If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular? ~ Author Unknown
I love you. Yes, you, the person reading this just now. I love you. I know, I know, we’ve never met and the odds are we never will but what has that to do with anything? It’s quite possible I don’t know your name, at least not your real name or what you look like now (assuming the photo you have online is you now and not you twenty years ago). But I still love you.
How can you possibly say that with a straight face. You’re joking right?
No, I’m deadly serious: I love you. Do you love me?
I’m sure there are many people you love and have loved and have yet to love, people and things and places and activities. And when you say you love them you will mean it every bit as much as I do just now.
I don’t fancy you. I mean I might fancy you if I met you. I’m sure there are a number of people who read my blog who I might conceivably fancy. There are a number I’m sure I could never fancy – all the blokes for starters (sorry blokes) – but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them. I’m expressing my love right now. I’m giving of my time and (limited) expertise and I’m doing it for you. I’m not doing it for me. I know all these things I’m talking to you about. No, I’m doing it all for you . . . and the couple of hundred other people who will read this blog today and the several hundred who might eventually end up reading it if I leave it up here long enough.
Raymond Carver wrote a short story collection entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I don’t think we know what we’re talking about. And yet we can’t stop talking about it. And writing about it. The following just concerns itself with the States:
By the 2000s, romance had become the most popular genre in modern literature. In 2008, romantic fiction generated $1.37 billion in sales, with 7,311 romance novels published and making up 13.5% of the fiction market. Over 74 million people claimed to have read at least one romance novel in 2008, according to a Romance Writers of America study. Nine point five percent of romance readers identified themselves as male, and the study reported that romance readers were more likely to be married or living with a partner. Of the entire American population, 24.6% read at least one romance novel in 2008. – Wikipedia
Love is complicated. In some respects it’s very simple. It’s easy to do but hard to explain. There have, of course, been times when I’ve thought I was in love but it wasn’t real love; it was a crush, infatuation, but it felt like love at the time and I’m not entirely convinced that it wasn’t love. Love is not an on/off switch and if it’s not reciprocated it can wither and die. Unless it’s a certain kind of love, the kind that exists for all people whether they’re your enemies or not. I’m talking about agápe love, principled love, the kind of love the Bible is on about when it says that God is love.
So, you’re some kind of religious freak? Should I be worried?
No, I gave up all that religious nonsense years ago but it’s the easiest way I can think of to explain what I’m on about. The Bible uses four Greek words for love: agápe (principled love), philia (brotherly affection – think Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love), storge (familial love) and eros (erotic love). I don’t what word the Greeks used for love of Nature or love of pets or love of a certain kind of food.
I have loved a number of women in my life but I’m not convinced that the love I felt for each of them, even the ones I ended up marrying, was the same thing. I still feel I love certain women I never married, never got even close to marrying, and haven’t seen in many years. To my mind I love each and every one of them uniquely. And it is impossible for me to communicate exactly what I felt for each of them. Utterly impossible.
I think we sometimes forget just how badly language does what it is supposed to do. Much of the problems are because we aren’t very good with words, any of us. We do our best, most of us, and we rely on the abilities of those we’re addressing to be able to decode what we have encoded. But always, always, always something is lost in the translation.
You don’t know what I mean and I don’t know if you know what I mean because no sooner do you try and explain back to me what I’ve just said to you, using your own words, the waters get muddied even further. C S Lewis famously said, “We read to know we are not alone,” but I say that we read to know we are not alone in being alone. A man in a prison cell is so much happier when he learns that there’s another man in the cell next to him even if he cannot communicate in any meaningful way. Why would he be happy that another human being is going though what he’s going through? Well, that’s not it. But somehow it still helps. He can focus his attention on the other and not on his self. He knows what a rubbish time he’s having in his cell and although logic dictates that his fellow detainee is having an equally miserable time it does help to know that he’s not going through this alone even though for all intents and purposes he is going though this alone.
