*a myTake concerning romantic love, considering the amount of questions people ask on here related to it
Unlike disgust, surprise or fear – which are all seen as „universal emotions„ – love is a complex, long-lasting feeling, hard to define and operationalize, that represents a mixture between emotions, thoughts and behaviors.
Of course, biologically we are mostly the same – love evolved alongside sexual reproduction. We have these electrochemical signals in the brain that correlate (what we interpret as) love with happiness, reproduction & finding a genetically compatible partner, feeling secure, part of a group/ family and so on.
On the other hand, from a psychosocial standpoint we are different, and that’s why it matters how we associate our emotions and behaviors to our own concept of love.
When it comes to love, we are not made from the same cookie-cutter. There isn’t only one way to love. What is love for one, it doesn’t have to be for someone else. This brings us to:
Researchers who studied romantic love came up with a very interesting theory and they proposed a typology of 6 loving styles:
1. EROS – a passionate and intense love, commonly depicted in movies where characters fall head over heels for someone. Someone who has this loving style feels very strong emotions when he is around or when he thinks about his/her partner. The downside? Once the honeymoon phase is over, these people might discover that their partner was not all that dreamy. Another interesting finding – many of the long-lasting couples that were happy together scored high on EROS.
2. MANIA – a possessive and dependent love, characterized by suspicion, uncertainty and jealousy. The people who score high on MANIA tend to be obsessive about their partner and they often need reassurance that everything is going well. They oscillate between being very joyful (when things are going well) and being very sad (when something threatens their relationship).
3. PRAGMA – this word says it all; in this case we are talking about a pragmatic approach to love, sometimes described as ”unromantic”, but it is a type of love beneficial for both parties involved. They focus on finding a partner that matches their requirements and that is enough for them.
4. STORGE – this is a type of love that arises from a deep friendship and connection. They aren’t very passionate/ intense (especially in the beginning), but they have a profound connection with the other, linking friendship with love. It is a calm type of love which tends to be very stable in time.
5. LUDUS – a game-playing love, that usually involves deception. The people with this loving style tend to avoid closeness and see everything as just a game. They don’t really value commitment and they tend to hurt sensitive persons. They are centered on attractiveness, not on compatibility. It is the only type of love that doesn’t pass the test of time.
6. AGAPE – a rare and pure form of selfless love; it involves giving without expecting to receive anything in return. These people are caring and they place their partner’s needs above their own. It is a very rare style.
We usually have a predominant loving style, that tends to be stable in time, combined with attributes from the other styles. While this theory is not enough to explain all the mysteries of love, I think it’s very important that it shows us not to judge others relationships based solely on what we think ”proper” love is.
*search on Google for Love Attitudes Scale if you want to read more information about this theory or if you want to find out what’s your loving style.
Now you might ask what shapes our loving style? *hint: it is something from our childhood.
I’ll try to keep this short: it's our attachment style. According to the attachment theory, the way our parents (or caregivers) interact with us in our childhood influences our development and, later on, those learned behaviors and ideas tell us how to interact and relate to others.
Knowing more about our attachment style helps us understand why our relationships follow certain patterns or why we have certain habits. There are four main attachement styles: secure, dismissive-avoidant, fearful-avoidant and anxious-preoccupied + variations on each. I might write another myTake for these if anyone is interested.
Another theory worth considering is the Triangular theory of love, seen in the context of interpersonal relationships. It is not as simple as it was initially laid out to be, but it is a good starting point that shows us just how different couples can be.
The Triangular theory of love contains three elements: Intimacy, Commitment and Passion, as in the scheme below:
Out of these three elements and the way they interact with each other, seven different kinds of love are produced. Consummate love is seen as the ideal - though it is something mostly utopic, which is usually harder to maintain than to achieve. The other types correlate well with the six loving styles previously presented.
Of course, none of these theories is perfect or exhaustive, but if you come to think just how many aspects are involved in the process of LOVING someone, you might understand why knowing yourself is much more important than trying to figure out what is proper and what isn't in a relationship according to others.
Live long and prosper!