“Love makes the world go ’round,” but exactly why do we fall in love?
According to Hani Henry, chair and associate professor of psychology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology at AUC, Robert Sternberg’s psychological theory covers the most common reasons why we fall in love, namely: intimacy, passion and commitment.
Falling in love for intimate reasons can be described as having a basic friendship; it lacks commitment and passion. “Besides developing a close connection with someone, a lot of people seek intimacy for self-enhancement; it doesn’t necessarily have to be for sex,” said Henry. “Sometimes it’s self-serving. Everyone likes to feel cared for and loved. Women want to feel their femininity, and men want to feel their masculinity.”
Adele’s song Hello is a perfect example of how intimacy is captured. In the song’s chorus, Adele contacts her ex-boyfriend and pours out her heartbreak from the relationship. She explains that many years have passed and she hasn’t done much healing. “Her lyrics are magical and speak for a lot of people who want to have an emotional connection with anyone or a short-term relationship,” he said.
Letting ourselves fall in love because of desire or strong feelings for a person is normal. Passionate love is developed as a result of feelings that lead to sexual attraction, physical interest and romance. “When you see someone you like, you are captivated by something that draws you to that person,” explained Henry. “The attraction is physical, and there is a fascination with the hair, eyes and body.”
In the absence of intimacy and commitment, infatuation is developed with the person you love. “People are drawn and quickly develop lust. Some people are obsessed and see that person as a type of object. You can be with someone for years and don’t feel there is commonality between you and that person,” he said.
Commitment is complete love. “People who seek commitment want stability and a healthy relationship,” he said. “If people only seek commitment, they may lack sexual attraction and basic friendship interests.”
According to Henry, in modern times, young adults are interested in objects more than relationships. “The objectification comes from consumerism,” he explained. “The more consumeristic the culture becomes, the less interest people have in commitments. Some youth are more interested in impressing people they don’t care about. So everything needs to be consumed, even relationships with people.”
Love Outside the Triangular Theory
Although it’s common that anyone can relate to Sternberg’s love theory, we all have our personal reasons for falling in love. “Your reason for falling in love doesn’t necessarily need to be explained by science. Some personal needs can be the fear of being alone, social peer pressure, satisfaction or religious values,” Henry said.
Despite what psychology has to say about love, the type of love we choose defines who we are. We have our own way of understanding what makes us happy and fulfills our human needs. “Some people are caught with a need that meets each dimension of the triangle and they can’t give up on two because of the different needs they get. Love is very complex.”