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What Is Romantic Love?

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By whho
Words 540
Pages 3
In a strange way, romantic love is the least understood part of the human psyche because we are content in believing that “it just happens”, that it is something so sacred that it clearly resists rational understanding, or that it is an entirely different experience for everyone such that it is impossible to articulate. Indeed, social psychology textbooks talk a great deal about the factors that impact relationship formation (proximity, familiarity, shared attitudes etc), but they typically do not have a lot to say about romantic love as something separate from platonic friendships. But perhaps underneath the mystical, maybe even mythical, glow of love’s façade, there is something that we can articulate and talk about meaningfully. And perhaps understanding romantic love empowers us rather than corrupting love through deliberate exploration. This is a story about romantic love from four different intertwined perspectives: fairy tales, Jungian psychology, collected interviews, and biology. This is a story about what four different perspectives can tell us about romantic love.

It makes the most sense to begin with a clarification of terminology – what do we mean by “romantic love”? Almost 3 decades ago, in 1978, Elaine Hatfield wrote a seminal book on the topic of love - teasing apart passionate and companionate love. She defined passionate love as "a state of intense longing for union with another" and companionate love as "the affection we feel for those with whom our lives are deeply entwined". Around the same time, Dorothy Tennov was trying to answer the same question in her book "Love and Limerence" and, similar to Hatfield, quickly differentiated between the “love” that is sincere concern and caring as opposed to the “love” that is fiery, euphoric and ephemeral. But Tennov realized that there is something more irrational and complex about this latter kind of...

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