Monday, February 11, 2008
What's the difference between sexual attraction and love?
Almost everybody, scientist and nonscientist alike, agrees that sexual attraction is different from true love; but it is also apparent that love, even after decades with the same partner, need not exclude sexual attraction. Love itself, if it is considered a desire for more than sexual intimacy, seems to be not one state but several. For example, the feeling of a young couple that they can do nothing alone can mature into a relationship in which each is relatively independent.
Yale psychologist Robert Sternberg suggests that love has three basic elements: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Typically, says Sternberg, passion is the key ingredient in the early stages of courting, but as the relationship matures, intimacy and commitment grow in importance.
The French writer Madame de Stael's definition of love is far more peotic. "Love is a symbol of eternity," she wrote almost two centuries ago. " It wipes out all sense of time, destroying all memory of a beginning and all fear of an end."