Thursday, May 26, 2011

Types of Love

Here's a typical scenario: you fall head over heels for someone, the 'perfect' someone. S/he is beautiful, funny, nice, and if sex is in the cards, is a spitfire in bed. Some people rush from this wonderful situation into marriage, or quite a serious relationship. But not all that long later, the relationship just fizzles out. It gets boring, or stagnant; passionless. With a love so strong in the beginning, how do so many couples find themselves getting separated due to the magic just dying?

Psychologists have an explanation for this. Robert Sternberg (1987) proposes a 'Triangular Theory of Love' which includes three factors of love, and how they affect Love itself. The first is passion, which is the physical attraction and arousal you get from being around your lover. The second is intimacy, or the feelings of warmth, understanding, and communication in the relationship. The last is commitment, where you are fully and cognitively devoted to your partner. The different types of love, as explained in this theory, are based on the amount of these three factors.

Nonlove is when passion, intimacy, and commitment are all low. This is a superficial, empty sort of relationship between people, and is more likely just an acquaintance.

Liking occurs when intimacy is high, but passion and commitment are low. This can be a mere close friendship where the partners are not physically attracted to each other nor do they expect to be committed to each other for a long period of time.

Infatuation is a high amount of passion but a lacking in real intimacy or commitment. This is the schoolkid crush where you are madly in like with a certain someone that preoccupies your mind all the time, but you barely even know anything about.

Empty Love deals with a high amount of commitment, but no real passion or intimacy. This could be when the love between two people has gone away and they merely stick together for the sake of the kids, or the community, or financial purposes.

None of these so far are what anyone would really consider love, and for good reason. They have only one or less of the factors of love, and, as the Triangular Theory explains, love is a multifaceted thing, and gets more complicated as we pull the strings on several different factors:

Romantic Love is a more commonly heard type of love, and as Sternberg explains, is high intimacy and passion with low commitment. Romantic love is quite passionate and in some cases may be prone to commitment, but it's not the defining points. An example of Romantic Love is a summer love, where physical passion and late-night intimacies occur, but in the end everyone goes home. Romantic love is the basis for the type of love in the introduction, and it's easier to see now the problems it can cause.

Companionate Love involves a high amount of intimacy and commitment. Oftentimes this is thought of as the love an elderly couple who are still in love consume: the partners care for each other deeply and are committed to one another, but the passion has died down. Even without passion, however, Companionate Love is actually likely to last longer than the other types of love.

Fatuous Love is often called a foolish type of love, and is characterized by passion and commitment, but a lack of intimacy. Hollywood has oftentimes adopted this type for movies, where two young lovers meet, fall madly for one another, and in the heat of the moment decide to take the next step into marriage. This is different from Romantic Love because in Fatuous love, the couple hardly even knows, or necessarily likes, one another.

Consummate Love is where intimacy, passion, and commitment are all high, and a sort of 'complete' love has been formed. This is the ideal sort of love that most people seek, but be cautious. This may be easy enough to do for a period of time, but is actually quite hard to maintain.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Factors of Attraction

Attraction to another person isn’t as one-dimensional as mere appearance and a pleasant smile. Sure, it is easy to look at an attractive celebrity on television and say “oooh I love him/her!” But real attraction, the kind that spawns relationships and breaks hearts, is multi-faceted and eagerly studied in psychological circles. Following are a just a few of these factors.

