What About Love

broken-heartBy Momodou Ndow

Do you remember that someone in your adolescent years who made your heart thump and hands sweat? Seeing them became terrifying and exhilarating. Would you see them at school? See them in the street? You hoped and prayed. But when your wishes were granted, and you got a glimpse of them, it satisfied nothing; it only inflamed you even more. You pump your fist and smile when you are alone, when you’ve achieved nothing but a mere glimpse. Every time you summon your courage or confidence to talk to them, neither will show. Most of us have been in love or know people that are in love. Love is all around us. Love has fascinated people throughout history with its joys and sorrows, and has inspired songs, films, novels, poems and academics whose passion is to study human interactions and relationships. We’ve all heard stories about love and how the individuals involved were affected, whether positively or negatively.

There are stories about people in love eloping and some committing suicide because family or society said no to their love. Romantic love has traditionally been seen as dangerous in India, because it’s a threat to a well-crafted caste system in which marriages are arranged to preserve lineage and bloodlines. While “love marriages” appear to be on the rise in India now, it’s often against parents’ wishes. People have always killed and will continue to kill in the name of love. Love makes you bold, makes you shine, makes you run real risk, which you sometimes survive, and sometimes you don’t. Anyone will be hard pressed to precisely define love; instead, it is better to loosely describe it in its various forms. Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes of interpersonal affection. This can include an emotion of strong attraction and personal attachment in a relationship.

Based on psychologist Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, in the context of interpersonal relationships, “the three components of love are an intimate component, a passion component, and a decision/commitment component.” Intimacy – encompasses feelings of attachment, closeness, connectedness, and bonding. Passion – encompasses drives connected to both obsession and sexual attraction. Commitment – encompasses the decision to remain with another, whether short term or long term. Intimacy, passion and commitment are basically the pillars of love.

The dosage of love one experiences depends on the complete strength of these three components, and their strengths relative to each other. Different combinations of these three elements will determine the stages and type of love one experiences; for example, the weight of each component changes over time as a romantic relationship progresses. A relationship based on just one of the elements is less likely to succeed than one based on two or all three elements. Although Robert Sternberg’s theory includes seven different forms of love such as nonlove, friendship, infatuated love, empty love, passionate love, companionate love and Fatuous love, this piece will only focus on passionate love and companionate love.

Passionate love is also known as romantic love. Passionate love derives from a combination of the intimate and passionate components of love…romantic lovers are not only drawn physically to each other but are also bonded emotionally. A romantic relationship often starts out as infatuated love and quickly grows as intimacy develops. Although love takes many forms, passionate love is generally present in the initial stages of every couple’s love life. It is the state of extreme captivation and the desire for each other. It is a stage of intense feelings of tenderness, elation, anxiety, sexual desire, and pleasing delight. Passionate love also causes physiological arousal, such as accelerated heartbeat, sweating, blushing, and butterflies, with a feeling of heightened excitement. These elements often dominate passionate love. New relationships are generally consumed by passionate love.

New couples can never seem to have enough of each other. They avoid conflicts and ignore faults, all in the name of passion. Logic and reason always take the back seat when passion is in control. Sweets and gifts power romantic passion. You will always hear “I will do anything for you,” “I will give you the world,” blah blah blah! But biochemists say this feverish stage of love usually burns out after a few years. Why? Don’t ask me, I’m not the expert here. Perhaps the brain can’t maintain the intense neural activity of romance? Sounds reasonable to me! Without developing commitment, romantic love may quickly disappear into thin air.

Companionate love is a bit less emotionally intense than passionate love. It is defined by an intimate friendly affection and a strong attachment. It is founded on understanding, appreciation, thoughtfulness, and friendly affection. This type of love is observed in long-term relationships where passion is long gone, but where a deep affection and the element of long-term commitment remain. Gone is the “pitter patter” feeling in your heart when you see your partner! Companionate love entails the acceptance of your partner’s shortcomings along with a genuine yearning to work through obstacles in a relationship. It takes commitment and nurturing to make such a relationship strong and gives it longevity.

When it comes to companionate love, because of the ease of communication in such a relationship, sex is said to be more familiar and secure with a deep knowledge and understanding of your partner, psychologically and physically. Lovers want stability and often desire and value friendship. Passion alone is not enough; being friends with your partner is critical in order for love to last. In a nutshell, companionate love can be interpreted as the affection two people feel for each other when their lives are genuinely intertwined. With all the extra pounds and baggage time brings, a companionate relationship will still hold strong; even the arguments will have a feel of fuzziness to them, and a feeling of familiarity and comfort.

Birds of the same feathers flock together or opposites attract? It is hard to answer the age old question as to why and who people fall in love with, but there are a few floating ideas out there that are very much valid. Proximity, similarity, chemistry, reciprocity, and physical attraction are known to play key roles in why and whom we fall in love with. Proximity brings people together by default. Being in the same geographical area brings people together and we often develop relationships with people whom we see regularly in the places we frequent. Having similar interests, values, beliefs and attitudes are other magnets that bring people closer together and can lead to a romantic relationship.

With the brain being the main sex organ, chemistry is another agent. A rise in chemicals such as norepinephrine, dopamine and phenethylamine can create excitement and a sense of euphoria and draw people together. When people are shown a sign of interest, they tend to reciprocate, and thereby setting the wheels in motion for more interactions, which may in turn lead to a relationship. And physical attraction is generally where it all starts. You see, you like, and you approach. Though love may be universal, its cultural manifestation is not. For the Fulbe tribe in northern Cameroon, composure matters more than passion. Romance is frowned upon and men who spend too much time with their wives are taunted, and those who are weak-kneed are thought to be under a daring spell. So don’t expect to run into them at a flower shop, See’s Candy store, or Victoria Secret.

I bet we can all agree that falling in love is euphoric, fun, intriguing, and exciting, but it is not always all it’s made up to be. The reasons people fall in love aren’t always healthy or good for them, and sometimes falling for the wrong person can leave you emotionally and psychologically stranded. But at the end of the day, passion, which can usually be found in the earlier stages of a relationship, can diminish, but with commitment, it can turn into a healthy companionate love. In the end, this evolution that occurs in a relationship is a good thing and can be seen as a sign of a mature relationship. Personally, I believe it is ideal to have both passionate and companionate love in a relationship, given that both partners have the ability and the capacity. In addition, a strong balance between the two different types of love is something that every couple should strive to attain and preserve. Good luck!



One Comment

  1. Luntango Suun Gann Gi

    Sorry Momodou, I prefer the Fulbe’s restrained love, but I love your piece. “Sex on Da Brain” you say? Now I understand where Snoopy Dog comes from with his “I wanna blah blah”.

    Happy Valentines – my daughter is a Scorpion and we are counting 9 months back to Valentines day.