Love is an emotion characterized by passion, intimacy, desire, and commitment. Love motivates us, validates our self-esteem, and eases our fear of loneliness.
- What Is Love?
- Understanding Love
- Kinds Of Love
- Love Vs Infatuation Vs Liking
- Theories Of Love
- Triangular Theory Of Love
- Signs And Symptoms
- Types Of Love
- Causes Of Love
- Love And Mental Health
- The Dark Side Of Love
- Romantic Love And Relationships
- Self Love
- Chemistry Of Falling In Love
- Love Vs Stress
- Love Addiction
- How To Practice Healthy Love
- How To Maintain A Healthy Relationship
- Love Is Nature’s Law
What Is Love?
Love is an emotion governed by an intimacy, passion, and commitment component. A 2009 study 1 defined it as “an emergent property of an ancient cocktail of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters.” It begins when an individual feels affection towards another individual which involves considering the other person as special or unique. It also involves focused attention, increased ecstasy, emotional dependence, or empathy. Sometimes love can also be associated with negative emotions such as jealousy, separation anxiety, or despair when things don’t go a certain way. A 1995 report also pointed out that love is not primarily an emotion but a motivation system designed to enable suitors to build and maintain an intimate relationship with a specific mating partner.
Our choices are greatly influenced by our relative negative and positive experiences with love. Depending on these experiences, an individual may appear less or more attractive. For instance, we may be attracted to someone’s physical attributes that may unconsciously remind us of a family member. Our psychology plays a crucial role in who we find attractive. Choosing a partner is largely determined by our self-esteem, life experiences, family dynamics, and mental and emotional health.
Love makes us feel a range of feelings. This phenomenon is usually characterized by care, affection, trust, closeness, intimacy, and attraction. A 2004 study 2 found that it activates the reward system of the brain that results in a reduction in emotional judgment, fear, depression, and also enhances mood. Love is believed to be the most important aspect of human emotions. Experts 3 believe that it is a combination of a biological and cultural phenomenon. Our biological drives, hormones, and several other factors govern our willingness to fall in love. There are several ways humans display their affection towards another person. Falling for someone means being vulnerable. You must also have the willingness to forgive. Letting your partner know that you care about them and prioritizing spending time with them are also important aspects of a loving relationship. Loving someone also means talking about your feelings and communicating with them. A communication gap can negatively affect your relationship leading to an abrupt end.
It doesn’t only exist between romantic partners. It can manifest in various ways and forms. It can exist between friends and family members. It can occur between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, and many others. Feelings of love are often influenced by similarities. Studies show that individuals feel stronger towards the opposite sex who are more similar to them. It is important to note that every individual experiences it differently and in their own unique way. It should be noted that attachment is an essential part of long-term love. It is greatly influenced by deep emotional connection along with lust and attraction. However, some people also resort to short-term relationships where couples don’t focus on building attachment and deep emotional connection.
Kinds Of Love
According to the Triangular Theory, the three components produce eight kinds of love. However, it is important to keep in mind that no relationship falls entirely under one category.
The eight kinds are as follows:
This refers to the absence of all three components of love. There is no intimacy, passion, or commitment between the two individuals.
This occurs when an individual only experiences the intimacy component. There is no passion or commitment found between the two individuals.
This happens when the individual experiences the passion component of love while the other two components remain mute.
This involves the decision to love another person. They are committed to that person but there is an absence of intimacy and passion in the relationship.
This develops from a combination of intimacy and passion components. However, the commitment aspect is absent in the relationship.
This derives from the combination of intimacy and the decision/commitment components. The passion component is absent in the case of companionate love.
This love develops from a combination of passion and commitment components in the absence of intimacy in the relationship.
This kind involves the combination of all three components of love.
The chemistry between two individuals differs from one couple to another. It is essential to find and maintain a balance between the need for sex and the need for love to build an optimal relationship.
