“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only with what you are expecting to give — which is everything.”
Poets and authors have tried to define love for centuries, whereas scientists have only recently started. Many of us know intuitively that love is a major purpose for living; that connection is inherent in all that we do, and without love, we cannot survive as a species.
According to a physicist Jim Al-Khalili, Biologically, love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry. In true love, or attachment and bonding, the brain can release a whole set of chemicals: pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. However, from an evolutionary perspective, love can be viewed as a survival tool – a mechanism we have evolved to promote long-term relationships, mutual defence and parental support of children and to promote feelings of safety and security.
I learned the real meaning of love. Love is absolute loyalty. People fade, looks fade, but loyalty never fades. You can depend so much on certain people, you can set your watch by them. And that’s love, even if it doesn’t seem very exciting. ~Sylvester Stallone
One of the first theories of love was developed by Sigmund Freud. As Freud so frequently attributed human nature to subconscious and unconscious desires, his theory of love centered around the need for an "ego ideal." His definition of an ego ideal is this: the image of the person that one wants to become, which is patterned after those whom one holds with great respect.
Another theory was introduced by Maslow. Maslow's hierarchy of needs places self-actualization at the peak. He maintains that those who have reached self-actualization are capable of love.
Yet another theory, one about Being love, was developed by Reik. Being love was said to be attainable for those who could love for the sake of loving people, not just fixing one's own problem.
When theories about love moved from being clinically based to being socially and personality based, they became focused on types of love, as opposed to becoming able to love.
One theory that really catches my eye and explains alot about what love is really about is Sternberg's triangular theory of love.
The triangular theory of love explains the topic of love in an interpersonal relationship. Psychologist Robert Sternberg’s theory describes types of love based on three different scales: intimacy, passion, and commitment. It is important to recognize that a relationship based on a single element is less likely to survive than one based on two or more.
The 3 components, then, can produce 8 types of love:
1. “Friendship” ~ Intimacy Only (No Passion or Commitment) – Can be summed up as having intimacy with one another, feeling close, & trusting one another.
2. “Infatuation” ~ Passion Only (No Intimacy or Commitment) – This tends to be a superficial relationship that is one-sided, where the couple are temporarily ga-ga over one another. In Hollyword, this is known as a “whirlwind romance.”
3. “Empty Love” ~ Commitment Only (No Passion or Intimacy) – This is most often an older relationship where the passion and intimacy have died…like “falling out of love.”
4. “Romantic Love” ~ Intimacy & Passion (No Commitment) – This can be a blossoming relationship where the couple feel like best friends (“friends with benefits”). As experiences grow with one another, this type of love may develop Commitment.
5. “Companionate Love” ~ Intimacy & Commitment (No Passion) – Again, this usually occurs in older relationships where the couple remain best friends, but no longer feel passion for one another. This type of love can still be very satisfying and long-lasting.
6. “Fantasy Love” ~ Passion & Commitment (No Intimacy) – This is a feeling of love because the couple wants to be in love…but they really have little in common.
7. “Non-Love” ~ All Sides Absent (No Passion, Intimacy or Commitment) – Basically, this type of relationship is of just an acquaintance.
8. “Complete or Consummate Love” ~ (All Sides Present) – The best of all types, the “ideal relationship,” that all couples would like to achieve.
According to Sternberg, couples with Complete or Consummate Love continue to share a deep desire on all levels to be with one another, even after many years. However, Sternberg also states that maintaining Consummate Love is a lot harder than achieving it in the first place. He stresses that it is essential for a couple to put all the components of love into action…after all, actions speak louder than words. “Without expression” (of the components), Sternberg warns, “even the greatest of loves can die.”
In closing, it seems that every definition of love, every explanation just seems to reinfornce the notion that with every additional segment of knowledge gained we arrive full circle – right back to the starting point.