What Is the Meaning of Love

What is the meaning of love? For centuries, love has been a major inspiration in music, art, literature and, more recently, movies and TV shows. Finding love, keeping love and losing love dominates daily life, whether you're looking at talk shows, commercials, dating Web sites and marriage therapy. As one of the more powerful emotions, love covers a range of different levels of affection. From simple pleasures to deep emotional bonds, people use the word "love" to describe many situations.

Defining Love
Love can be described as the primary emotion that causes someone to care for and feel affection for another. This can be an emotion between two romantic partners, between parents and children, or between siblings, friends and even toward oneself. The Greeks identified these different aspects as:

  • Agape: Ideal love
  • Eros: Passionate love
  • Philia: Loyalty to a concept
  • Storge: The bon between parent and child
  • Xenia: Affection between friends

However, love is used loosely to describe impersonal attachment, as to an object (a house or a painting), a cause (a charity or a country) or an experience (a vacation or a birthday party). In these instances, the word "love" is used to express everything from "like," "altruism," "dedication" and "enjoyment."

Scientific Studies on Love
In the past century, scientists have taken on the task of studying love from a physiological, as well as psychological, stance. Biologically, humans are programmed to fall in love as a means to continue the species and ensure its survival. Hormones and chemicals are released into the body to fuel initial attraction and then are released over time to reinforce the pleasure that a relationship brings-ensuring long-term commitments. From lust to bonding, scientists have mapped out the biological aspects of "love."

The psychological aspects of love are a little more difficult to study. Differences in societal expectations and allowances shift from culture to culture and evolve constantly. Psychologists study human bonding in an attempt to understand the details of how intimacy and attachment work to create long-term relationships. As a social and cultural aspect, love can be influenced by a variety of outside elements. Scientists understand that a combination of biological factors and social influences work together to allow people to fall in love.

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