What is love?

. Uhat is love?

Let’s learn to know our expectations to understand our chances of success

We can say that there are several answers to the question “What is love?” as well as we can say that none exist.

What is Love?

Surely no answer can be so wide and articulate as to interpret the opinion of all. Each of us has a personal way of loving. Therefore each of us gives a different meaning to the words “I love you”. Despite this, we all think we know what these words really mean and we are convinced that the meaning we give them is the only one. We are certain that, at the end of the day, everyone must love as we love.

But that’s not true.

A subjective experience

This conviction inevitably leads us to make another mistake We tend to love our partner in the way we would like to be loved, convinced that our “recipe” is universally valid. But the way we would like to be loved is not necessarily the way our partner would like to be loved.

Many misunderstandings often arise from this, as from the wrong conviction that those who love us must always be able to read our thoughts, our desires, even without us having to speak to them openly.

True love is a condition that is lived above all inwardly, without feeling the need to be flaunted. Who loves knows to love and who is loved knows to be loved, without need of further confirmation.

Those who truly love have as their priority the happiness of the other. Love must give a sense of happiness (those who love are happy) but also of balance. Tormented love is not true love, just as jealousy is not synonymous with love. Who loves does not seek the possession of the other but has confidence and lets that the other can also be free to realize himself.

 How long does it take to fall in love?sculpture

According to some scholars, our brain makes us fall in love not for a desire for romance, but to follow a plan of nature that wants the reproduction of our species. Surely it is not only the heart but also our brain that plays a fundamental role in the choice of the partner.

Some psychologists have shown that we need a time ranging from 90 seconds to 4 minutes to determine if we like a person and that this has little to do with what this person can tell us, but it depends on:

  • 55% on body language (gestures, attitude, looks)
  • 38% on speech (tone and speed of voice)
  • only for 7% on the content it expresses

The psychologist Arthur Arun performed experiments on some subjects who were invited to undergo these three steps:

  • find a perfect stranger
  • talk to him/her for half an hour, telling her details of her private life
  • look each other in the eye, without talking, for 4 minutes

At the end of these 34 minutes many of the couples involved declared that they felt strongly attracted to each other and two of them arrived at the wedding.

Types of love and possible combinations

As we said, everyone lives love in their own way and everyone expects to have something specific from the other in return. Several studies have been done in this regard and different types of love have been classified. John Alan Lee, Canadian sociologist, has catalogued several types of love, as we can see below:

  • eros, the lovers think about each other all the time, there is a strong attraction, they seek constant reassurances and confirmations. Generally it does not have a very long duration, unless it changes appearance,
  • storge, it seeks complicity, confidence, develops slowly and without great excitement, gives life to a solid and peaceful relationship,
  • agape, whoever loves willingly submits to the other, gives without expecting anything in return,
  • pragma, it is the result of a “selection” aimed at identifying the right person, who has education and common values. The goal is to build a long-term project,
  • ludos, typical of charming people who love the challenge, get involved, try the taste of conquest. It mostly avoids long-lasting and emotionally overly engaging ties,
  • mania, one wants to control the other and unstable behaviors (such as depressive crises, hysteria, aggression) occur when the relationship threatens to enter into crisis.

Obviously, in addition to analyzing what kind of love you are looking for, that is, you are willing to give, it is useful to understand what kind of love you want to receive. The two Californian sociologists have studied all the possible combinations and have come to draw up a sort of table that, taking into account the individual characteristics of each of the two partners, can give a reliable assessment of the chances of success of a couple.

Possible combinations and possibilities of success

a couple
A loving young couple out on date at a restaurant

According to the research we have just seen, for a couple to have a good chance of being “winning”, it is necessary that these characteristics are combined in the right way.

It would result, for example, that the combination of two persons who fall both in the category storge or in the category pragma, is successful, as well as a combination of these two categories.

More problematic will be a relationship between eros and storge, because expectations will inevitably be too different to reconcile.

Eros type may have difficulties even with a partner who falls into the same category because he will need to continually find new ways to demonstrate his love.

Great problems will also present a couple formed by a mania and a storge, the first subject to the storm of passion, the second who loves to cuddle in the tranquility of affection.

A negative note also deserve the type ludos and the type mania. Both are hard to love and will therefore be a source of difficulty in any combination they put in place.

The triangular theory

The American psychologist Robert Sternberg proposes an interesting theory he calls “triangular theory of love”. This is based on the assumption that the different types of love are determined by the different combination of three basic elements:

  • intimacy
  • passion
  • commitment

These are, in fact, the three vertices of an imaginary triangle. The different combination of these elements gives rise to different types of love. According to Sternberg, the success and duration of a relationship increases the more elements it includes.

Forms of Love

The result is these seven possible forms of love that are often the stages of the same relationship that naturally evolves. Let’s see in detail:

  • liking, includes only one element, intimacy. It is the typical characteristic of a relationship of true friendship in which one person feels tied to the other. But it is without passion and without a long-term commitment.
  • infatuation, is based solely on passion and very often characterizes what we call “love at first sight”. It is generally short-lived.
  • empty is based on a mutual commitment but lacks intimacy and passion. It’s a common type of relationship, for example, where arranged marriages are common.
  • romantic, is a combination of commitment and passion, and is based on an emotional and psychic bond and attraction.
  • companionate, is a widespread form especially in long-term marriages, when the passion is extinguished but the affection and the desire to maintain the commitment made with the partner remain strong. It can also characterize relationships between family or friends of the heart. It is stronger than simple friendship because it also includes a commitment to others.
  • fatuous  is based on passion and commitment but lacks intimacy. It is characterized by passionate courtship and can lead to marriage. In this case it is the passion to motivate the will to make a commitment with each other.
  • perfect, is the sum of all three elements, represents the ideal relationship, the one that everyone dreams of but is difficult to achieve. It may not be eternal: for example, if the passion fails, it will turn into companionship.

The stages of love

Helen Fisher, in her book “Anatomy of Love”, describes three stages through which an interest can lead to love:

  • desire
  • attraction
  • attachment

Generally an affective bond begins with a strong desire . But it is deficient as far as the other two elements are concerned. The first thing that strikes us is the physical aspect, . But we are not yet totally interested in that specific person; to attract us are generic characteristics: beauty, charm, etc.

From the simple desire we can move on to the next stage. The attraction makes us focus on that certain individual and not on others, we begin to experience a desire for fidelity.

If the attraction will have a certain duration (some studies have placed it around 30 months) we will have learned to better know our partner and there will be an evolution that will replace the passion a feeling of attachment: love.


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