Is love a cognitive tendency

Relationship research
Love styles from a psychological point of view

Change in 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 due to the reduction in the normative binding nature of the classic nuclear family (mother, father, child (ren)). In the post-war decades, this image of the "normal family" was considered a binding model for the family. However, there was a factual questioning of this image. The indicators for this were the rising divorce rates and the decline in the birth rate.

The realization of partnerships has changed due to cultural change: In place of lifelong marriages that are concluded in young adulthood, there have often been "patchwork biographies" that are characterized by complexity, temporary ties and late marriage. This cultural change is associated with the partial loss of the cultural model of the normal family of the 1950s and 1960s.

This shows that the understanding of partnership and family is not complete without the cultural perspective. In addition, the following applies: cultural and biological factors interact with one another. Natural selection limits the variety of cultural variations.
Culture and genetic makeup are two fundamental perspectives that can explain a variety of partnership phenomena. However, it must be clarified in detail whether culture or genes or both are the decisive determinants.

This can be illustrated by the different patterns of love known as love styles. Love styles can be understood as attitudes towards the partner that are determined by personal ideas and cultural guidelines. In contrast, they are only to a small extent determined 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 in a given partnership are relatively stable over several years.

Romantic love includes the following typical characteristics: The partners feel physically attracted, experience love at first sight, are physiologically aroused and quickly develop the willingness to engage with each other, to empathize with each other and to personally gain emotional benefit. Example statement: "My partner and I experience the same sexual wavelength."

Playful love is based on the idea of ​​sexual freedom. The goal is to achieve sexual desires in the here and now. Deception, manipulation and hide and seek are part of it. The direction of the bond is avoidant so that discomfort arises when there is too much intimacy and closeness. The establishment of additional relationships in addition to the one with a steady partner is made easier by the world of the Internet. Example statement: "Sometimes I have to prevent two of my partners from finding out something about each other."

Friendship love arises from long acquaintance or friendship. Common interests and activities are at the heart of the relationship. Sexual attraction develops over time. Emotional serenity dominates, which is characterized by tolerance and respect. Example statement: "The best kind of love comes from a close friendship."

In contrast to amicable love, possessive love is highly emotional. The loved one appears unique and irreplaceable and radiates perfection. Particularly characteristic is the tendency to jealousy, which is related to the fearful-ambivalent bond on which this form of love is based. The jealousy is related to the fear of being abandoned. Example statement: "If my partner pays me no attention, I feel very sick."

In pragmatic love, utility orientation predominates. Accordingly, the emotional level is low and the conscious weighing of advantages and disadvantages is highly pronounced. Therefore one can speak of an analytical / rational approach. The ideal partner appears to be solid and talented. Example statement: "Before entering into a love relationship, I consider what the relationship will bring for me."

Altruistic love is characterized by the fact that the well-being of the loved one is in the foreground of attention. Your own perspective is determined by the partner's needs, which are answered with a willingness to make sacrifices. Occasionally, an attitude and behavior gap can emerge when sacrifice is lip service rather than action-guiding. Example statement: "I would endure anything for the good of my partner."

Side by side of different styles of love

A person does not necessarily choose one style of love and against the other. Rather, she can express several styles of love at the same time. So there is a positive connection between romantic and altruistic love. Those who are romantically minded also tend to show altruistic love.

Furthermore, the love styles differ significantly in acceptance among lovers:

  • Romantic love finds the highest approval.
  • Medium consent was noted for amicable, possessive, and altruistic love.
  • There was low approval for playful and pragmatic love.

Another important finding relates to the similarity of lovers in love styles. This is consistently high for romantic love, altruistic love and pragmatic love, which are accordingly characterized by reciprocity. In contrast, with playful, friendly and possessive love, it is inconsistent across different samples.

"Love and quarrel can coexist." Hans-Werner Bierhoff

Longitudinally (over four and a half years) it was shown that romantic, playful and possessive love decrease in strength over time, while amicable love increases in importance. In this respect, there are both losses of love and opposing gains over time, which may be suitable to compensate for the losses.

Love and strife can coexist. In this way, independent experience horizons are addressed in each case. Romantic and playful love can also coexist, although there is a tendency that strong romantic infatuation means less playful love. But the negative correlation is relatively weak, so that in many cases a person may be romantically in love but cannot resist the temptation to be unfaithful.

Finally, it is instructive to break down love styles into attachment-dependent and attachment-independent. A distinction is made between avoidance of attachment and fear of attachment, which represent the basic dimensions of attachment.

  • Friendly, pragmatic, and altruistic love showed little correlation with attachment
  • Romantic love (negative with avoidance of attachment), playful love (positive with avoidance of attachment) and possessive love (positive with fear of attachment), on the other hand, turned out 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 understood to mean exaggerated self-love combined with a pronounced attitude of aspiration.

Other characteristics include a feeling of superiority and a willingness to take leadership. Narcissism fits a lavish lifestyle, which can be summed up under the heading "more appearance than being". Empirical results suggest that the level of narcissism has increased in Western societies since the 1990s.

Furthermore, the narcissistic lifestyle is promoted by the rise of social media, in which the self-portrayal of the user plays an important role. Narcissism increases the desire to make social comparisons with others, which in turn intensifies the use of social media. One can distinguish between two dimensions of narcissism:

  • Grandiose narcissists are characterized by the following traits: presumptuous self-image, tendency to flaunt themselves, striving for admiration from others, and high self-esteem. They achieve higher values ​​of playful love.
  • Vulnerable Narcissists: Reporting fantasies of being great, but vacillating between feelings of superiority and inferiority, and having poor self-esteem. They achieve higher levels of playful, pragmatic, possessive, romantic and altruistic love.

It is particularly noteworthy that vulnerable narcissism is positively related to both relationship-promoting and disruptive love styles. Because romantic love correlates positively with partner satisfaction, while the connection for playful love is negative.