Love is a concept whose roots can be found in religion, philosophy and anthropology. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that psychologists began to study the idea of love as a distinct phenomenon. Since then, the disciplines of psychology, anthropology and neuroscience have added to our understanding of this complex emotion.
While love can be defined in many different ways, most experts agree that it is composed of three components. These are called intimacy, passion and decision/commitment. The amount of each component in a particular relationship determines whether or not the relationship is considered to be “love.”
Intimacy relates to how close two people feel to each other, including the degree to which they trust and care for one another. The intimacy of a relationship is the foundation upon which everything else rests. Passion relates to the feelings of arousal and sexual attraction that can be felt for someone. In romantic relationships, this is typically the more dominant form of love. Decision/commitment relates to the determination that two people will remain together despite adversity or challenges. This is a very important factor in long-term happiness in relationships.
From an evolutionary perspective, love evolved to keep parents and their offspring bonded and committed to one another over the long period of time needed for young people to mature into adults. This form of love, sometimes called maternal or paternal love, is rooted in the biological drive to provide for and protect offspring until they are capable of surviving on their own.
There is also a spiritual or divine form of love, often associated with religious faiths. This type of love is characterized by compassion and mercy for the suffering of others, and is often seen as an act of worship. Those who practice this form of love are called bhaktas, or devotees. This form of love is often accompanied by a feeling of ecstasy and mystical union with a higher power.
In reality, there will probably be days or weeks or even months when you don’t feel all mushy-gushy in love with your partner. That’s okay, and it’s actually a good thing. It means that you’re in a healthy relationship, and that your love is truly alive. It’s the kind of love that keeps you going when things aren’t easy, and it makes sticking it out worth it in the end.
This type of true love, the kind that lasts through all the tough times, is the sort that you see in the lives of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. Their selfless love has promoted the well-being of others on a global scale. It’s the kind of love that most of us would want to emulate if we could. That’s why it’s important to remember that while love is a feeling, it’s also a choice.