Romance… Science Approves

Weddings… When hopeful couples walk down the aisle, clasp hands and exchange vows to love and cherish till death do they part.

But in today’s world—full of distractions and choices—when whole websites are devoted to finding clandestine sexual partners, how realistic are those dreams of lifelong commitment?

As it turns out, science may be coming to the rescue of romance. A recent paper, co-authored by University of Minnesota psychology professor Jeffry Simpson, along with Garth Fletcher of Victoria University, Lorne Campbell of the University of Western Ontario, and Nickola Overall of the University of Auckland, gets at the very nature of romantic love and contends that romance is not only an ancient and widely cross-cultural phenomenon, but that it—as well as monogamy—played an important part to our evolution as a species.

The paper defines romantic love as, “a commitment device, composed of passion, intimacy, and caregiving,” and goes on to explain that romantic love was a key factor that, in domino-like fashion, resulted in humans’ complex brains, survival strategies, and social behaviors. The chain effect goes something like this: the need for two parents to raise children was facilitated by romantic love, leading our ancestors to have fairly monogamous relationships that resulted in greater paternal investment and higher infancy survival rates. That, in turn, cemented familial bonds and created close, complex, kin-based communities that helped humans survive—and thrive. In short, you could say that if it were not for romance, we might not be “human” at all.Published in February in Perspectives on Psychological Science, the paper, Pair-Bonding, Romantic Love, and Evolution: The Curious Case of Homo sapiens, synthesizes previously published studies to examine romantic love from a multi-disciplinary perspective: from the chemical and biological, to the evolutionary, cultural, and social.

Cynics may balk at such a seemingly sentimental and overarching statement, and indeed, there are crucial questions that are raised—what about polygyny, for example? The paper addresses many of these questions and finds that regardless of the situation, “love and pair-bonding remain powerful forces that must be controlled and managed.” For example, evidence suggests that polygamous families have more conflict and violence than monogamous families, perhaps because their very nature challenges the notion of monogamous, romantic love.

But what about divorce? Infidelity? Here’s where the picture gets a little murkier for those impending brides and grooms.

Stone Age Monogamy?

While the paper makes a strong case for the importance of romantic love, it also explains why today’s long-term commitments may be more difficult to maintain. First, it is important to emphasize that the paper addresses romantic love and pair-bonding, not marriage.

Marriage as a social construct is a very recent phenomenon compared to thousands of years of evolution. Our ancestors had much shorter lifespans and in lived in small familial groups of 50 – 150 people that met other groups only occasionally. “We have a Stone Age brain that’s dealing with a modern environment to which we are not fully adapted,” says Simpson.

“You turn on the television, you open up a magazine, and you see all kinds of attractive people. How many would you have seen if you lived 40,000 years ago? Maybe 10 in your life. So you go from 10 options to theoretically—in terms of the images—to thousands. What does that do to you? What does it do to your relationships?”

Simpson says that there is a good amount of evidence that we as a species evolved to be serially monogamous. “What I mean by that,” he clarifies, “is most of our ancestors probably were fairly monogamous with a single partner until they moved onto the next relationship.”

And just how often were people changing partners? The paper states that passionate romantic love usually lasts for a short period of time when a child could be weaned and become less dependent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the peak periods for divorce in most cultures and ethnic groups today is four years.

So are those hopeful couples doomed? Is it delusional to walk down that aisle? Are lifelong commitments ill-advised?

Definitely not says Simpson. “You don’t want to suggest that just because something evolved in a certain way it’s good in relation to our current values and practices. We evolved to fear outgroups, and that’s causing all kinds of problems in the world right now.”

Indeed, the paper suggests that, “across cultures, the probability of divorce sharply declines across time as a function of increasing investment in relationships and the weeding out of unsatisfactory marriages. This pattern is precisely what would be expected if pair-bonding in humans was ‘designed’ to produce successful long-term relationships.”

So what would Simpson say to those folks about to take the plunge?

“Love changes as relationships grow and develop. It transforms into different kinds of love as one moves across different life stages. You have to be committed to maintaining that love, even though it doesn’t feel like it did in the early passion stage. The people who are more likely to stay together are the ones who can learn to appreciate the different meanings of love through new, changing life experiences. You oftentimes think of love as an automatic process, but it requires a lot of work, forethought, and commitment to last.”

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

One Man Analyzed The World’s Languages to Discover At Least 14 Different Kinds of Love

There are at least 14 different kinds of love that one man was able to uncover simply by analyzing the world’s languages.

Dr. Tim Lomas at the University of East London has been a lecturer in positive psychology for the past five years. In a report from The Conversation this month, Lomas explained that there is nothing more expansive than the feeling of love. It ranges from the love you have for your favorite pair of shoes to the love you have of your child or partner.

In the 1970s, psychologist John Lee put together his own identification of love. So, Lomas noted that he isn’t the first to look into the way the world loves. However, there’s more than just the six “styles” of love Lee developed, and Lomas has them.

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Check out the full article reprinted with permission from The Conversation below:

Happy couple in love. Stunning sensual portrait of young stylish fashion couple indoors. Young man playing guitar for his beloved girl.