Love Vs Infatuation Vs Liking
Infatuation is a part of love. Sometimes it may be difficult to differentiate between love and infatuation. Here are some of the differences:
- It is a gradual process but infatuation occurs instantly
- It is deep and emotional while infatuation is shallow
- It is kind and energizing while infatuation is selfish and draining
- It encourages trust and understanding while infatuation gives rise to obsession and jealousy
- It is comfortable and lasts longer while infatuation is intense and short-lived
However, it is also different from feelings of ‘liking’. Differences between love and liking are largely dependent on the intensity and depth of the emotions. Some of the differences that are noteworthy between liking and love are:
- Liking means you are happy with that person while loving means they are everything to you
- Liking happens overnight while loving requires time
- Liking means pretending to listen to the other person while loving means you are genuinely interested in listening to them
- Liking is based on emotions while loving is based on decisions
- Liking is being proud to be seen with that person while loving means being proud to be in that person’s life
- Liking means being possessive while loving means you understand that your partner is a free individual
Theories Of Love
Experts 4 have tried to explain it in several ways. In 1970, Canadian psychologist John Alan Lee attempted to delineate six different types of love to develop the color wheel theory 5 of love. He named them with Greek and Latin names and categorized them as primary and secondary. The primary traits constitute Eros, Ludus, and Storge. The secondary traits involve Pragma, Mania, and Agape. Understanding this concept can highlight the strengths of a relationship. Another theory, the triangular theory of love 6 developed by Robert J Stenberg states that it constitutes three components, namely intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. The way the three components interact with each other sets the tone for the relationship. The metaphorical representation of the love triangle depends on two factors:
- The amount of love
- The balance of love
This means that the greater the amount of love, the greater the area of the triangle. However, according to psychologist Zick Rubin 7 , romantic love consists of three elements namely attachment, caring, and intimacy. Attachment is represented by the need for attention and physical contact with others. Care is represented by the ability to respect and make others happy. While intimacy is represented by the need to share deep thoughts, feelings, and desires. On the basis of this, Rubin’s scale of Liking and Loving was developed.
Triangular Theory Of Love
American psychologist and psychometrician Robert Sternberg developed the triangular theory of love, which is one of the most popular theories on the topic. According to this theory, there are three components – intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment. Sternberg defined the components as:
It refers to “feelings of closeness, connectedness, and boundedness in loving relationships”.
It refers to the “drives that lead to romance, physical attraction, sexual consummation, and related phenomena in loving relationships”.
This component is divided into the short and long term. In the short term, it refers to “the decision that one loves a certain other”. In the long term, it refers to “one’s commitment to maintain that love”. One can decide to love someone without giving commitment. On the other hand, one can be committed to a relationship without acknowledging the love they have for the other person
These three components when put together can be viewed as a triangle. Each component is found to manifest different aspects of love. The components are separable but have the potential to interact with each other. For instance, passion may lead to intimacy or commitment. Intimacy may lead to passion or commitment. Although these components are an essential part of a loving relationship, the degree of importance may differ from one relationship to another.
Signs And Symptoms
This feeling usually involves a wide range of emotions. Some of the signs and symptoms are as follows:
- Feeling euphoric
- Nervous excitement
- Unwilling to wait to see them
- Making time for them
- Making sacrifices for your partner
- Enjoying excellent physical chemistry & intimacy
- Feeling high on life
- Thinking about them always
- Wanting them to be happy
- Wanting to spend time with your child
- Appreciating and showing acceptance
- Celebrating achievements
- Letting your child express their emotions
Types Of Love
There are mainly eight types of this phenomenon. Ancient Greeks studied it and defined each type with a Greek name. They are as follows:
1. Philia- Affectionate
This type is usually formed between friends or family members. In this relationship, both parties share the same values and mutual respect for each other.
2. Pragma – Enduring
This is a unique bond between a couple that matures over many years. The couple chooses to put equal effort into their relationship. They both choose to work on their relationship with their partner forever.
3. Storge- Familiar
This is a naturally occurring phenomenon between parents and children or even best friends. It’s a deep emotional connection based on acceptance.
4. Eros- Romantic
This form is a natural instinct for most people. It’s passionate and often displayed with physical affection.
5. Ludus – Playful
This form occurs at the beginning stage of the relationship. It consists of teasing, being playful, and smiling between two people.
6. Mania- Obsessive
This form is characterized by obsession and jealousy towards their partner. The imbalance of Eros and Ludus is usually the main cause of mania.
7. Philautia – Self-love
This form is characterized by understanding one’s self-worth without ignoring their personal needs. It begins by acknowledging one’s own responsibility for their well being.
8. Agape – Selfless
This form is the highest level of love. It is given without expecting anything in return. It allows an individual to spread love in any circumstances. In this case, the individual dedicates their life to improve the lives of others.
Causes Of Love
There may be several causes of falling for someone. They are as follows:
A 2006 study pointed out that the primary neurochemicals that drive the feelings of love are testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin. The dopamine levels mediate the partner’s preference behavior while vasopressin governs the attachment behaviors of the partner. Adequate levels of testosterone are essential for both male and female sexual behavior.
Psychological aspects may also contribute to falling for someone. Some of the psychological reasons are:
- Similar personality traits
- Desirable characteristics
- Reciprocal liking
- Fulfilling each other’s needs
A 2007 study 8 found that similarities between partners help them understand each other and forge stronger connections faster.
Love And Mental Health
This phenomenon has also found to play a major role in mental health. Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health conditions. Studies 9 suggest that social isolation is the most common cause of developing these conditions. A report 10 suggested that getting married and staying married reduces depression in both men and women. In addition to this, treatment for depression has also been linked with improving interpersonal relationships. Hence, encouraging patients to be involved in loving and stable relationships can potentially help in the recovery from mental health conditions. Although love isn’t a cure for mental illness, having loving and healthy relationships can make one happy. Being loved also promotes self-worth. Research 11 suggests that good social relationships benefit individuals in several ways. They are:
- Healthier lifestyle choices
- Greater resilience in case of stress
- Improved self-esteem
However, there may be several pitfalls of falling for someone. Some of them include:
- Suicidal thoughts and tendencies
Read More To Know About: Love And Mental Health
The Dark Side Of Love
Research 12 shows that increased levels of oxytocin can lead to heightened aggression. In 1915 Sigmund Freud asked 13 “Isn’t what we mean by “falling in love” a kind of sickness and craziness, an illusion, a blindness to what the person is really like?” Falling in love can even make a person go mad. It can cause a range of negative emotions as well when one’s feelings have not been reciprocated or when they are rejected or even after a breakup.. Some of the other negative emotions associated with this phenomenon:
During the initial phase of the relationship, couples often find themselves stressed. Stress occurs when couples try to adjust to their new partner. Unrequited love can also can high levels of stress in an individual. Several people also commit suicide due to love. One study estimated that 42% of all suicides are related to relationship problems. The reasons can differ from one individual to another. It can be because of unrequited love, being cheated, or betrayed by the one they loved. They often experience feelings of hopelessness and despair that fuel their drastic decision to end their lives. Some partners often perceive their partners as a threat to their emotional health and happiness. For instance, when an individual feels negative emotions, they normally have the instinct to prove their partner wrong in an argument or a fight. In this case, the individual doesn’t look for solutions and this results in an unhappy relationship.
Many people are found to engage in domestic violence and homicide even in loving relationships. It can include violence between a husband and a wife, a girlfriend and a boyfriend, or gay or lesbian partners. It can also occur between parents and children, or siblings. A 2014 study 14 found that the great majority of it is perpetrated by men against women. Another report 15 also found that almost 40% of female murder victims die at the hands of their former lover or husband.
Romantic Love And Relationships
During the infatuation stage, the individuals are filled with lust and passion. Neurochemicals in the brain release the feel-good chemicals that make a person feel ecstatic. The high from these chemicals leads them to idealize their partner which makes them feel like you want to be with them constantly. They feel like the perfect person in the entire world. They are unable to see their partner’s flaws and shortcomings. In the early stages of a relationship, we are often blinded by love. We tend to idealize and admire our partners and are keener to explore their interests. When in love, we tend to feel more hopeful, happy, empathic, and generous. Both individuals in the relationship are more willing to take risks and try out new things. Healthy idealization of our partner can help us fall for someone more easily.
