Here we look at the development of love. What does it mean to be in a loving relationship? What are the steps that occur in every individual in entering one?
There is a lot of scoffing at psychology, especially when it was first trying to establish itself as a science. One belief was that the idea of love could not be studied because it was too complex, too personal and too integral to being human. That’s like saying chemists can’t study carbon because it’s too integral to life, or physicists can’t study bosons or something because it’s so important to the universe.A loving relationship is intimacy, passion and commitment between two people.
I’ve based this definition on the triangular theory of love, which states every relationship is made up of one or more parts intimacy, passion and commitment. A close friendship has intimacy, where the two people share a bond. Love at first sight is based on passion. There is the loveless relationship where the feeling of excitement has passed into intimacy and commitment, but there is no passion. There are various other combinations and descriptions of these three parts intermingling.
Let’s look at how this typically develops over time, and then we can look and see if there are cultural influences to this. It may be hard to believe, but attraction and love are highly influenced by what we perceive around us in terms of media and other couples.
Developing Over Time
When a relationship or love interest is new, it is easy to fall into the trap that what you are feeling is unique and special. That somehow, your love is special. Well, I don’t mean to strip away the illusion, but I also kind of do want to strip away the illusion. I’m mean like that.The first step is sexual attraction.
I’m sorry, it had to be said. If you aren’t physically attracted to someone, then you aren’t going to pay them any mind. When we say sexual attraction, we are talking about passion from the triangular theory, a physical and gut reaction to the person that can be overwhelming or subtle. Here is where some people think they are in love, and it is the origin of the ‘love at first sight’ cliché.
The second step is a strong emotional attraction. Moving out of the gut wrenching, heavy breathing, tongue rolling-type of attraction, we move into the higher mindset. Here, the attraction is thinking about you and that person together, interacting with them and trying to increase intimacy.
You get to know them and either increase your attraction to them or decrease it.This one is a little bit tricky, so here’s a quick story. Amelia is attracted to Bob, and Bob is attracted to Clarissa. Amelia begins talking with Bob and finds out they have nothing in common. It turns out Amelia is attracted to the idea of Bob, not who he actually is. Bob talks to Clarissa and finds out he really likes her for who she is.The last step is an increase in attachment.
Looking at our triangular theory, this is commitment. Here, the attraction stage has led to a mutual interdependence and attachment to one another. This attachment is then maintained and increased over time. The trick, though, with keeping it strong is to make sure that the first and second steps are returned to with the same person.
As we talked about earlier, love has passion and intimacy, and without these, you just have a good friendship.
Love Across Cultures
I think we all like the idea of love being this universal language. That two people in love can cross cultures, and that’s all there is to it. But, really, we can start poking holes into that even within culture. People from the same culture, same everything, still express their love differently.
Some people buy things for other people, some people show it by touching and some people don’t show it at all.Since we could spend forever looking at every culture, let’s cleave the world in two. There is the individualistic culture found primarily in the West, which focuses on personal gain and individual accomplishment. And there is the collectivistic culture found primarily in the East and some Latin American countries. It focuses on family unity and group cohesion.A study by Gao in 2001, showed that individualistic cultures only showed slightly higher levels of intimacy and passion but hardly enough to call home about.
This would likely be due to the highly romanticized nature of the individualistic culture’s true love idea, and that closeness and passion are only felt with one you love.Furthermore, commitment was found to be fairly equal between individual and collective cultures. This means that both show an equal level of commitment and loyalty to their partner. A similar study by Fitzpatrick et al. in 2001, also shows similar levels of the triangular love theory across culture. It would seem that while expression of love may be different across and within culture, the actual root of intimacy, passion and commitment are all the same.
A loving relationship is intimacy, passion and commitment between two people. This is based on the triangular theory of love, which states every relationship is made up of one or more parts intimacy, passion and commitment. The main stages of love include sexual attraction, emotional attraction and attachment.
It was also found that across cultures, there is not much difference when using the triangular theory of love.
After completing this lesson, you should be able to:
- Understand what makes up a loving relationship
- Describe the triangular theory of love
- Recognize that love across cultures does not show any major differences