History of Love

Psychology Of Love – Part 2

Countless philosophers, from Plato to Sartre have devoted their writings to describing, exploring and conceptualising love, particularly with regard to our intimate relationships. In the modern Western world, we take for granted the idea that we should be passionately in love with the person we marry or set up home with – yet this hasn’t always been the case.

In ancient times love and marriage certainly didn’t go together like a horse and chariot. Our ancestors were very practical and married for property or business. The Greeks called this love Pragma, which was based on a rational shopping list type of love, something like, “You’ve got grapes, I’ve got bottles, so let’s make wine”.

This is not to say that they didn’t make whoopee, but the whoopee that they made was believed to be a type of irrational madness, which was not viewed as a good basis for marriage. This madness involved three types of love: Eros was passionate and sexual; Ludus was a type of game playing; and Mania was possessive and dependent.

Both the practical contracts of marriage and the madness of lovers were physically intimate relationships. But the Greeks also had two words that described love in non-physical relationships. Storge was used to explain the close companionate love of friends. However, the most revered type of love in ancient Greece was Agape, which was selfless and altruistic – the type that we would attribute to people such as Mother Teresa.

These attitudes to love and marriage continued until the Middle Ages when latter-day French PR executives, called troubadours, began to promote the notion of ‘romantic love’. These wandering minstrels and poets spread tales of knights and maidens and great feats of ‘love’, often unrequited, which spread the emotional game of love throughout the Europe.

While people still tended to marry for practical reasons the idea of love as Pragma was fading along with the love of friends (Storge) and selfless love (Agape). The fated, uncontrollable love of star-crossed lovers consumed with passion (Eros, Ludus and Mania) was taking over. By the 1800s Valentine Cards were in mass production and by the early 1900s the moving pictures had joined purveyors of romantic mythology to successfully shape cultural beliefs and firmly fixing the idea of ‘romantic love’ in the human psyche.

Although we might accept that there are different types of love, unlike our ancestors, we persist in searching for that one special someone, based on fantasies of romance. Our romantic notions encourage us to expect to find someone who has all the qualities of the noble spiritual Agape and the sexual passion of Eros, who will provide the deep friendship of Storge as well as the fun and games of Ludus, the material benefits of Pragma, with just a touch of Mania providing a little dependency on our love. It would appear that, like the Freddy Mercury song, we ‘want it all’. Unfortunately, most of us have found that there really aren’t too many sane men prancing around in capes with a large ‘S’ on their t-shirts, or women in high heels and suspenders who will run around and make us chicken soup when we’re ill.

Modern researchers have attempted to define love, but their research tends to ignore the practical aspects of Pragma (probably because no one wants to admit they marry for money) and the high ideals of Agape (no doubt Saints are too hard to find). Instead they focus on love in companionate and passionate relationships.

In Blog 3: Vive la difference: Men and Women.

Dr. Lori Boul gained her PhD at the University of Sheffield in the UK and the research for her thesis, into ‘male menopause’, attracted worldwide media attention. Dr Lori is probably one of the most outspoken speakers on the topic of human sexuality and in writing her book DIY Sex and Relationship Therapy has dared to challenge the need for face-to-face therapy. According to Dr Lori, “Good therapists can be hard to find and for many people a good spoonful of common sense is all that is needed”.

Whether speaking to the general public or professionals, Dr Lori’s expertise, sensitivity and humour inspire new ways of thinking about relationships, sex and psychology. She has presented talks at national and international conferences, provides training courses and executive mentoring, and is featured as a regular guest speaker with Cunard.