The initial stage 16 usually lasts for six months, after which we enter the ordeal stage. In this stage, we learn more about our partner and come across traits that displease or bother us. We tend to discover habits, flaws, attitudes that we overlooked in the initial stage of the relationship. There may even be certain traits that annoy us. We used to think that our partner is warm and friendly but we start to feel ignored at social gatherings. What we once thought was a bold move, we later learn that it’s rude and selfish. With time, the high from the chemical releases in the brain wears off and we return to our ordinary personality. In this phase, things have changed and we don’t feel as wonderful as we used to. Previously, we could go out of our way to make our partners happy but now we complain about things that aren’t going our way. In this phase, it is crucial to build a healthy relationship with our partners despite the differences.
Building a healthy relationship depends on sharing a common goal of where you both want the relationship to go. There may be certain challenges that may come your way but the key is to manage them together as a team.
Self-love can be defined as the love that one has for oneself. The meaning of self-love differs from person to person. It is a state of self-appreciation that involves a combination of physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. One 2017 study 17 pointed out that yoga poses improves our self esteem and bodily energy. For some people, self-love can mean:
- Trusting themselves
- Being compassionate and kind to themselves
- Talking to themselves with love
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Forgiving themselves when they aren’t not their best
Some of the self-love practices that one can engage in are as follows:
- Practicing mindful activities
- Making room to inculcate healthy habits
- Taking care of your mind, body soul
- Eating healthy foods
- Ending toxic relationships
- Exercising regularly
- Practicing Yoga
- Celebrating small wins
- Stepping outside your comfort zone
- Taking time to calm your mind
Self-love takes years to master and it requires patience and dedication to practice it daily. It is practiced to push limiting beliefs and to live a fulfilled life.
Read More To Know About: Self-Love
Chemistry Of Falling In Love
Sometimes love can feel effortless during its early stages. We have often found people referring to love as “a drug”. In reality, this is a complex phenomenon that involves a pantomime of hormones and complex physiological interactions that make it feel effortlessly beautiful. According to researcher Helen Fisher, the formula of love can be divided into three categories. Each category is governed by a set of hormones. The categories are as follows:
Lust is an integral part of love that is governed by the desire for sexual gratification. This arises from our biological desire to reproduce. The hypothalamus of the brain plays a significant role in raising our feelings of lust. It is governed by two main sex hormones –
- Testosterone from the testes
- Estrogen from the ovaries
The testosterone hormone increases the libido in males. However, a 2005 report 18 suggests that women feel more sexually aroused when they are ovulating. During the ovulation period, the estrogen levels are at their peak. A 2002 study 19 pointed out that lust evolved to initiate the mating process with any appropriate partner.
Attraction can be defined as a phenomenon characterized by lust, desire, and likeability. A 2000 study 20 found that physical appearance is important to humans and certain features appear attractive across individuals and cultures. A 1984 study 21 found that attractive people have more dates than less attractive people. The brain pathways involved in attraction are governed by our “reward behavior”. This is partly the reason why we feel so ecstatic in the initial phases of our relationship. When we are attracted to someone, we experience a range of intense emotions. These include emotional dependency, desire, intrusive thoughts, or increased energy.
Attraction is mainly governed by the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and anterior cingulate cortex of the brain. When activated, these regions can significantly reduce defensive behavior and anxiety and increase trust towards the romantic partner. More recent meta-analyses 22 have observed consistent activations to be associated with facial attractiveness across neuroimaging studies, especially in putative reward circuitry, such as linearly increased responses in the medial orbitofrontal cortex.
Dopamine released from the hypothalamus activates when we engage in things that feel good such as spending quality time with our partner or having sex. A 2014 study 23 pointed out that attraction is governed by two hormones – dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals make a person feel energetic and euphoric and can even lead to a loss of appetite and can cause insomnia. This means that an individual can be so in love that they can’t eat or sleep.
Attachment is a lasting bond formed between two people. It is a predominant factor in long-term relationships. A 2015 study 24 pointed out that attachment is governed by two hormones- oxytocin and vasopressin. Females are more sensitive to oxytocin while males are more sensitive to vasopressin. Oxytocin is often known as the “cuddle hormone” which is released when we cuddle. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus in ample quantities during sex, breastfeeding, and childbirth, and released by the pituitary gland.