No emotion, surely, is as cherished and sought after as love. Yet on occasions such as Valentine’s day, we can often be misled into thinking that it consists solely in the swooning, star-crossed romance of falling deeply “in love.” But on reflection, love is far more complex. Indeed, arguably no word covers a wider range of feelings and experiences than love.

So how can we ever define what love really is? In my new study, published in the Journal for the Theory of Social Analysis, I’ve made a start by searching the world’s languages for words relating to love that don’t exist in English.

Most of us use the word love fairly liberally. I use it for the deep ardour, care and respect I have for my wife. But I will also call upon it to describe the unshakeable bonds of kinship and history I share with my family, and the connections and allegiances I have with close friends. I’ll even use it in relation to our cheeky dog Daisy, the music of Tom Waits, Sunday morning lie ins and many other things.

Clearly, whatever love is, it spans a great deal of emotional and experiential territory. Needless to say, I’m not the first to notice this. For instance, in the 1970s, the psychologist John Lee identified six different “styles” of love. He did so by studying other languages, in particular the classical lexicons of Greek and Latin, which boast a wealth of precise words describing specific kinds of love.

Lee identified three primary forms of love. “Eros” denotes passion and desire, “ludus” refers to flirtatious, playful affection, and “storgē” describes familial or companionate bonds of care. He then paired these primary forms to produce three secondary forms: ludus plus storgē creates “pragma,” a rational, sensible long-term accommodation. However, eros combined with ludus generates “mania,” signifying possessive, dependent, or troubled intimacies, while eros and storgē form the charitable, selfless compassion of “agápē.”

This analysis seems like a good start, but an incomplete one. After all, it mostly just concerns romantic partnerships, and doesn’t account for many of the feelings that fall within the ambit of love.

Untranslatable words

I decided to expand on this work as part of a broader lexicographic project to collect so-called “untranslatable” words that pertain to well-being, a work-in-progress which currently features nearly 1,000 words. Such words can reveal phenomena which have been overlooked or under-appreciated in one’s own culture, as I explore in two forthcoming books (a general interest exploration of key words, and an academic analysis of the lexicography). In the case of love, then, untranslatable words help us understand the bountiful variety of emotions and bonds that are in English subsumed within the one word “love.”

My enquiry yielded hundreds of words from around 50 languages (which of course leaves many languages still to be explored). I analysed these thematically, grouping the words into 14 distinct “flavours” of love. Some languages were particularly prolific in their lexical dexterity, especially Greek, which contributed the most words by far.

As such, in a spirit of poetic consistency, I gave each flavour a relevant Greek label. I call these “flavours” to avoid implying that relationships can be exclusively pigeonholed as constituting just one form. A romantic partnership, say, might blend several flavours together, generating a unique “taste” which might subtly change over time.

14 flavours

Happy lovers are enjoying breakfast in cafe outside. Man is feeding woman with croissant and smiling. He is covered by warm blanket

So, what are these flavours? The first three do not concern people at all. They refer to people’s fondness and passion for certain activities (meraki), places (chōros) and objects (eros). Note that this usage of eros reflects its deployment in classical Greece, where it was often used in the context of aesthetic appreciation rather than romance. Indeed, like love itself, all these words can be used in varied and changing ways.

Each of these flavours is a “compound” of related terms from various languages. For instance, the connection to place denoted by chōros is reflected in concepts such as “turangawaewae,” “cynefin” and “querencia” – from Māori, Welsh and Spanish respectively – which all pertain in some way to the sentiment of having a “place to stand” on this Earth, somewhere secure that we can call home.

When it comes to love between people, the first three are the non-romantic forms of care, affection and loyalty we extend towards family (storgē), friends (philia), and ourselves (philautia). Then, embracing romance, Lee’s notions of pragma, mania, and ludus are joined by the passionate desire of “epithymia,” and the star-crossed destiny of “anánkē.”

Again, these labels all bring together related terms from diverse languages. For instance, the spirit of anánkē is found in terms like the Japanese “koi no yokan,” which roughly means “premonition of love,” capturing the feeling on first meeting someone that falling in love will be inevitable. And likewise the Chinese term “yuán fèn” can be interpreted as a binding force of irresistible destiny.

Finally, there are three forms of selfless, “transcendent” love, in which one’s own needs and concerns are relatively diminished. These are the compassion of agápē, ephemeral sparks of “participatory consciousness,” such as when we are emotionally swept up within a group dynamic (koinonia), and the kind of reverential devotion that religious believers might hold towards a deity (sebomai).

Clearly, there any many ways we can love and be loved. You and your life partner might well experience feelings of epithymia, pragma, or anánkē, but may also – or alternatively, instead – be blessed with moments of storgē, agápē and koinonia. Likewise, a deep friendship could similarly be suffused with some mixture of flavours such as pragma, storgē, agápē and anánkē, in which we feel a profound and fated bond of lifelong connection.

Moreover, this list is merely preliminary, with other flavours potentially yet to be acknowledged. So hopefully we can be reassured that even if we are not romantically head-over-heels “in love” – in that archetypal Hollywood fashion – our lives may still be graced by love in some precious and uplifting way.


Read more about love such as: Love and Obsession: How to Tell Them Apart and Leave One Behind or Who Knew this LOVE Potion Actually Had Science to Back it Up.