Love is one of the most basic human needs. How does mate selection work and how does it relate to personality?
Romantic love represents one of the deepest emotional experiences, but it is often difficult to explain for those in love. Explanations even seem to be detrimental to love, because mentioning reasons why the closeness of a loved one is sought leads to less affection as a result.
Love means, according to the dictionary, "a strong (intimate) feeling of affection, of being drawn in". A social psychological definition is: love is an attitude that has affective (affection, feelings of tenderness, passion, joy in relation to the beloved person), cognitive (valorization and idealization of the beloved person) and behavioral components (approaching and embracing the beloved person).
In the following I will focus on love in partnerships. Basically, a distinction can be made between an evolutionary psychological and a cultural perspective on love. Behavior in choosing a partner and during the partnership is characterized by evolutionary adaptations. These adaptations are partly similar and partly different for men and women. Men and women, for example, look equally for understanding, trustworthy and helpful partners.
"Men tend to base their choice of partner on physical attractiveness, women on social status." Hans-Werner Bierhoff
Neurophysiological evidence is also consistent for men and women. For studies with American and Chinese participants revealed that the beloved person activates a specific brain region related to the reward and motivation system in the midbrain. The cultural comparison also includes an indication of the universal spread of love, as the same neurophysiological evidence was found in two different cultures.
From research& Teaching 12/18
But it is also true that female mate choice is more oriented to social status, while male mate choice is more oriented to physical attractiveness and youthfulness. Accordingly, jealousy is thought to be activated by different characteristics in men and women. In fact, men report more jealousy when confronted with dominant, powerful rivals, while women are particularly jealous when confronted with highly attractive female rivals.
Across different cultures, population strata, and historical eras, it can be seen by comparison that different models of love prevail. In Western countries, jealousy appeared in the second half of the 20. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was an increasing emphasis on romantic affection or the romantic ideal as a prerequisite for the formation of a partnership. Romantic love became a main criterion for the selection of a partner.
Upheaval in the understanding of marriage and family
In the last three decades in particular, there has been a major upheaval in the understanding of marriage and family because of the reduction in the normative binding force of the classic nuclear family (mother, father, child(ren)). In the post-war decades, this image of the "normal family" was considered the was regarded as the binding model of the family. However, the factual questioning of this image occurred. Indicators for this were the increasing divorce rates and the decline in birth rates.
The realization of partnership has changed due to cultural change: Lifelong marriages entered into in young adulthood have often been replaced by "patchwork biographies" The new family structure is characterized by complexity, provisional commitment and late marriage. This cultural change is associated with the partial loss of the cultural model of the normal family of the 1950s/1960s.
This shows that the understanding of partnership and family is not complete without the cultural perspective. In addition, cultural and biological factors interact with each other. Natural selection limits the diversity of cultural variations.
Culture and genetic makeup represent two fundamental perspectives that can explain a variety of partnership phenomena. In detail, however, it must be clarified whether culture or genes or both are the decisive determinants.
This can be illustrated by different patterns of love, referred to as love styles. Love styles can be understood as attitudes towards the partner, which are determined by personal beliefs and cultural specifications. In contrast, they are determined only to a small extent by genetic factors, as twin studies show.
Classification of love styles
The classification of love styles is based on the conceptual differentiation of different forms of love. A total of six forms of love are distinguished, which are relatively stable over several years in a given partnership.
Romantic love includes the following typical characteristics: The partners are physically attracted to each other, experience love at first sight, are physiologically aroused, and quickly develop a willingness to engage with each other, empathize with each other, and gain emotional benefits for each other personally. Example statement: "My partner and I experience the same sexual wavelength."
Playful love is based on the idea of sexual freedom. The goal is the realization of sexual desires in the here and now. Deception, manipulation and hide-and-seek are part of this. The direction of attachment is avoidant, so that discomfort arises with too much intimacy and closeness. The initiation of additional relationships besides the one with a steady partner is facilitated by the world of the Internet. Example statement: "Sometimes I have to prevent two of my partners from finding out about each other."
