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What is Love? Is it attraction? Is it intimacy? Is it attachment?
Love, in fact, is all of these things combined together. "Love is spiritual,
not physical. It is a union of souls and hearts and minds, not something you
can't put under your microscope and understand!" Love is an emotion combined
with a series of feelings. These feelings can be immensely powerful and
wonderful. Romantic love is defined to be an intense emotional state that one
person experiences in relation to another. These types of feelings appear to
be among the most intense that most of us are capable of, and at least in some
cases, grow rather than diminish with time. Falling in love can be one of the
most unexplainable feelings a person can endure.
There are two sets of feelings that are the basis of modern romantic
relationships. The first is attraction. Attraction is the excitement you feel
when falling in love. To better explain this feeling, attraction is what you
feel when you have met someone new who really excites you and you begin to feel
aroused when thinking about this person. Although this sounds very sexual, this
feeling is just the first of what will most likely become a sexual passion.
When in this first state of attraction, your body feels different - more bouncy,
more energetic, and in need of less food and sleep. When in this state of
attraction, one feels very happy and different every time that they are with
this person. Frequently the presence (or sometimes merely thought) of the
loved one can evoke specific physiological reactions. These physiological
reactions include: erections for the male, wetness for the female, a lump in
the throat, sweaty palms, weak knees, cold feet, a pounding heart. dizziness,
and butterflies in the stomach. These physiological reations are completely
normal when falling in love.
The second type of feeling that one endures when falling in love is
attachment. Attachment is a bond or a special tie between people that are
attracted to one another. Attachment helps keep people together and has more to
do with feelings of security than of excitement. Romantic love requires
attraction plus attachment. Someone can be very strongly attracted to another
person but never become attached. Without some feeling of attachment,
attraction is nonspecific. Once you have begun to fall in love with someone,
this process becomes more and more important and you begin to feel more attached
to this person. When in this state of attachment, each person would feel as if
they are one person combined together. A special bond is shared and a sense of
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normal in close relationships and healthy to a certain extent. Many times one
person becomes more dependant on the other and this can be very unhealthy
because everyone needs their own sense of identity. Without your own sense of
identity, you might feel smothered or unable to funcion without your mate.
Either way it is a lose-lose situation. For a healthy relationship, one needs to
be able to function without total dependence on their mate.
There are three main aspects of love. According to the triangular
theory of love, these three components include intimacy, passion, and
decision/commitment. Intimacy is the feeling of being connected and close to
another person. It is getting to know the person beyond the friendship level
and understanding them on a romantic level. An example of this might be going
to dinner or the movies with a prospective mate, rather than the casual
encounters that someone might have with them in everyday interaction. Intimacy
does not only pertain to specific acts, but also in verbal and non-verbal
expressions of love. Although verbal expressions of intimate feelings through
self-disclosure is important to relationship quality, the nonverbal expression
appears to be more important. In general people rely more on nonverbal thanb
verval cues to interpret messages. Some examples of these nonverbal cues
include touch, gaze, gestures, and time spent together.
The next aspect of love is passion. Passion is the feelings or physical
attraction and sexual consummation that people have for one another. This is
more than idolization of a superstar such as Tom Cruise or Demi Moore. It is an
attraction that one might have for a peer or a person with whom they are
aquainted. Passion acts as the fire that helps the relationship function.
The last aspect of love is decision/commitment. Decision/commitment
refers to the belief that one is in love and committed to a certain romantic
relationship. This bond may be as informal as a phrase that states they want to
date exclusively, or it might be as formal as a ring of gold that bonds them
forever. This commitment is exclusive between partners which both need to feel
an equal level of commitment which they need to decide together. These three
aspects involve no certain amount of time. It depends on the person or persons
and the level of the relationship. Time will only give the couple some room to
grow and expand the feelings felt for one another.
Although these feelings are somewhat similar with most people who fall
in love, there are different types of traits that most people tend to fall in
love with. Trusting, caring, humor and friendship may be the best examples of
features associated with healthy adult love relationships. To be cared for is
one of the most rewarding feelings in one's life. In my life I know that I have
many people that care about me but to be cared about by my boyfriend is
completely different. This feeling is a sense of completeness.
Throughout an individuals life they will have the opportunity to
experience many different relationships involving these types of feelings for
love. Many of these relationships will not be true romantic love. However,
hopefully they will learn form these relationships so they do not repeat their
mistakes from the past or let others do the same to them. I am now in a
relationship where I can say that I am truly in love. I know this because of
the feelings I get when I am with this special person and I am definitely
attached to him. All of these feelings can be very complicated at times but,
when you are in the right relationship this emotional roller coaster is very
well worth it to feel these powerful feelings of love.
"A loving relationship is like an ideal "home"- within it you can
totally be yourself, be accepted, understood, trusted, and respected as a
valuable being. It is a nurturing enviornment where effort is made to provide
enough caring and security so that one can share hopes and fears and where one
is encouraged to learn and grow."(Buscaglia, 46.)
Throughout this review of literature, the feelings of falling in love is
explained in a factual matter. The relationship process is a complex amount of
effort as well as feelings. Most every person will feel these feelings that I
have described in some point in their life. When they do begin to feel these
feelings of falling in love I wish them happiness and luck.
Beal, Anne E. and Sternberg, Robert J. Social Construction of Love, Vol
12 No. 3. London, Thousand Oaks, Ca. and New Delhi. August 1995. pg. 423.
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
Buscaglia, Leo. Loving Each Other: The Challenge of Human
Relationships. New Jersey 1984. P. 46.
Kalbfleish, Pamala J. Interpersonal Communication: Evolving
Interpersonal Relationships. New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
1993. pg. 82.
Liebowitz, Micheal R. The Chemistry of Love. Canada: Little Brown and
Company. 1983. Pg. 89.
Morrow, Gregory D., Clark, Eddie M. and Brock, Karla F. Individual and
Partner Love Styles. Vol. 12 No. 3. London, Thousand Oaks, Ca. and New Delhi.
August 1995. Pg. 376. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
Perper, Timothy. Sex Signals: The Biology of Love. ISI Press.
Philadelphia 1985. Pgs. 76 and 83.
Pope, Kennith. On Love and Loving: Psychological Perspectives on the
Nature and Experience of Romantic Love. Jossey-Bass Publishers. San Francisco,
1980. Pgs 5, 121, 163.
THE FEELINGS OF FALLING IN LOVE:
A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
DR. KAREN SHAFER
NOVEMBER 19, 1996