“There’s plenty of fish in the sea.” Or that seems to be the common line said to down-on-their-luck victims of love. But how many of these fish are you going to meet? Billions of people in this world seem to point to a favorable chance for a date on Saturday night.
But let’s be realistic.
Take, say, 500 people that you will ever meet in your life and spare passing conversations with. Half of them are the same gender as you, so as long as you are heterosexual, cross 250 of them out of the net you are catching said fish in.
3/4 of them are too old or too young. You are not inclined to date someone your father’s age or older, nor someone that was born shortly before you graduated high school. This leaves approximately 63 potentials. Let us also be optimistic and suggest that only 1/3 of those around your age of a different gender have significant others while you are on the prowl. This leaves 42 people you know that are available. Oh, and eleven of them move away before you even think of them in a romantic light.
31 prospective mates, and that’s not weeding out the ones that are ‘too-fat, too-ugly, too-poor, too-creepy, too-forward, too-this too-that’. When subconsciously dismissing possible from this pool of fish, you are left with perhaps ten possible matches, fifteen tops.
But what if they don’t feel about you the way you feel about them? Usually, this leaves the two or four you ‘settle’ dating, or at least pursuing. Some lucky people are able to get it right the first or second time, but really, how lucky can you expect to be?
Proximity plays a big part in attraction, since you can’t expect to pair up with someone you never see (i.e, Natalie Portman will never date you.) Proximity also surfaces in committed relationships. A healthy dose of one another is ideal for blossoming relationships; overexposure or underexposure are strains that fray. Counter to popular culture, absence does not make the heart grow fonder.
The principle of proximity is also a part of attraction by familiarity. The more you see a person, the more you are familiar with them, the more you like them. This is called the mere-exposure effect. Songs, clothing, commercials, etc, are also things that are more well-liked with repeated exposure. On the other hand, familiarity is also known to breed contempt. Therefore, the more pleasant interactions you have with another, obviously the more you are apt to like them.

A super-hot super-available person just moves in next door to you. Yes! Proximity! Something can come of this, thank you relationship gods! But wait! This person has no interest in you. Does this mean that we should stop drawing little hearts around their name? Most of the time, yes. In the game of attraction, multiple factors can alter how attractive a potential mate is. In fact, what psychologists call the “mate value” can pretty much predict the kind of partner somebody is likely to get.
For example, the beautiful neighbor with style, class, and money in the bank is high on the mate value scale. S/he is likely to only be interested in a mate who has a similar mate value. If you don’t measure up to their standards, nothing good will come out of it. Reciprocity comes into play if mate values are in the same ballpark. Also, someone who is known to like you is oftentimes more attractive to you then if they did not like you.

Similarity in partners is also attractive for many reasons. For one, there is a common thread that you both can talk about and enjoy. Another reason is that it validates your own interest. It was C.S Lewis who said “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’”
Similarity applies to both interests and hobbies as well as age, class, religion, education, and even personality. In one study, similar names were even said to promote attraction!
Think of a relationship in which you have nothing in common with your significant other. It just wouldn’t work. There would be no common activity, nothing to talk about, no common background to build up from. Which begs the question: what’s the point?

Physical Attractiveness
And finally, the most obvious. We are attracted to those we find pleasing to the eye. It isn’t something to be denied. Evolutionary psychology explains that the ideal of ‘what is beautiful is good’ is adaptive. Beautiful people are assumed to be nicer, wealthier, healthier, and fertile. Infants given pictures of both an attractive face and an unattractive face will even spend more time gazing at the attractive face. But what is attractive? There does seem to be a collective opinion of attractive across cultures.
Symmetry in facial features is unconsciously one of the biggest predictors of attractiveness. In a well-known study (Rubenstein, 2002), the mathematical average of a number of faces morphed together to make a composite image is the most attractive. The mathematical average combines all the typical features and erases the atypical, leaving a simply “average,” proportional face, the combination of many.
Attractive bodies are also pleasing to look at. In a man, tallness, muscularity, and broad shoulders are considered the most desirable. In a woman, men typically fancy a ‘normal’ sized girl as opposed to an overweight or underweight girl. In another study (Furnham et al., 2005) a waist-to-hip ratio of .7 (waists 30% smaller then the hips), an ‘hourglass’ shape, is the most appealing. Men are indeed attracted to large breasts in women, but not typically if they are disproportionate to the size of the hips. A stocky woman with large breasts would therefore be less attractive then a curvy woman who is more proportionate. (A man’s ideal waist-to-hip ratio is .9)
The principle of physical attractiveness ties in to reciprocity in an obvious way. Even though everyone wants a physically attractive partner, only those who are in fact physically attractive are likely to get them.

Related Links:
Mate Value
Rules of Attraction
Physically Attractive♥