Love has many different meanings in English, from something that gives a little pleasure ("I loved that meal") to something one would die for (patriotism, pairbonding). It can describe an intense feeling of affection, an emotion or an emotional state. In ordinary use, it usually refers to interpersonal love. Probably due to its psychological relevance, love is one of the most common themes in art.
Just as there are many types of lovers, there are many kinds of love. Love is inherent in all human cultures. It is precisely these cultural differences that make any universal definition of love difficult to establish. See the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
Expressions of love may include the love for a "soul" or mind, the love of laws and organizations, love for a body, love for nature, love of food, love of money, love for learning, love of power, love of fame, love for the respect of others, etcetera. Different people place varying degrees of importance on the kinds of love they receive. Love is essentially an abstract concept, easier to experience than to explain.
Interpersonal love refers to the love between human beings. It is a more potent sentiment than a simple liking for another. Unrequited love refers to those feelings of love which are not reciprocated. Interpersonal love is most closely associated with interpersonal relationships. Such love might exist between family members, friends, and couples. There are also a number of psychological disorders related to love, such as erotomania.
Some elements that are often present in interpersonal love:
* Affection: appreciation of another
* Attachment: satisfying basic emotional needs
* Altruism: selfless or unselfish concern for another
* Reciprocation: if love is mutual
* Commitment: a desire to maintain love
* Emotional intimacy: sharing emotions and feelings
* Friendship: the spirit between friends
* Kinship: family bonds
* Passion: whole-hearted desire
* Physical intimacy: sharing of intimate personal space
* Self-interest: desiring rewards
* Service: desire to help
Sexual energy can be the most important element in determining the shape of a relationship. While sexual attraction often establishes a new bond, sexual intention is considered undesirable or inappropriate in certain love bonds. In many religions and systems of ethics it is considered wrong to act on sexual desire for immediate family, for children, or outside of a committed relationship. However, there are many ways to express passionate love without sex. Affection, emotional intimacy and shared interests are common in friendships and kinships of all human beings.
A person can be said to love a country, principle, or goal if they value it greatly and are deeply committed to it. Similarly, compassionate outreach and volunteer workers 'love' of their cause may be borne not of interpersonal love, but impersonal love coupled with altruism and strong political convictions. People can also 'love' material objects, animals, or activities if they invest themselves in bonding their identity with that item. In these cases, if sexual passion is actually felt, it is typically considered abnormal or unhealthy, and called paraphilia.
Whether religious love can be expressed in similar terms to interpersonal love is a matter for philosophical debate. Religious 'love' might be considered a euphemistic term, more closely describing feelings of deference or acquiescence. Most religions use the term love to express the devotion the follower has to their deity, who may be a living guru or religious teacher. This love can be expressed by prayer, service, good deeds, and personal sacrifice. Reciprocally, the followers may believe that the deity loves the followers and all of creation. Some traditions encourage the development of passionate love in the believer for the deity. Refer to Religious Views below.
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 Ã¢â‚¬â€ certainly love is influenced by hormones (such as oxytocin) 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 Ã¢â‚¬â€ sexual attraction and attachment. Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the same principles that lead an infant to become attached to its 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.
Susan Hendrick and Clyde Hendrick developed a Loves Attitude Scale based on John Alan Lee's theory called Love styles. Lee identified six basic theories that people use in their interpersonal relationships:
* Eros Ã¢â‚¬â€ a passionate physical love based on physical appearance
* Ludus Ã¢â‚¬â€ love is played as a game; love is playful
* Storge Ã¢â‚¬â€ an affectionate love that slowly develops, based on similarity
* Pragma Ã¢â‚¬â€ pragmatic love
* Mania Ã¢â‚¬â€ highly emotional love; unstable; the stereotype of romantic love
* Agape Ã¢â‚¬â€ selfless altruistic love; spiritual
Hendrick and Hendrick found men tend to be more ludic and manic, 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 Ã¢â‚¬â€ 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 the attraction to the attachment phase usually happens in about 30 months. After that time, the passion fades, changing love from consummate to companionate, or from romantic love to liking.
Love vs. Insanity
Studies have shown that mental scans of those in love show a striking resemblance to those with a mental illness. Love creates activity in the same area of the brain that hunger, thirst, and drug cravings create activity in. New love, therefore, could possibly be more physical than emotional (though drawing a clear line between physical and emotional is difficult when discussing the brain).
Over time, this reaction to love mellows, & different areas of the brain are activated, primarily ones involving long-term commitments.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist, suggests that this reaction to love is so similar to that of drugs because without love, humanity would die out.