Your heart soars whenever you are together. You are in love! But the term has many different meanings as each of these common example statements illustrate: I love my wife. I love my son. I love my parents. I love riding my bike. I love sociology class. I love Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon. I love the movie Avatar.
Forms of Love
Many words in our vocabulary describe forms of love. Here is a partial list: affection, attachment, tenderness, devotion, amity, regard, adoration, adulating, ardor, fondness, liking, attraction, caring, tenderness, compassion, sentimentality, longing, and passion. Lust has synonyms: arousal, desire, passion, and infatuation. Companionate love describes the love of children for parents, siblings for each other, parents for their children, and the love of close friends. Erotic passion is the key distinction between romantic love and the various forms of companionate love.
- A caring relationship between two people,
- Desiring or participating in affection and physical intimacy, usually but not necessarily reciprocated.
- A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person.
- Limbic Resonance.
Emotion or Sentiment
The word “love” can refer both to an acute passionate emotion, lasting for minutes, hours, or days as well as to a lasting sentiment, enduring for years through many ups and downs. The phrase “in love” often refers to the sentiment. “Passion” describes the emotion.
Emotions allow us to sense the inner states and motives of the people around us. We can detect what others are feeling and rapidly adjust our own thinking, feeling, physiology, and actions to precisely match the situation. We have a capacity for limbic resonance—a complex and rapid exchange of information, largely non-verbal, between two people about our own state and our adaptations to the other’s state. This limbic resonance is what makes gazing into the face of another person so fascinating. The eyes truly are the windows to another’s soul. Limbic resonance allows for a deep, personal connection, below the level of consciousness. It is emotional harmony. It draws emotions into congruence. It is the mechanism that provides the “bonding” between mother and infant and even between an owner and his dog. Limbic resonance is the mechanism of love.
Pushing a person on a swing is a common example of resonance. The pushing and swinging must remain precisely synchronized to be effective, yet it seems unclear if the swing paces the push, or the push paces the swing. So it is with limbic resonance, are your emotions reflected in your lover, or are your lover’s emotions reflected in you? The resonance is a property of the relationship between the two of you.
The term “unrequited love” refers to a person who is in love with someone who does not love them back. It is a one-way, or asymmetrical, love relationship and often leads to hurt and pain. As described below in the triangular theory of love, love has several components. Each of these components can be asymmetrical in any given relationship. For example you may feel sexual passion for the boss, but the boss may feel only commitment toward you. The ideal, enduring, romantic love is a strong and balanced consummate love, where commitment, intimacy, and passion are all strongly felt by both people in the relationship.
Love, Sex, and Procreation
Sex is essential for procreation. The linkage between love and sex is less clear, and somewhat culturally determined.
The Triangular Theory
Robert J. Sternberg’s triangular theory of love considers three independent components of a complete, enduring, and romantic love he calls “consummate love”. The three components are intimacy, passion, and commitment, with these definitions:
Intimacy is defined as feelings of being close to and bonded with a partner. It requires exposing vulnerabilities. Agreement with the statements: “I feel close to my significant other” and “I receive considerable emotional support from my significant other” measure intimacy.
Passion refers to the arousal you experience toward your partner, including sexual attraction. An example is agreement with the statements: “I find my significant other to be personally attractive” and “I fantasize about my significant other”.
Commitment consists of making two decisions; one, that you love your partner, and two, that you desire to maintain that love and stay with your partner. It is a long-lasing and stable concern for the other. A person committed to a relationship tends to agree with the statement: “I will always feel a strong responsibility for my significant other.”
But what if one or more of the three essential elements of consummate love are weak or absent from a relationship? The theory goes on to define and name the six other possibilities as show here: