I discovered the recipe for love. It was in a textbook. The Love and Relationships chapter in my Human Sexuality Today textbook, to be exact. For those of you who did not know, I took the PSYCH 210 Psychology of Human Sexuality course at the UW last quarter. A very interesting class, if I do say so myself.

Below are some of my favorite and most thought-provoking excerpts from the chapter:

In the words of anthropologist Charles Lindholm (1998), romantic love is “experienced as spontaneous, total and boundless in its actual devotion to … the other — to love ‘for a reason’ is not to love at all. We love because we love, and not because of anything that the beloved other has to offer us beyond themselves.”

Saint Augustine said, “Love means: I want you to be.”

Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm (1956) has echoed similar beliefs about love: “I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me.”

The structure of love is very similar for various types of close relationships.

Studies by Keith Davis (1985) revealed several characteristics that are essential for friendship: (1) enjoyment of eachother’s company most of the time (although periods of temporary annoyance or anger may occur); (2) acceptance of one another as is; (3) a mutual trust that each will act in his or her friend’s best interest; (4) a respect for each other (an assumption that each will use good judgment in making life choices); (5) mutual assistance of one another during times of need; (6) confiding in one another; (7) an understanding of each other’s behavior; and (8) spontaneity (the freedom to be oneself rather than playing a role).

Romantic love is the idealization of another; the combination of passion and liking (intimacy).

Compared to friendship, Davis found that romantic love rates high in: (1) fascination (a preoccupation with the other person, even when one should be doing other things); (2) exclusiveness (not having the same relationship with another person); (3) sexual desire (a desire for physical intimacy); and (4) giving the utmost when the other is in need.

These feelings can be extremely intense. The loved one is perceived as able (and often soley able) to satisfy needs, fulfill expectations, and provide rewards and pleasure.

Sarah A. Meyers and Ellen Berscheid (1997) found that a large majority perceives a difference between love and “being in love.” In a study, almost all of their subjects knew what it meant if someone told them “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” To them, it meant “I like you, I care about you, I think you’re a marvelous person with wonderful qualities and so forth, but I don’t find you sexually desirable.”

Their findings agree with Davis’ that the major differences between friendship (love) and romantic love (being “in love”) are fascination, exclusiveness, and sexual desire.

Companionate love has been defined as “the affection we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply entwined.” It is based on togetherness, trust, sharing, affection, and a concern for the welfare of the other (more so than passion). For example, the love between a parent and a child or that of a lasting adult relationship.

Passionate love is defined as “a state of intense longing for union with another … A state of profound physiological arousal.” In this sense, it is similar to what we have called romantic love. The two kinds of love are usually described as a dichotomy. However, Meyers and Berscheid (1997) found that people can experience both simultaneously, and propose instead that the more accurate distinction is passionate/compassionate love versus companionate love.

Recent studies have verified that popular concepts of love are made up of the three components of Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love (1986, 1987), the three sides of the triangle being: (1) intimacy (refers to those feelings in a relationship that promote closeness or bondedness and the experience of warmth, of which the signs include a desire to promote the welfare of the other, experiencing happiness with and having a high regard for the other, receiving and giving emotional support, having mutual understanding, and valuing the other person in your life); (2) passion (those drives leading to physical attraction, sexual relations, and romance); and (3) decision/commitment (includes the decision to love another person and the commitment to maintain the relationship over time).

Sternberg believes that complete love, what he calls consummate love, is found only in relationships that include all three components — passion, intimacy, and commitment. It is his belief that this is the type of love that most of us strive for in our romantic relationships. Thus, other relationships are viewed as lacking something (i.e., one or more of the three components).

“Love is an active power in man; a power which breaks through the walls which separate man from his fellow men … In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one yet remain two.” (Erich Fromm, 1956)

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