January 15, 2014

The Nature of Love, Part 6: Modern Concepts and Triangle of Love

Last time in Part 5 of this series, I talked about Hindu and Tantric concepts about love.

Madeleine de Scudéry
In the West, more modern ideas about love started to emerge around the 17th century, in France, unsurprisingly. The novel Clélie, by Madeleine de Scudéry, included a map known as "Carte de Tendre" (Map of Tendre"). The map represents the road to finding love.

The map is a metaphor showing the growth and development of love, as understood at that time. The waterways are a major feature of the map. A major river, known as "Disposition" splits the map in half, then merges with two smaller rivers, "Respect" and "Gratitude". The Disposition River then empties into the Dangerous Sea. Across the Dangerous Sea are the Unknown Lands, and off to the West is the Enmity Sea. The rivers represent control over one's passions, while the seas represent the loss of that emotional control.

The cities and other locations also represent a journey. For example, along the road from the town of "New Friendship" to "Recognition" (i.e., being recognized as a true friend) lies Kindness, Submission, Care of Small Matters, Attentiveness, Eagerness, Large Favors, Sensibility, Tenderness, Obedience, and finally Constant Friendship.

Conversely, the map also shows obstacles that can lead from "Friendship" to "Indifference", such as Negligence, Inequality, Levity, and Obliviousness.

Carte de Tendre (click for a larger image)
Coming further toward the modern era, the idea of Love Styles was developed in the 1970's and 1980's by John Lee, and later expanded upon by Clyde and Susan Hendrick. These "love styles" are defined as follows:
  • Eros - stereotypical "romantic love", a passionate physical and emotional love.
  • Ludus - love as a game or sport, can be applied to multiple partners simultaneously. Stereotypical "player".
  • Storge - friendship love, based on commonalities.
  • Pragma - undemonstrative love, only in the head, not emotional.
  • Mania - obsessive, jealous love, defined by drastic highs and lows.
  • Agape - altruistic love that is completely selfless.
This theory of love states that most people seek out partners that exhibit the same style of love as themselves. However, many people aren't clear about their own style, nor are they particularly good at reading someone else's style. Later research has linked some of these styles of love to biological and genetic factors. For example, serotonin is thought to be a primary factor in Mania style love, which is one reason it is often seen in teenagers.

In the 2000s, the Triangle Theory of Love was developed. This is a fascinating theory, because instead of merely categorizing different types of love, it attempts to explain the underlying reason why we even have different types of love. The theory is explained visually as a triangle, with the three points of the triangle representing Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment.

The Triangle Theory states that all forms of love are composed of these three components. The relative balance between the three dictates what we call "type of love". The total strength across all three components is how we define how strong the love is. Further, changes in the relative balance over time explains why relationships develop, grow, and change.

Simple math shows us that with three components, we can have eight basic types of love:

  1. No Love - not being in love at all, none of the three components are present.
  2. Friendship - Intimacy only.
  3. Infatuation - Passion only.
  4. Empty Love - Commitment only. Many arranged marriages, for example, begin this way, but later grow into another form.
  5. Romantic Love - Intimacy and Passion.
  6. Companion Love - Intimacy and Commitment.
  7. Fatuous Love - Passion and Commitment. This is the fairy tale "sweep you off your feet" wedding and love at first sight. Getting to know each other comes later.
  8. Consummate Love - Everything at once, Intimacy, Passion, and Commitment. This is the ideal love that almost everyone strives for.
As stated, these are only the eight basic types of love shown by the Triangle Theory of Love. They are basic, because it assumes that each of the three components is either "on" or "off". However, in reality it isn't so simple. Each one of the three components is actually on a spectrum and thus we can end up with a near infinite combinations. This means that in the real world, each person experiences love differently, no matter how alike two people think they experience it.

To make matters more complicated, it is theorized that each person not only has one, but three separate triangles representing love.
  1. Real - this is the triangle that represents our love as it actually is. However, most people aren't always aware of this triangle.
  2. Perceived - this is the triangle that we are aware of, and it isn't always the same as the Real one.
  3. Ideal - this is the triangle representing our love as we wish it to be. Many people focus on this one, and when the Perceived triangle doesn't match up, they make the (usually false) assumption that they must not be in love at all.
To go one step further, we all have the above three triangles for every relationship we have. As can be seen, modern science seems to do no better than ancient mysticism when it comes to deciphering love and making it easy to understand!

In Part 7, we will look at different types of relationships.


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