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What is Love?

What is Love?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.

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:

  Intimacy Passion Commitment
Intimacy (Friendship) X    
Passion (*limerence)   X  
Commitment     X
Romantic love X X  
Companionate love X   X
Fatuous love   X X
Consummate love X X X
*Limerence is a state of mind sometimes referred to as "being in love" (as distinct from "loving" someone) and sometimes called "infatuation." However, the term "infatuation" carries connotations of immaturity that "limerence" separates from the emotion. "Limerence" is distinguished from "love" in that love (in most of its meanings) involves concern for the loved one's welfare and feelings with little or no expectation of gain in return. In contrast, limerence demands reciprocation.

Love Styles
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 passion fades, changing love from Consummate to Companionate, or from Romantic love to Liking

(source: Wikipedia)

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