Romantic love: Between cultural universal and evolutionary roots

I already know that if we talk about wild and romping, this post would be successful. I also know that if you bring scientific advice on seduction or some intimate gossip about a couple of famous, with a little luck break internet. But in the end, if you want to be serious about sex, seduction or intimacy just always talking about love.

What happens is that talking about love is passé. Maybe it’s because we have adopted irony as “a sensible response to an unrealistic world” and that irony has come to ruin all magic tricks. Maybe it’s because global warming has become increasingly difficult to grow butterflies in their stomachs. Or maybe it’s simply because talking about love is to talk about the most intimate and fragile parts of ourselves. And you have to be brave to accept evil as we are. Today we will be unpopular, speak of love.

Romantic love

What is love?

Sempronio, scandalized by the words we hear from the mouth of Calisto, asks that if he is not a Christian and Callisto says no, that what will be the Christian, that he is ‘Meliboeus’ and Melibea loves and Melibea believes and loves.

At that point in the Celestina (and we’re only the second page) to Sempronio and anyone in their right mind (although not familiarized with the concept of the Holy Inquisition), it is already clear that love stuns us, stultifies us and blinds us. That’s what we usually think, what it is in popular culture and even what we sell in the movies; but curiously as a little scratch discovered that the specifics of love as we understand it is just the opposite: love is not blind, love is “clairvoyant”.

If you think about it, only in private things they look that would otherwise remain hidden. Therefore, the philosophical tradition from Plato speaks of the strength of the loving gaze (Erotikon WEO) because “makes men of insight” and only through it can know who they are (“The lover sees himself in the lover as if reflected in a mirror,” says Socrates in Phaedrus).

It is an idea that through Christianity to this day. What makes the creation of Dr. Frankenstein is a monster it is precise that no one who wants to see himself in his eyes; in the same way that the Beast tale ceases to be a monster when he meets (literally and metaphorically) girl named Bella.

Actually, I could not tell if love is in every single moment a “loving gaze” that is a thing of philosophers. What seems, without a doubt, it is that studying the “love” (social and cultural image of the moment) we can see the real world from a whole new point of view?

Animals that fall in love

Who knew like the back of his hand to the French aristocracy, was convinced that “there are people who never would have fallen in love if they had never heard of love.” And that connects with the popular idea that love was invented and that is a typical modern product.

That is, if someone never heard talk about love, it would not fall. Lawrence Stone (1988) went on to say that “if romantic love ever existed, only emerged among elites, those who had time to cultivate an aesthetic appreciation of subjective experiences.” Come on, love is a pijada, something accessory.

However, and somewhat surprisingly, the idea of love had never checked. Jankowiak and 166 historical cultures Fisher investigated and found that there were 147 references to love, i.e. 88.6% of cases. They also analyzed the practices of pairing different cultures today and concluded that romantic love was clearly detectable in 78 of the 79 groups analyzed. Indeed, the researchers found no evidence that there was love in all cultures, but these data are difficult to fit in with the idea that this is an eminent invention. In these 20 years, we have not been without growing evidence (Stewart-Williams and Thomas, 2013) suggesting that humans some simply animals who fall in love.

But watch out, we must not fall into either a crude evolutionism or naive naturalism. Human being is made up of lots of emotional impulses, moral intuitions, and social feeling. And culture is precisely the result of our efforts to adapt to the context in which we move and a constant reminder that ‘natural’ is not always ‘good’.

So if we have a ‘natural disposition’ to fall in love, perhaps not ‘love’ what we have to explain, but how we articulated the ‘natural disposition’ in each historical moment. So, as reminiscent Giddens, it becomes clear that love, whatever kind it is, becomes a story by which the person can make sense of his life, a narrative through which includes the social tangle in which it’s found.

Love before romance

Love interests us is the romantic, of course. Mainly because it is that, a priori, seem to have closer. But still, it’s a good idea to get an overall picture of what happened to the lovers before there was romance.

Although we can identify ideas about love in pre – modern era (without going any further, the most influential book on this subject is Plato’s Symposium), many theorists think that love was built around the ‘passion’. According to Giddens, love was’ dangerous […] from the point of view of social order and duty “and for that reason” anywhere […] it was recognized as the sufficient or necessary basis for marriage. “In the pre-modern era, all according to Giddens, intimacy and love relationships were not linked. Love based on privacy was impossible in a social environment in which ‘most marriages were arranged not based on mutual sexual attraction but to economic circumstances”.