Friendly love arises from long acquaintance or friendship. Shared interests and activities are the focus of the relationship. Sexual attraction develops over time. Emotional serenity dominates, characterized by tolerance and respect. Example statement: "The best kind of love comes from a close friendship."
Possessive love, in contrast to friendly love, is highly emotional. The beloved person appears as unique and irreplaceable and radiates perfection. Particularly characteristic is the tendency to jealousy, which is related to the anxious-ambivalent attachment that underlies this form of love. Jealousy is related to the fear of being abandoned. Example statement: "If my partner does not pay attention to me, I feel quite ill."
Benefit orientation dominates in pragmatic love. Accordingly, the emotional level is low and the conscious weighing of advantages and disadvantages is high. Therefore one can speak of an analytical/rational approach. The ideal partner appears to be solid and talented. Example statement: "Before I enter into a love relationship, I consider what the relationship will bring me."
Altruistic love is characterized by the beloved’s well-being being the primary focus of attention. One’s perspective is determined by the partner’s needs, which are met with victimization. Occasionally, a gap may occur between attitude and behavior, when victimization is more lip service than an attitude guiding action. Example statement: "I would endure anything for the sake of my partner."
Coexistence of different styles of love
A person does not necessarily choose one particular style of love over the others. Rather, it can express several love styles at the same time. Thus, a positive correlation is found between romantic and altruistic love. Those who are romantically oriented also tend to show altruistic love.
Furthermore, it is true that love styles differ significantly in acceptance among lovers:
- The highest approval is found in romantic love.
- Medium agreement was found for friendly, possessive and altruistic love.
- Low approval was shown related to playful and pragmatic love.
Another important finding relates to the similarity of lovers in love styles. This is consistently high in romantic love, altruistic love, and pragmatic love, which are characterized by reciprocity, accordingly. In contrast, it is inconsistent across different samples for playful, friendly, and possessive love.
"Love and conflict can coexist." Hans-Werner Bierhoff
Longitudinally (over four and a half years), romantic, playful, and possessive love were shown to decrease in strength over time, while amicable love increased in importance. In this respect, both losses of love and countervailing gains are found over time, which may be suitable to compensate for the losses.
Love and quarrels can coexist. Thus, independent horizons of experience are addressed in each case. Romantic and playful love can also coexist, although there is a tendency for strong romantic infatuation to imply less playful love. But the negative correlation is relatively weak, so in many cases it may still be that a person is romantically in love but cannot resist the temptation of infidelity.
Finally, it’s instructive to do a breakdown of love styles into attachment-dependent and attachment-independent. There is a distinction between attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety, which are the basic dimensions of attachment.
- Amicable, pragmatic and altruistic love showed low correlations with commitment
- Romantic love (negative with attachment avoidance), playful love (positive with attachment avoidance), and possessive love (positive with attachment anxiety), on the other hand, were found to be attachment-dependent.
How is love related to personality? Recent research shows that narcissism plays a key role in answering this question. Narcissism is exaggerated self-love combined with a pronounced attitude of entitlement.
Other characteristics include feelings of superiority and willingness to take the lead. Narcissism fits into a lavish lifestyle, which can be described as "more appearance than reality" To summarize. Empirical findings suggest that levels of narcissism have risen in Western societies since the 1990s.
Furthermore, it is true that the narcissistic lifestyle is promoted by the rise of social media, in which the self-expression of users plays an important role. Narcissism increases the desire to make social comparisons with others, which in turn intensifies social media use.One can distinguish between two dimensions of narcissism:
- Grandiose narcissists are characterized by the following traits: pretentious self-image, tendency to flaunt self, striving for admiration from others, and high self-esteem. They achieve higher levels of playful love.
- Vulnerable narcissists: report fantasies of their own grandiosity, but vacillate between feelings of superiority and inferiority and have low self-esteem. They score higher in playful, pragmatic, possessive, romantic and altruistic love.
It is especially remarkable: vulnerable narcissism is positively related to both relationship-promoting and relationship-disrupting love styles. Because romantic love correlates positively with partnership satisfaction, while the correlation for playful love is negative.