Love… the deepest emotion in life, laying warm foundations for the richest form of human relationships. That beautiful mental and physical connection, that much sought after utter unity. That genuine joy in life putting a smile on your face…
Until recently authors, poets and philosophers wrote about love, depicting romantic love as a whirlwind of emotions, passion, fear and jealousy. An exact definition of love is very hard to accomplish.
The simplest definition could be Robert Heinlein’s in the cult classic Stranger in a strange land: love is the condition in which the other’s happiness is essential to your own.
Scientific research on the subject has grown tremendously over the last decades. It revealed the importance of love in child development and adult health. The first relationship with the mother is a blueprint for the following ones. Severely psychologically or emotionally damaged people are unable to experience healthy, independent love.
Psychologists and scientists study the subject of love pragmatically, defining it as an intense affection or preference for someone, so strong that it colors one’s perception and conduct.
According to psychologist Elaine Hatfield love can be divided into two basic types: compassionate and passionate love.
The compassionate type is characterized by attachment, affection and trust. Usually developed out of feelings of mutual respect and understanding, this type assures an enduring relationship whereas the intense emotions, anxiety and sexual attraction of passionate love are transitory, usually lasting between six and thirty months.
A good, lively relationship is based on trust and intimacy.
Genuine loving intimacy depends on the personal ideas on love and the notion that love develops. Intimacy is characterized by the elements of care, share, trust, commitment, honesty, empathy and tenderness.
Reciprocal care or the intensity of positive feelings towards each other is only to be found when two people openly share positive and negative feelings, thoughts, desires and needs with each other and interact. This frankness in sharing is essential for intimacy’s growth in a warm enduring relationship. Trust, honesty and empathy are indispensable ingredients in this process of self revelation.
Caring, sharing and trust leads to commitment. Verbal and physical expressions of tenderness are the most neglected aspects of intimacy.
Masters & Johnson (on sex and human loving 1982) explained that respect enables us to appreciate the other’s identity, essential for the long duration of a relationship. Sexuality is another important factor to keep a relationship lively and fascinating.
In The art of loving(1956) Erich Fromm wrote that love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.
Love is an art, just as living is. It requires effort and knowledge.
Fromm believed that self-realization is a necessary condition to attain meaningful love. He defined mature love as a union of two individuals keeping their integrity and individuality. Become one and stay two.
Why do we love?
Because love makes sense.
Because it brings out the best in us.