Love has many meanings in English. It can mean an intense feeling of affection, an emotion or emotional state. In ordinary use, it usually refers to interpersonal love. Probably due to its large psychological relevance, love is one of the most common themes in art. The majority of modern movies have a love story and most pop music is about love.
There are many forms of love as there are many types of lovers. Love is found in all of human cultures and the type of love that exists in these different cultures portray different views as to what love is, placing the universal definition of what love really is, difficult to establish.
Interpersonal love is love between human beings, and is more sympathetic than the notion of very much liking for another. Although feelings are usually reciprocal, there can also be unrequited love. Interpersonal love is usually found in an interpersonal relationship, such as between family members, friends, and couples. However, people often express love for other people outside of these relationships through compassionate outreach and volunteering.
Some elements that are often present in interpersonal love:
* Affection: appreciation of other
* Attachment: satisfying basic emotional needs
* Reciprocation: if love is mutual
* Commitment: a desire to maintain love
* Emotional intimacy: sharing emotions and feelings
* Kinship: family bonds
* Passion: sexual desire
* Physical intimacy: sharing of personal space
* Self-interest: desiring rewards
* Service: desire to help
Sexual energy can be the most important element in determining the shape of a relationship. While sexual attraction often establishes a new bond, sexual intention is considered undesirable or inappropriate in certain love bonds. In many religions and systems of ethics it is wrong to act on sexual desire for immediate family or outside of a committed relationship. However, there are many ways to express passionate love without sex. Affection, emotional intimacy and shared interests are common in friendships and kinships of all kinds.
A person can be said to love a country, principle, or goal if they value it greatly and are deeply committed to it. People can also 'love' material objects, animals, or activities if they invest themselves in bonding their identity with that item. In these cases, if sexual passion is actually felt, it is typically considered abnormal or unhealthy, and called paraphilia.
Most religions use love to express the devotion the follower has to their deity who may be a living guru or religious teacher. This love can be expressed by putting the love of God above personal needs, prayer, service, good deeds, and personal sacrifice, all done selflessly. Reciprocally, the followers may believe that the deity loves the followers and all of creation. Some traditions encourage the development of passionate love in the believer for the deity.
Biological models of love tend to see it as a mammalian drive, just like hunger or thirst. Psychology sees love as more of a social and cultural phenomenon. There are probably elements of truth in both views certainly love is influenced by hormones and pheromones, and how people think and behave in love is influenced by their conceptions of love.
Attraction and attachment
The conventional view in biology is that there are two major drives in love sexual attraction and attachment. Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the same principles that lead an infant to become attached to their mother.
Companionate vs. passionate
The traditional psychological view sees love as being a combination of companionate love and passionate love. Passionate love is intense longing, and is often accompanied by physiological arousal (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate). Companionate love is affection and a feeling of intimacy not accompanied by physiological arousal.
Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love
In the triangular theory of love, love is characterized by three elements: intimacy, passion and commitment. Each of these elements can be present in a relationship, producing the following combinations:
1. Liking includes only one of the love components - intimacy. In this case, liking is not used in a trivial sense. Sternberg says that this intimate liking characterizes true friendships, in which a person feels a bondedness, a warmth, and a closeness with another but not intense passion or long-term commitment.
2. Infatuated love consists solely of passion and is often what is felt as "love at first sight." But without the intimacy and the commitment components of love, infatuated love may disappear suddenly.
3. Empty love consists of the commitment component without intimacy or passion. Sometimes, a stronger love deteriorates into empty love, in which the commitment remains, but the intimacy and passion have died. In cultures in which arranged marriages are common, relationships often begin as empty love.
4. Romantic love is a combination of intimacy and passion. Romantic lovers are bonded emotionally (as in liking) and physically through passionate arousal.
5. Companionate love consists of intimacy and commitment. This type of love is often found in marriages in which the passion has gone out of the relationship, but a deep affection and commitment remain.
6. Fatuous love has the passion and the commitment components but not the intimacy component. This type of love can be exemplified by a whirlwind courtship and marriage in which a commitment is motivated largely by passion, without the stabilizing influence of intimacy.
7. Consummate love is the only type of love that includes all three components--intimacy, passion and commitment. Consummate love is the most complete form of love, and it represents the ideal love relationship for which many people strive but which apparently few achieve. Sternberg cautions that maintaining a consummate love may be even harder than achieving it. He stresses the importance of translating the components of love into action. "Without expression," he warns, "even the greatest of loves can die" (1987, p.341).
Susan Hendrick and Clyde Hendrick developed a theory called Love styles. They identified six basic theories that people use in their interpersonal relationships:
* Eros a passionate physical love based on physical appearance
* Ludus love is played as a game; love is playful
* Storge an affectionate love that slowly develops, based on similarity
* Pragma pragmatic love
* Mania highly emotional love; unstable; the stereotype of romantic love
* Agape selfless altruistic love; spiritual
Furthermore, they found men tend to be more ludic, whereas women tend to be storgic and pragmatic. Relationships based on similar love styles were found to last longer.
Helen Fisher suggests three main phases of love: lust, attraction and attachment. Generally love will start off in the lust phase, strong in passion but weak in the other elements. The primary motivator at this stage is the basic sexual instinct. Appearance, smells and other similar factors play a decisive role in screening potential mates. However, as time passes, the other elements may grow and passion may shrink this depends upon the individual. So what starts as Infatuation or Empty love may well develop into one of the fuller types of love. At the attraction stage the person concentrates their affection on a single mate and fidelity becomes important.
Likewise when a person has known a loved one for a long time, they develop a deeper attachment to their partner. According to current scientific understanding of love, this transition from attraction to attachment phase usually happens in about 30 months. After that time, the passion fades, changing love from Consummate to Companionate, or from Romantic love to Liking.
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