Psychology Today am I in love
If psychologists could define love, they’d be far ahead of every poet, playwright, and songwriter who’s ever tried to put this elusive feeling into words. Love mostly provides pleasure, but as many of us know, that pleasure can come with a heavy price.
It may be more correct to view love not as an emotion, but a state or situation that can produce emotions both positive and negative. Still, that begs the question—what is the nature of this state, and why is it so important to our sense of well-being to have those pleasurable feelings?
Unlike the great writers and artists who’ve grappled with the question of love, psychologists take a more pragmatic approach as they try to break it down clinically into its component parts. According to University of Maryland psychologist Sandra Langeslag, working with her Dutch associates Peter Muris and Ingmar Franken, it’s not so important to define love per se, but to define the “symptoms” that go along with it. These symptoms fall into the categories of behavioral, affective (emotional), cognitive, and physical. Notice that they’re talking about “romantic” love, not the kind of love that’s simmered down from blazing hot to comfortably simmering, also called companionate love. In romantic love, your passion is still high as well as your intimacy.
According to Langeslag and her team, romantic love equals a mixture of infatuation and attachment. Infatuation is that heady feeling you experience when you’re in the throes of a crush. The attachment piece refers to the desire to bond with another creature, whether it’s a romantic partner, a favorite pet, or your favorite relative. Thus, Langeslag and her colleagues believe that you can be high on infatuation and low on attachment with regard to another person, because the two qualities are independent of one another.
Infatuation may bring with it those strong pleasurable feelings, as I noted earlier, or it can be associated with anguish, anxiety, distress, and misery. Because of this, Langeslag and her team believe that infatuation provides higher arousal levels than does attachment. It’s infatuation that will put you through the highs and lows as you pick the petals off the daisy wondering if he/she loves you or loves you not.
When your attachment to your partner is strong, solid and, as psychologists call it, secure, your emotions will remain on a more or less even keel. If you’re insecurely attached, in contrast, you may either fret constantly about whether or not your loved one will be there for you (“anxious attachment”) or dismissively push those you care about away (“avoidant attachment”).