These ideas have a big problem: they are built on generalizations because we have no idea that was happening in the real world. As well he explained Carlo Ginzburg in his book ‘The Cheese and the Worms’ there is no way of knowing what was the culture of the ‘common people of civilized peoples’. What has come down to us today are descriptions made by the dominant cultural class and there are no records that tell us about the ideas of ordinary people. Moreover, there are important reasons to think that these ideas could be very different from what we believe: when by chance we find the description of the origin of the world made an Italian sixteenth – century miller not read a something creative story based on the genesis. Something that would have been normal, but the contention is that the world originated in “a mass, such as milk cheese is made, and it worms were formed, and these were the angels.” Imagine you think of love.

The Rise and Fall of romantic love

As we said the same Giddens, during the eighteenth and nineteenth century a new concept that would gradually replace the pre – modern idea of love emerged: “love and romance”. It begins to look like a phenomenon in which one completes the other; a form by which the individual imperfect and damaged eventually repaired and improved. It is the materialization of a passionate romance as we might think, but rather the achievement of the manifest destiny of lovers.

During the second half of the twentieth century, the ‘romantic love’ began to be questioned by the process of “detraditionalization” and another conceptualization emerged: “Love and intimacy”. The idea of pure or confluent love, to use the terminology giddensiana, is the idea that the relationship is born and is maintained by the mutual satisfaction and that once it disappears, the relationship can be finished. This is a radical innovation with respect to the ‘romantic love’ in which to find the person who completes you, it makes little sense to talk of separation.

According to Giddens, in the heart of romantic love, they are the ‘sublime’ Love, elements while the confluent erotic elements are introduced into the core of the relationship. As a result, romantic love is primarily heterosexual, while it is the confluent love that introduces the possibility of homosexual love. That is, in the confluent love for the first time, lovers are genuinely equal.

Towards equality in the couple

Overall, Giddens sees the transition to confluent relationships something to celebrate. The biggest advantage, as we have seen, is that these relationships are more equal than romantic. And to encourage equality and autonomy, the proliferation of confluent relations would be “a clear sign of the democratization of the private sphere and family life”.

The biggest problem of the theory of Giddens is in its lack of empirical support (Sica, 1986). There are some systematic reviews (Jamieson, 1999) that analyze and question the theories of a sociologist. Jamieson found that most people today the relationship from mutual support and equality among members arise.

But as the same Jamieson says, this tells us little or nothing about whether the relationships are really equal. Moreover, many feminist theorists attack the optimistic conclusions of Giddens and suggest that if it is easy to find couples “collaboratively create a sense of intimacy and equality,” is because they do it partly as a way to mask inequalities of gender in areas such as sexual satisfaction, housework or control of money.

Where does the love go?

Giddensiano take the model to the letter is risky, without going any further we find very clear examples of ‘romantic love’ in Plato’s Symposium. But it can be interesting to investigate to what extent he was able to diagnose a trend towards equality in intimate relationships and democratization of the private sphere. The data suggest that it is. Partial, irregular and asymmetric but is an anthropological trend that has been underway for various centuries.

If we look at the theory of natural selection, the females of most species invest more resources than males in the reproductive process and as a result, men compete for the largest possible number of females; while females choose between these competing males. This model of male competition and female choice works in most species and makes 96% of mammals, young people are in charge only of females (Kleiman, 1977). But it does not apply well to humans.

Basically, because although men, in our species, continue to contribute less to raising children than women (Wood and Eagly, 2002), the co-parenting occurs in all cultures, to a greater or lesser extent. Hewlett and Macfarlan in 2010 they conducted a comprehensive analysis of folklore current hunter-gatherer groups and concluded that all these cultures showed a high involvement of men in family life.

This substantially reduces the differences in parental investment. And consequently, the differences in the roles tend to disappear, so that the scheme of “competing males and females choosing” has become a scheme of mutual pairing. Both sexes choose between long-term partners and both competing for ‘best’ peers. You cannot deny that there are sex differences in our species, at least not with the data we have today. What we can say is that these differences are becoming smaller with increasing equality and that, love has an important role.