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]
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: https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-presidents-of-the-church-gordon-b-hinckley/chapter-10-nurturing-the-eternal-partnership-of-marriage?lang=eng
[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.