Read To Know More: Chemistry Of Love
Love Vs Stress
Love can also feel stressful sometimes. Some love hormones that act as neurotransmitters can often get combined with stress hormones. A 2004 study 25 attempted to measure the levels of the pituitary, adrenal and gonadal hormones in 24 subjects that included both sexes who had recently fallen in love. This data was compared with another 24 subjects who were single or were a part of a long-term relationship. The results showed that Cortisol levels (stress hormone) were significantly higher amongst those subjects who had recently fallen in love, as compared with those who had not. “To fall in love provokes transient hormonal changes some of which seem to be specific to each sex”, the research concluded. High levels of stress hormone can significantly impact the immune system and can ultimately lead to a higher risk of developing infections. Excess cortisol can also impair brain function, memory and increase the risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes.
However, stress isn’t always bad for people in love. A 1996 study 26 pointed out that stress hormones can help develop and promote social bonding. The stress response appears to be an important phenomenon in the formation of social contact and attachment.
Research 27 suggests that it can be addictive. Sometimes the power of it is so strong that it can even contribute to personal ruin. Being addicted to the person you love is not an illness but an extreme human capacity to love someone. It can create compulsion and can result in unhealthy behaviors towards their loved ones. Some of the signs are:
- Needing to be in love constantly
- Obsessing about romance
- Experiencing cravings, withdrawals, dependency or euphoria
- Putting the partner above everything else
- Being unable to alone
Lovers are often found to be distracted, unreliable, unfaithful, or even deadly. In 2011, over 10% 28 of murders in the United States were committed by the victim’s lovers. One in every 6 women and one out of 19 men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime. We may feel pain, loss, or grief when relationships come to an end. A 1991 study 29 pointed out that lovers may also become depressed and withdrawn from society at the end of a romantic relationship. It becomes an addiction when a resemblance is found between love and conventional addiction substances.
Some of the similarities between love and substance-based addictions are:
- Exhilaration, ecstasy, and craving
- Irregular physiological responses
- Obsessive patterns of thought such as mood swings, compulsion, emotional dependence, personality changes
- Involvement of similar neurochemicals associated with addiction
Studies 30 suggest that the subjective state of “being in love” is closely related to the biochemical reactions occurring within the brain. These reactions involve compounds such as dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, and serotonin. The brain regions responsible for the development of trust, the creation of feelings of pressure, and the signaling of reward also play a significant role. A 2012 study 31 found that these neurochemicals and neural activities are also associated with addiction. Another 2012 study found that in the initial stage of any relationship, each encounter was accompanied by a rush of euphoria – new experiences, new pleasures, each more exciting than the last. As the relationship progresses, these intense feelings become less important. It is then replaced with feelings of contentment and happiness. However, when a relationship comes to an abrupt end, it may result in desperation and grief that slowly leads to depression. This loss of love can ultimately make one obsessed with their partner.
Read To Know More: Love Addiction
How To Practice Healthy Love
Practicing healthy love means being responsible for your own happiness. It is essential to maintain a healthy relationship with oneself in order to feel fulfillment in a loving relationship. Some of the ways to ensure healthy relationships are:
- Having a sense of self-identity
- Being able to compromise
- Having effective communication
- Building trust
- Being able to maintain healthy relationships with other people in their lives
- Understanding the reality that love requires effort and time
- Being open to vulnerability
- Being able to improve and grow together
- Aligning both you and your partner’s values
Read To Know More: How To Practice Healthy Love In Relationships
How To Maintain A Healthy Relationship
Maintaining a healthy relationship can be quite challenging. Here are some tips to maintain a healthy relationship with your love:
- Maintain an emotional connection
- Don’t be afraid of respectful conflict
- Don’t expect all your needs to fulfilled by one person
- Communicate honestly and openly
- Spend quality time with each other
- Try something new together
- Be a good listener
- Maintain physical intimacy
- Be open to change
- Get couples therapy if you feel you need it
Love Is Nature’s Law
Despite the ups and downs that love brings, it is the normal way of life. We are bound by nature’s law to fall in love to connect and reproduce in order to further the line of living. In order to make it last, it is crucial to get past the ordeal stage. This means facing the reality of love and accepting the flaws of your partner. It is essential to communicate, share feelings, and compromise on some grounds to resolve conflict. Instead of trying to change your partner, redirecting your focus towards acceptance can go a long way in building a strong relationship with your partner.References:
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