Trying to decide between a beach getaway and a stocking full of coal for your sweetheart? Why not give him a clean slate, instead? Wipe away the black marks and start fresh, aiming — once again — for perfect love. Only this time, do it with perfect love in clear view. Know what you’re going for, and you have a better shot at it.

According to Robert J. Sternberg, a psychologist and psychometrician born in NJ, perfect love is a high level of intimacy, passion, and commitment.

  • Intimacy: Psychological knowledge shared, and connection based on that knowledge
  • Passion: Erotic attraction
  • Commitment: The decision that a person loves another person and the commitment to maintain that love

It’s difficult to have a high level of even one of the three if focusing on how you’ve been wronged or shortchanged; and each one works to strengthen or weaken the other two. Wiping the slate clean, on the other hand, allows you to immediately enjoy whatever level you already have and develop more of it.

I realize that a clean slate isn’t exactly something you can order online, but Christmas isn’t really about what you can have somebody else deliver. Christmas is about giving of what you have, so give yourself a clean slate. When you wipe yours clean, you wipe his clean, too! If you thought he was alone in the relationship fumbles, take a closer look. Be honest with yourself, and him, about your role. Then forgive yourself. Having trouble with that part? Learn from your “mistakes,” and commit to applying what you’ve learned. Knowing that you now choose to behave differently is the key to forgiving yourself. And forgiving him is a byproduct of forgiving yourself!

Now, you can start fresh together, without any misconception of love. According to Sternberg, there are eight types of “love,” and only one of them is perfect. Don’t be fooled by the other seven (see below). They’ll bring to mind romantic escapes and intellectualized commitments of your past, but look at what you have now. If you’re honest with yourself, then you’ll know exactly what you need more of.

Type of “Love”Consummate/Perfect
Fatuous/Shallow
Companionate
Romantic
Empty
Infatuated
Liking
Non-love
Intimacyhigh
low
high
high
low
low
high
low
Passionhigh
high
low
high
low
high
low
low
Commitmenthigh
high
high
low
high
low
low
low

To get more intimacy, stop talking about the weather, and begin to talk nakedly about your deep feelings and concerns. What do you dream of? What are you afraid to say out loud — in the context of work, the kids, money, retirement, sex, fitness? Talk more, do more together, touch more. You don’t have to like the same things to try on each other’s interests and gain a better understanding of what intrigues and stimulates. You grow intimacy by learning more about each other, which leads to placing more value on each other.

You can’t feel loved without feeling truly known and valued. And you want to feel loved to the core. So, let your guard down to reveal all of you. Share from a deep place. No secrets.

Intimacy will lead to passion, but don’t get stuck thinking that passion is synonymous with craving. “Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other,” said The Dalai Lama. Be present with each other. Feel the kiss without leaping to, “I’m too tired.” Enjoy what is, without being preoccupied with what comes next … and what comes next just might surprise you. Passion is like magic. It can’t be forced; it just happens when you let it.

When you have intimacy and passion, commitment will naturally follow. You don’t have to be talked into staying with what satisfies your desire to be known and touched in deep places.

This Christmas, give yourself and your partner something you’ve probably never had before, something you are finally ready for. Perfect Love. And, yes, it starts with a clean slate. You can’t have it while you’re holding a grudge. Holding a grudge means holding back—not just forgiveness, but part of you.

Being loved the way you’ve always dreamed of being loved means putting it all out there, and giving him a safe place to do the same.

Jan Denise is a journalist, who penned the nationally syndicated “Inside Relationships” for ten years, and author of the books Naked Relationships: Sharing Your Authentic Self to Find the Partner of Your Dreams (Hampton Roads, 2002) and Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You’re Not (Health Communications, 2009). Denise conducts workshops, speaks professionally, serves on the faculty of Omega Institute, and consults with individuals and couples nationwide. She lives in McIntosh, Florida, where she and her husband open their sanctuary in the woods as a retreat center.  www.InnatelyGood.com