A Reasonable Decomposition of Love


Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar zic says:

    “Romantic love” is the love of illicit trysts,

    Not agreeing with this one at all.

    The rest, I think I can live with as frames.

    Romantic love, to me, would be love that is filled with considerate gestures.

    The attribution you give, illicit love, would be its own frame.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to zic says:

      I think all of the terms in the table are selected more to be evocative of what they represent than purely descriptive. I have to admit that if I were to define romantic love independently, I wouldn’t have come up with their definition. I’d similarly say that “fatuous love” isn’t the best descriptor either for what it labels in the table.Report

  2. Avatar Chris says:

    One of the interesting things about the research on love is that for romantic love, or passionate love (under the Hatfield theory), a ubiquitous feature is anxiety. That definitely fits with my experience.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to Chris says:

      That fits with my conception of ‘considerate gestures,’ signals to help establish certainty.

      That said, I’ve been married over 30 years, and have a very romantic love; really grounded in a profound intimacy and the knowledge of one another, the celebration of one another. Anxiety has no part in here; but appreciation and desire to show it figures greatly.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Chris says:

      So a confident person can’t exhibit passionate or romantic love?
      There’s an argument that a confident person /won’t/ exhibit
      “romantic love” (defined as being faithful.), but /can’t/? That seems weird.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath in reply to Chris says:

      Among the papers I looked at includes some studies arguing that love is an attachment process [pdf]. In those studies, they apply attachment theory, which was originally created for how kids become attached to their mothers/parents. According to attachment theory your relationship with your mother was one of three:
      (1) secure – Your mom was there for you when you needed her and you used her as sort of a safe base so you could explore the world.
      (2) avoidance-based – Your mom was somewhat distant and wasn’t timely in offering help.
      (3) anxiety-based – Your mom forced her affection on you even when you didn’t really want it.

      Something like 50-60% of the population is supposed to have had a secure relationship with their mothers. 30% were avoidance-based, and 15% were anxiety-based. According to the theory and the linked study these same ratios are also observed in adult relationships (as reported from a mail-in newspaper survey). Also, they found that students who reported each type of relationship with their mothers tended to have similar sorts of relationships with their adult love interests.

      I should note that this is a somewhat older study, though it is obviously influential with more than 5000 citations.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        There has actually been a lot of stuff just in the last few years on the subject.

        This and this are really good recent reviews.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        In the links @chris posts, it suggests four types of love; romantic/passionate love, companionant love, compassionate love, and attachment love.

        I like these frames, though an off-the-cuff thought is two frames might be missing: there are enough abusive/destructive relationships that work in a negative way to suggest there’s also destructive love, and infatuation, which is often a practice run on feeling love romantic/passionate love.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        And one more: obsessive love, which is not love at all, but feels like love to the person experiencing it.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    One thing that does strike me here is that, presumably, much of human effort goes toward achieving Decision/commitment forms of love, hopefully with a good dose of romance, intimacy and passion.

    But this, and intimacy, seem like they’re rarely used in our discussions of love; rather, the discussions of love evolve around the process of working toward that goal; infatuation, flirting, figuring out how to hook up with someone else. (Note that I’m being general, not necessarily meaning conversations that take place here at OT.)

    TLDR: fatuous love gets the bulk of the talk due to it’s potential to become real love; and real love goes all too often unexplored.Report

  4. Avatar Kazzy says:

    This is really interesting to me.

    It always seemed odd to me that people would critique a relationship if it seemed based solely on physical attributes but that they would not critique a relationship base solely on non-physical attributes. It seems to me that a truly complete relationship incorporates all those things. But because we more explicitly shun vanity, we are more comfortable criticizing relationships that demonstrate it.Report

  5. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I am perhaps more impulsively dismissive than usual because I just put back a pint, but:

    That all just seems silly. Love is Sternberg’s “Intimacy”. The other two items could be replaced with “Backgammon” and “Compatible taste in cooking oils” without significant impact on the validity of the analysis.

    I love my wife, my parents, my daughter, my cats, several friends including my wife’s boyfriend (polyamory, yadda yadda). Of those, I feel sexual passion only for my wife. My love for the others is in no way diminished because my genitals aren’t involved, and I might consider finding the suggestion of it offensive, if it weren’t for the silliness of it.

    Love is one thing. There are many things people who love one another, or who don’t, can do, but that tend to lead to growth of their love. Physical intimacy is one. Sexual intimacy is another. Intimate conversation is another. Cohabiting is another. Motorcycling is another.

    To suggest I don’t properly love my friends because I haven’t slept with them is as dumb as suggesting I don’t properly love my wife because I haven’t gotten a motorcycle license.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to dragonfrog says:

      Specifically – as defined “nonlove”, “infatuated love”, “empty love”, and “fatuous love” are all non-love.

      “Romantic love” is the coexistence of love and sexual passion – that’s nice, have some sex.

      “Companionate love” is not sad – having someone you love and can count on being there for the long haul is wonderful – even if you both keep your pants on.

      Calling the last item “Consummate love” is chauvinistic over-emphasis of one kind of loving relationship to the detriment of all others.Report