“If music be the food of love, play on.” Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
I love love. Don’t you?
I love being in love and falling in love. When love is reciprocated, it is absolutely the most delicious of experiences, don’t you think?
In her book Why We Love (2004), the renowned love researcher Helen Fisher purports that the chemical reactions of norepinephrine and dopamine and other brain chemicals we manufacture when in love create a genetically predisposed bliss in the brain that is as natural and potent a drive as hunger. Love and food are both biologically adaptive and addictive. In order to survive, we need to desire love and food. It’s obvious why we require food to live, but love? Certainly less apparent.
We need love to ensure the protection of our offspring. Without love, men would just run around having sex with everyone else and blowing off their children in the pursuit of more sex. Meanwhile, dinosaurs, sable-toothed tigers, and other cave dweller groups could potentially do their children and the mothers in! In their defense, they are the (somewhat) victims of their own biology.
In heterosexual relationships, love prospers when women have a higher, egalitarian valence within the relationship and within society; in turn, men value the relationship and the woman in a manner that supports monogamy and intimacy. Additionally, love and intimacy thrive in nuclear families when the parents are the only adults present in a household (DeMunck, Korotayev, & McGreevey, 2016). Apparently, too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the love soup!
Feminists Rock Love
When heterosexual couples transcend traditional gender parameters, research shows that eros, or passionate love, is the relationship ball in play. Eros blossoms when more egalitarian male-female roles exist within a relationship. Interestingly, when both partners are feminists both partners report overall better relationship satisfaction (Ogletree, 2010). The old saw appears to hold true: Happy wife. Happy life!
There is the notion that romantic love derived from knights protecting royal women and research shows that “romantic love was most likely to be culturally endorsed and valued when female status was relatively high” (DeMunck, et al., 2016, p. 2). When women outrank men, love is nurtured. It seemingly doesn’t work very well the other way around, though. When women are viewed as inferior within a culture, love cannot thrive (DeMunck, et al.).
There are some challenges in a nuclear world (pun intended!)
It’s not all a bed of roses in the world of love within nuclear family societies, however. Unfortunately, those who are identified as unsuccessful at love are also considered to be unsuccessful at life overall (Jenkin, 2017). As a woman who did not have children, I have felt the pressure from many people over the years to clarify why I didn’t have children. The overall sense I receive is that I am perceived to be less of a woman because I chose not to breed and create the idealized nuclear family. So I can certainly understand how someone who is not in a long-term relationship may experience the subtle censure society imposes on the unattached. Our own nuclear families in particular may pressure us to get married and start a family. In response to those pressures, do we as women overestimate our feelings towards a potential love interest (a form of confirmation bias) in order to get “in line” with societal expectations? And then do we add in a good dash of wishful thinking when choosing a mate? Scientists think so (Jenkin, 2017). Cher says, “The trouble with women is that they get all excited about nothing. And then they marry him.” Sorry guys, but it is funny!
I love chocolate. Do you?
Shakespeare may have thought that music was the food of love, but we know better—chocolate is! Robby, one of my interviewees on the Spaz on Health podcast episode What is Love on Green Ink Radio answered the question, “What is Love?” with, “It’s like the same way I love chocolate. I eat so much chocolate and it makes me happy. But that’s limited to as much as you can eat. But I can always think of my girlfriend…it’s constant.” Robby feels that love is better than chocolate. I do agree, but hell, chocolate is a close second and doesn’t watch football at ear-splitting decibels!
Apparently, eating chocolate releases several neurotransmitters, one of which is called phenyl ethylamine. Phenyl ethylamine discharges certain endorphins (dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline) in the brain, which decrease stress and pain. These endorphins create a feel-good wash that mimics how we feel when we’re in love. It also creates excitement, well-being, focus and clarity, feelings of happiness, and a quickened pulse rate. Woohoo! All that for the price of a candy bar!
Chocolate has been around and wedded (I know, I know. I’ve been on a pun roll lately and can’t stop myself) to romance since ancient times. The history of chocolate starts with the name: Theobroma cacao, literally “food of the gods.” It has also been known and utilized as an aphrodisiac. Hellloooo Zeus!
Chocolate is believed to have been indigenous to the ancient Maya culture, where the royals drank it at ceremonies, particularly at weddings where cacao seeds symbolized the marital union. Nowadays, it’s equated with Valentine’s Day and love in general. Life imitates food instead of art…
Romantic love appears to be somewhat of a choice based on culture. In freedom-focused western cultures, it is the dominant love style. It’s no wonder that we give it positive valence in societies where we prioritize the autonomy of choice…and equality! Who can love something that one feels is inherently inferior? Feminism supports romantic love by elevating the status of both sexes within a union.
While bonding is an evolutionary imperative, passionate love (eros) versus companionate, pragmatic love seems to be culturally influenced. Chocolate, on the other hand, appears to be a universal. We all love chocolate with a passion, regardless of our heritage. Here’s to you, kid. Wishing you chocolate kisses.
De Munck, V., Korotayev, A., McGreevey, J. (2016 October-December). Romantic love and family organization: A case for romantic love as a biosocial universal. Evolutionary Psychology, 1-13.
Fisher, H. (2004). Why we love. New York, N: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
Jenkins, C.S. I. (2016). Knowing our own hearts: Self-reporting and the science of love. Philosophical Issues. Knowledge and Mind, 26, 226-242.
Jensen, J. F., & Rauer, A. J. (2014). Turning inward versus outward: Relationship work in young adults and romantic functioning. Personal Relationships, 21, 451-467.
Ogletree, S.M (August 5, 2010). With this ring I thee wed: Relating gender roles and love styles to attitudes towards engagement rings and weddings. Gender Issues, 66-77
Phiilips, L.A (2017, February). Getting close. Psychology Today, 47-52, 80.