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In this article, I am going to discuss what love really is, scientifically, through psychological studies. I will help define what it is and the various kinds of romantic love, and then help identify how to get there and have the most ideal and fulfilling kind of love.

Do not worry, it won’t all be some technical scientific jargon. It just goes to show that love is a need we all have and by fully understanding it, then we can handle it better.

It is important to mention that I use Psychology here because it is the study of the mind and behavior of human beings and relationships encompass both mind and behavior.

Psychosocial stages of human development

To begin with, a great psychologist by the name of Eric Erickson is one of the leading founders of Psychology. He came up with a theory called Psychosocial stages of human development

It is a psychoanalytic theory that identifies eight stages through which a healthily developing human being should pass through from infancy to late adulthood. At each stage, the person confronts and hopefully masters new challenges.

Intimacy versus isolation, is a stage of development that occurs in early adulthood between the ages of twenty to thirty-nine.

intimacy

The main virtue here is love. And at this stage young adults are eager to blend their identities with friends and want to fit in. This explains why cliques are very common in college.

                                         You may also like: Dating Kinda Sucks

College Love

At this age is when most people form long-term friends who tend to last a lifetime. Romantic relationships are also very common and very much expected. Almost all of us were dating in college, some for fun, and others tend to be more committed.

But then at this stage, we are also afraid of rejection, such as being turned down, or our partners breaking up with us. At times we may isolate ourselves hence the name isolation.

We then avoid intimacy to avoid getting hurt. Some of us tend to promise ourselves not to ever let anyone in again most especially because of heartache. We become familiar with emotional pain and for some of us; rejection is so strong that our egos cannot bear it.

Healthy relationships at this stage have people ready to make long-term commitments to others. People become capable of forming intimate reciprocal relationships through close friendships or marriage and willingly make sacrifices and compromises that such relationships require.

love note

If people cannot form these intimate relationships perhaps because of their own needs, a sense of isolation envelops them, arousing feelings of darkness and angst which is unhealthy.

Psychosexual Theory

Another great founder in Psychology is Sigmund Freud who formed a theory called the psychosexual theory. It goes hand in hand with age and is also categorized under psychoanalytic theory.

In his theory, he proposes that sex is the main unconscious motivation that governs human life. One of the stages in his theory is the genital stage which begins at adolescence.

He believes that human beings are sexual beings even though this need is repressed at certain instances in life. From teenage onwards, however, these needs are awakened from puberty and develop within the physiological changes brought on through hormones.

Teens, therefore, develop and explore attraction to the opposite sex. This explains teenage relationships that normally start from age 12 on average.

wedding

Crush?

And so from our first crush, to the butterflies we had during our first date, to the electric and magnetic attraction we were drawn to after our first kiss, the intense feeling of love we felt as teenagers and convinced ourselves we had found the one and would love them till we died, and the blood rush and blushes we feel when someone we are attracted to smiles or winks at us; all these can be explained through biology and psychology.

What makes our bodies behave like this physically?

If you guessed hormones, then you guessed it right. For example, phenylethylamine is what makes us feel alive in new love.

Testosterone also found in women by the way although to a lesser degree, is what prepares the body for intimacy.

Oxytocin is in some way, also associated with love while serotonin, is a neurotransmitter that eases and allows us to feel comfort, contentment, and optimism.

Norepinephrine stimulates adrenaline which increases blood pressure in the presence of a love interest. See, hormones are involved!!

From all this, what then is love and how does it come about? The fact is all the above information, helps us understand its use and relevance.

love

One thing I am certain of is that it begins with like. This is where we admire or find attractive a trait or a personality that one has. It is of great value orienting two minds positively towards each other.

This enables two people to know each other deeply and after that, it may grow to love or just have two people remain friends.

Three Components Of Love

A scientist called Robert Sternberg theorizes that love is a mix of three components:

  1. Passion or physical and sexual attraction.
  2. Intimacy or feelings of closeness, attachment, bonding, or connection.
  3. Commitment involves the decision to initiate, sustain a relationship and to decide to remain with one another and in the long term share achievement and plans made with one another.

love

A blend of the three components is what determines the strength and the kind of love experienced in a relationship. It is however important to note that a romantic relationship grows, so does the emphasis in each component.

Types of love

  1. Non-love– this one basically refers to all casual interactions because it lacks all the components of love.
  2. Liking/ friendship- one feels connected, bonded, close, warm, towards another person without necessarily having committed to one and with no- existing feelings of passion. Some call this friendship.
  3. Infatuated love– this one involves physical attraction. Most romantic relationships start with this phase and it, later on, develops into something more. If not, it can suddenly disappear.
  4. Empty love– this one has commitment without intimacy or passion. A stronger love may deteriorate to this, especially in marriage. In an African setting, marriage was arranged and here, love begins empty, then develops into something more. Some cultures still practice this.
  5. Romantic love- is a combination of the intimate and passionate components. Lovers draw to one another, but also have an emotional bond but with no lasting commitment.
  6. Companionate love– it is an intimate kind of love, stronger than friendship, though not passionate. It mostly occurs in long-term marriages where isn’t passion but deep affection and commitment remain. This kind of love exists within family members and with close friends where there is a platonic relationship.
  7. Fatuous love– this one is typically exemplified by a whirlwind courtship or a short period of relationship then marriage without getting to establish intimacy, closeness, and bonding.
  8. Consummate love– this is the ideal kind of love that most couples strive for. It can be termed as the ‘perfect relationship’ since it encompasses all the three components of passion, commitment, and intimacy. Here couples continue to have mind-blowing sex, more than 15 years into the relationship, cannot imagine themselves happier with any other person, in the long term and have overcome their few difficulties gracefully. It may not be permanent, but it is possible.

You might also like to read about, “The Law of Attraction

L-O-V-E

It is however important to note that the most important element of a relationship is an expression and without it, even the greatest loves can die.

With all this said, healthy relationships have characteristics such as intimacy (closeness and bonding), growth (advancement into greater capacity and love), and resilience (ability to work through problems, express yourselves openly to each other and resolve conflict).

love

Through these flourishing relationships, one important aspect is self-love. People who like themselves are more open to criticism, and demand less from others, partners included.

One great writer, M.Scott Peck, who was also a practicing psychiatrist once said that love is the will to extend oneself, for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth (one’s inner being) which also includes self-love for you cannot love another when you hate yourself.

For Christians, the Bible explains it beautifully in Corinthians 13:4-7.  As I conclude I leave you with these words of wisdom:

“Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, or boastful, it is not arrogant, or rude. It does not insist in its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice in wrong, but it rejoices in right. True love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”

Conclusion

Now change the word love above with your name, and you will learn what it means to love yourself and others. And once you have learned this then you will finally undersatnd, together with everything that this article discusses, concerning what it means to really love.

If you would like to learn more about improving your relationships, click here.

love peace joy prosperity abundance