So I am taking Social Psychology this semester and it is not at all what I expected it to be. First of all for some reason I thought it would be easy but I am actually struggling more than I ever have in a class (too many terms that sound far too similar). Although it has turned out to be my favorite class I’ve taken at CSULB so far because it takes definitions based on every day life and completely flips my views around. The last couple of class meetings my professor has given us various theories on how love and relationships work. Of course, he can’t help but have his own opinions slip in, but that is fair enough as he is able to give humor to our typical romantic ideas.
First of all he says, “Love is bullshit.”
Really, the whole idea of romantic love being the basis of how strong your relationship is has no bearing at all in scientific theory. Every study done has actually proven that the “level of love” reported does not correlate to if couples stay together or not. Couples in arranged marriages have a higher likelihood of staying together and report feeling more love in a relationship after the five year mark when most in love marriages report feeling less love or end their marriages all together. (Based on many studies including Gupta & Singh 1982; J.E. Myers 2005; Thakar & Epstein 2011) This doesn’t really surprise me, because I have never been the type to believe in the Nicholas Spark’s type romances where “love conquers all.” Although it is sad to think that marrying for love really shouldn’t be the goal. If you believe in my professors views, marriage is about,
“Marry the person you can put up with, cause life is messy and everyone has a lot of baggage.”
So is marriage really about who’s shit you can put up with? I mean I guess when the passionate love fades (typically at the four year mark in most relationships) then you still need to count on something. If you can’t put up with someone’s quirks and flaws then why be with them? Typically when studying love in psychology, we look at the triangular theory of love that was presented by Robert Sternberg in 1988. Sure it might be outdated and not all-defining but we still learn about it in PSY 100 so it must be important, right?
As we learn in PSY 351, psychologists have tried to pin down what love is for as long as psychology has been a science, but really no one can truly define it. This model looks good and with a brief explanation you would probably say that it fits. Companionate love is seen as something that couples in long relationships have, basically intimacy and commitment but no passion anymore. Romantic love is when you are first beginning a relationship, with all of passion and intimacy (intimacy being sharing yourself with the other person, not physically), but no commitment of a long-term couple. Factuous love is what we tend to see in media, lots of passion and commitment but there is no intimacy. Intimacy is probably the most important element in this because if you are not willing to be emotionally vulnerable with someone, then why be with them for the long-haul?
I have heard it said many times that psychology is a “soft science.” It is true that is under the College of Liberal Arts but I think that it has the validity of every other science. The problem is that as a psychologist, you have to take very subjective terms like “love” and make them objective reality. You have to give the word an operational definition, which is extremely difficult. The concept of love is so hard to nail down because it varies across cultures, time, and context. People may not see the need for love to be studied since it can be a very abstract concept. There are so many models and theories for what love looks like and what a relationships time span is. I’ve only focused on very basic levels of understanding, but there is so much more out there.