I am in a cell. It’s a pretty decent cell as far as cells go. It has computers and a widescreen TV and nice things to eat in the fridge and the freezer and a comfy bed to sleep in but apart from the bird (who’s more interested in his reflection than me) I am alone. Carrie is in the States. There’s just me . . . and you. And the nearest any of you is to me is about twenty miles away. Most are hundreds if not thousands of miles away. And all we have is this wee slot to express ourselves through. But it doesn’t really matter. Even if you were sitting across the table from me in a nice local café (or at least the best of a bad bunch in the case of where I live) we would still have to resort to words to try and communicate. We could hug. I could hold your hand. But in my experience taction contact is as unreliable as verbal communication. It’s open to interpretation. People hear what they think/expect people are going to say and don’t listen. I bet you’re not listening right now. You just can’t wait to have your say in the comments. Or you might be wondering what I’m really saying. You know what I’m saying – no big fancy words there other than ‘taction’ and I’ve used that a number of times in blogs – but what am I really saying? That’s the thing about words; they don’t always contain the meanings one might automatically expect them to. Like I love you.
But there are other Greek words applicable to this topic: pragma (pragmatic, expedient love), ludus (playful love, and also joyous love), mania (in which the lover is possessed by being in love, unstable, highly emotional—what in Western culture is taken as romantic love, courtly love, obsessive love).
Ignoring philial affection for some odd reason (which he lumps together with storge), these six form the basic love styles as defined by the psychologist John Alan Lee in his article ‘A Typology of Styles of Loving’:
This particular general theory posits three primary love styles: (a) eros, which is romantic os passionate love, (b) ludus, which is game playing love, and (c) storge, which is friendship love. Lee suggested three secondary styles are formed as compounds of the primary styles: (d) mania, which is a compound of ludus and eros, (e) pragma, which is a compound of storge and ludus, and (f) agápe, which is a compound of eros and storge.
I find it interesting how he redefines some of these words but psychologists have been doing that for years.
When I was first getting to know my first wife I said to her at one point, “I’m in like with you.” It’s cute-sounding but it makes an important distinction. There are people we love and people we are in love with. So why not be ‘in like’ with someone? Makes perfect sense to me.
Why just ‘in’ though? There are about 150 prepositions in English, in fact the prepositions of, to and in are among the ten most frequent words in English so why don’t we have ‘of love’, ‘to love’, ‘at love’, ‘by love’, ‘for love’? To say that someone is ‘in love’ with someone suggests polar states – ‘in’ and ‘out’ – you are in love or have fallen out of love.
Levinger observed that there are five phases in personal relationships: (1) acquaintance, (2) build-up of an ongoing relationship, (3) continuation (couples commit themselves to long-term relationships and continue to consolidate their lives), (4) deterioration or decline of the interconnections, and finally, (5) ending of the relationship, through death or separation.
We talk of falling in love but no one loves at another person. We can talk to someone but we can also talk at them. Would loving at someone not be an expression of manic love?
I hadn’t seen Annie Hall when I told that girl I was in like with her. I probably saw it with her in fact a couple of years later by which time we were married having decided were actually in love although I have my doubts whether that was ever the case; sexually attracted, yes, but so many people confuse sexual longing and actual love. Of course all of this is easy to say with twenty-twenty hindsight.
Broadly-speaking what is love? It is attraction to something, plain and simple. The closer we are to that person or thing the better we feel. It could involve anything from holding hands to ingesting (as in the case of chocolate). We entrust our feeling of wellbeing to someone or something else. Of course we’re social creatures (even people like me who like to think they’re not) and company is good for us, even virtual company seemingly, so in what ways can I become attached to people? Psychologists have identified three primary attachment styles:
- anxious/ambivalent (later renamed anxious/resistant)
Secure adult attachment was characterized by trust and a desire for closeness without the need to merge completely with another. In this group, the self was considered worthy of care and the partner was esteemed and expected to be responsive.
Avoidantly attached adults reported discomfort with closeness and an expectation that the partner would be unresponsive. They found it difficult to trust and depend on others and so dismissed the importance of the relationship in order to keep emotions at low levels of intensity.
Anxiously attached people, on the other hand, had a desire to merge with another. Their relationships were characterized by clinging and neediness, as the partner’s responsiveness was uncertain. Self worth was low and the partner was often idealized.
Attachment theory is meant to describe and explain people's enduring patterns of relationships from birth to death.
I am separated from my loved one at the moment. (As I mentioned earlier Carrie is in the US visiting her parents.)
When a human or non-human primate infant is separated from its parent, the infant goes through a series of three stages of emotional reactions. First is protest, in which the infant cries and refuses to be consoled by others. Second is despair, in which the infant is sad and passive. Third is detachment, in which the infant actively disregards and avoids the parent if the parent returns.
