Is Romantic Love Necessary?

Not everybody is familiar with limerence. Tennov found that some people at her lectures were bewildered. They did not recognize her description of limerence and said they had never experienced any such thing. Tennov called these people nonlimerents. Nonlimerents said they never felt crushes or passionate episodes of falling in love. The very idea sounded alien and a little crazy. However, some told Tennov that her description of limerence helped them understand the attitudes of others. Previously it seemed all the attention paid to romantic love in popular culture was like a conspiracy to make something out of nothing.

What did Tennov discover, when lecturing about limerence? What are two very different types of nonlimerent persons?

Tennov claimed to find two categories of nonlimerents (people who never experienced the "falling in love" syndrome).

1. Some nonlimerent people had a low ability to experience joy, ecstasy, or intense pleasure of any kind. (This sounds like the disorder called anhedonia or inability to experience pleasure.)

2. Some nonlimerents were anything but pleasureless. They were guiltless hedonists (pleasure seekers) who were sexually liberated and could not relate to the idea of focusing all their love on one person. They regarded limerence as rather silly, even psychologically unhealthy, because it promoted overdependence.

Tennov suggested that people who advocate guilt-free sex with many partners are generally nonlimerents who do not feel emotional attachment to a single person.

How do some experts feel about romantic love?

There are indeed experts who find the whole idea of romantic love silly and unrealistic. Goode (1959), for example, wrote of the Romantic Love Complex that (he said) distorted American thinking on the topics of love and marriage.

What did Goode call the "Romantic Love Complex"?

Goode defined the Romantic Love Complex as "an ideological prescription that falling in love is a highly desirable basis of courtship and marriage." To Goode, this was a questionable prescription. He pointed out that most cultures around the world do not find romantic love necessary or even desirable as a precursor to marriage.

How did Joseph Campbell trace the evolution of the "romantic love" ideal?

Comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell also seemed to regard the ideal of romantic love as distinctively Western, although praiseworthy. He traced the ideal of an emotional and committed partnership to notions of courtly love such as those found in the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which emerged in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Is romantic love found in all human cultures?

Perhaps there are particular ways of defining romantic love which make it seem like an invention of Western Culture. However, the desire for love is not a Western invention. Buss (1994) summarized modern research this way:

Feelings of love are not recent products of particular Western views. Romantic love is universal. Love thoughts, emotions, and actions are experienced by people in all known cultures, from the Zulu tribe in the southern tip of Africa to the Eskimos in the cold northern ice caps of Alaska. In the International Mate Selection Project [research on the Darwinian concept of evolution through mate selection] we found that "mutual attraction or love" was more desired than any other characteristic we examined. (p.18)


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