent on an individual’s personality and the nature of the relationship.

Therefore, the triangular theory promotes the expression of love through actions and hence enhancing relationships. It is clear that their relationship is going to transform to the consummate kind. This movie gives a unique dimension of love and it shows how relationships are created. Specifically, it is possible to love a person without seeing or knowing them and such infatuation can develop into true love.

The movie Mrs.Doubtfire provides a clear example of the constructs of compassionate love. Although the relationship between David and his wife is broken through a divorce, he is determined to continue loving his children above everything else. Madey and Rodgers (77) note that compassionate love strengthens the bonds between families. It is also characterized by a deep commitment to be there for the other party as evident in the movie.

David’s actions seem to be driven by his long-term commitment to maintain his love for his children. It is also clear that his children love him deeply as they refuse to reveal his identity to their mother (Mrs. Doubtfire). A long-term commitment would not be present if both parties fail to acknowledge that they are in a relationship. Perhaps, this could explain why his marriage to Miranda ended in a divorce. He chose to spend more time at work than he did with his wife, an indication that lack of commitment actually ruins relationships. Daniel’s attempt to frustrate Miranda’s new boyfriend, shows that he still loves her. Harrison and Shortall (730) acknowledge the difficulties in eliminating compassionate love after separation or divorce.


Love plays an integral part in understanding relationships (Madey and Rodgers 79). It acts as a foundation through which intimacy, passion, and commitment are established in relationships. The aim of the current research was to provide an understanding of the different kinds of love. Love is important in the formation and development of relationships. Due to its ability to influence marriages and relationships, it promotes their survival. The assessment of Sleepless in Seattle discovers that the movie is based on two types of love; infatuation and consummate love. It is clear that love can actually exist without meeting a person.

However, such love requires intimacy, passion, and commitment to develop to the next level. The major type of love focused in Mrs. Doubtfire is compassionate as the story revolves around the bond between family members. In summary, the different kinds of love are dependent on the type of relationships and situations. Additionally, love acts as a medium through which old relationships are rekindled as seen in Mrs. Doubtfire.

Works Cited

Harrison, Marissa and Jennifer C Shortall. “Women and men in love: Who really feels it and says it first?” The Journal of Social Psychology 151.6 (2011): 727–736. Print.

Madey, Scott F and Lindsey Rodgers. “The effect of attachment and Sternberg’s triangular theory of love on relationship satisfaction.” Individual Differences Research 7.2 (2009): 76-84. Print.

Soloski, Kristy L, et al. “The social construction of love through intergenerational processes.” Contemporary Family Therapy 35.13 (2013): 773–792. Print.

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