What is this thing called love?

Pyschology Of Love – Part 1

Most people, for most of the time in their adult life, are either: looking for love, falling in love, in a loving relationship, falling out of love or broken-hearted. Since love is a powerful emotion that can take over our lives it is perhaps not surprising that it has been the subject of much speculation and theorising across the globe and throughout the ages. In theory, given all this experience and debate, we should all be experts on love. But if this were the case then agony aunts, relationship therapists and divorce lawyers would be out of a job. So, what do we mean by the term love and how does this powerful emotion shape the way we feel and think about one another?

We can be fairly confident that the emotion we call love has always been a characteristic of human experiences. Some of the earliest recorded poetry and novels on love come from Babylon in 2000 BC, the Egyptians in 1300 BC and the Chinese were writing love songs in 1000 BC. But our fascination with defining love appears to have started with the scholars of Ancient Greece and Rome when different types of love were conceptualised.

Over the ensuing years, poets, writers, song-smiths, movie-makers, greeting card manufacturers and florists have promoted the romantic ideal of love. Even before we are old enough to experience an intimate loving relationship, we are programmed with romantic notions: Sleeping beauty was awakened by her Prince; Lady Guinevere was wooed by Sir Lancelot; and Romeo and Juliet died for love. Such programming continues into adult life, leading us into beliefs of ‘love at first sight’, ‘love can overcome all’, ‘there is only one true love’ and ‘love will last forever’. However, this is a description of love as a romantic ideal that has been all wrapped up in pretty ribbons and sold to us throughout our lives.

While life would be very drab without these romantic fantasies, many people make devastating decisions while under the influence of such illusions. They cloud our vision when selecting a partner (Eva Braun chose Hitler!), prevent us from understanding the true nature of a loving relationship and encourage us to cling on to partners that are not good for us. Both logic and reason tell us that the fairy tales, fantasies and movies aren’t real – but logic and reason have little to do with romantic love. After all, romantic souls keep on kissing frogs, even if they repeatedly catch herpes.

Romantic notions of love still abound but there is now a great deal of scientific research that has covered everything from falling in love to broken hearts. Although it has been argued that scientific examination of love could ruin its very essence or mystery it hasn’t stopped psychologists from trying to answer the question ‘What is love?’ The answers they have come up with tend to divide love into two broad categories, passionate love and companionate love, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Throughout this series of blogs I explore some of the psychological research that offers explanations on how we fall in love, why we are attracted to some people and not others, and how we stay in love.

In Blog 2: The History of Love

Dr. Lori Boul gained her PhD at the University of Sheffield in the UK and the research for her thesis, into ‘male menopause’, attracted worldwide media attention. Dr Lori is probably one of the most outspoken speakers on the topic of human sexuality and in writing her book DIY Sex and Relationship Therapy has dared to challenge the need for face-to-face therapy. According to Dr Lori, “Good therapists can be hard to find and for many people a good spoonful of common sense is all that is needed”.

Whether speaking to the general public or professionals, Dr Lori’s expertise, sensitivity and humour inspire new ways of thinking about relationships, sex and psychology.  She has presented talks at national and international conferences, provides training courses and executive mentoring, and is featured as a regular guest speaker with Cunard.

www.drloriboul.com 

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