Every day we share a phone call. It usually lasts about ten minutes during which time I report what I’ve written, eaten, watched, received in the post and so on. Also what the bird’s been up to. Today he’s been very noisy and has been chastising various mirrors for the last two hours. The last time Carrie came back the bird’s response to her was interesting. For the first few days he treated her like a total stranger, wouldn’t fly to her and if I took him over to her on a stick he’d fly off. Does our bird love us? No idea. But we are his flock and he most definitely suffers from separation anxiety. It’s quite possible that all the noise he’s making today is him calling Carrie.
There have, needless to say, been a number of various theories about the nature of attraction. The Love Schemas Scale, for example, includes six categories of love:
Those who are interested in romantic relationships were said to fall into one of four types: The secure (who are comfortable with closeness and independence), the clingy (who are comfortable with closeness but fearful of too much independence), the skittish (who are fearful of too much closeness but comfortable with independence), and the fickle (who are uneasy with both closeness or independence). … Those who are relatively uninterested in relationships might fall into one of two categories—the casual (who are interested in relationships only if they are almost problem free), and the uninterested (who are not at all interested in relationships, problem free or not).
- Intimacy – the friendship element of love, sharing and bonding
- Passion – the romantic or physical element of love including sexual attraction
- Commitment – the basic decision to love another person - and the longer term part of keeping that love going
The "amount" of strength of each of these components in a love determines how that love will be between two people. From these three basic components he extrapolated eight states:
Liking / Friendship
What he does say is that over time we all come to define love in our own unique ways, the bottom line being that no one knows how much or in what ways I love my wife, my daughter, my siblings, the bird or the box of chocolates in the fridge . . . probably not even me, not in any way that I could possibly communicate to you or to any of the above.
There are nine love instruments – methods of determining/assessing/ quantifying/qualifying/defining love – and you can read about them all here from the Rubin Love Scale to the Passionate Love Scale. Love is a multidimensional construct that has proven difficult to define and, consequently, challenging to measure. Jung got it right when he called it “a mystery”.
Is it any wonder that so much has been written and continues to be written about this one subject?
Of course all the above conveniently ignores the fact that there is as arguable a basis for love being nothing more than a chemical reaction. The three core stages of attraction all involve chemistry:
I’ve just realised that I’ve got all the way down here and never yet mentioned Platonic love:
In short, with genuine platonic love, the beautiful or lovely other person inspires the mind and the soul and directs one's attention to spiritual things. One proceeds from recognition of the beauty of another to appreciation of beauty as it exists apart from any individual, to consideration of divinity, the source of beauty, to love of divinity. – Wikipedia
I suspect though it has been a long time since anyone has used the expression and meant that.
I don’t write much about love these days. I wish I did more because it would make my wife happy and it never hurts to make ones wife happy, let me tell you, but I find it hard to say anything meaningful about love anymore. But I’ll leave you with my last one, and, yes, that is a nod to Larkin at the end:
I am not in love with you.
I am in love with the idea of you.
You are flesh and bone, merely
a holdall for aches and painful memories
You are a voice in my head.
You are never very far away and so
remain of you will be this:
an idea. That is what love truly is.
6th December 2010
Now I think about it I probably don’t love you. Just ignore everything I just said.
 Bruce Thompson, Donna Davenport, Rebecca Wilkinson, Lee’s Topology of Love Styles: A Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Hendrick-Hendrick Measure with Implications for Counselling, p.2
 Elaine Hatfield, Theodore Singelis, Timothy Levine, Guy Bachman, Keiko Muto, and Patricia Choo, ‘Love Schemas, Preferences in Romantic Partners, and Reactions to Commitment’, Interpersona, 1(1), June 2007, p.3
 Julie Fricker, Susan Moore, ‘Relationship Satisfaction: The Role of Love Styles and Attachment Styles’, Current Research in Social Psychology, Volume 7, Number 11, 9 May 2002
 Elaine Hatfield, Theodore Singelis, Timothy Levine, Guy Bachman, Keiko Muto, and Patricia Choo, ‘Love Schemas, Preferences in Romantic Partners, and Reactions to Commitment’, Interpersona, 1(1), June 2007, p.2
 Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.353