November 29, 2017 | Lexi Tillmann | 3,179 Comments Dear Researcher, I have been crazy in-love with this guy and I have no idea why! The worst part is that I know he isn’t good for me and our long term-goals aren’t aligned, but for some reason I can’t shake these feelings! I thought there was some evolutionary or biological reason we fall in-love; like love was supposed to be a feeling you cultivate for someone who would be a dependable partner and a good mate. If this is the case, why won’t these feelings go away or lead me to someone better? Please help me and explain what the purpose of love is! Sincerely, Confused and In-love? Dear Confused and In-love, I think a lot of times people oversimply love and reduce it to nothing more than the driving force behind sexual desire, reproduction, or finding a dependable partner because it’s hard to understand why it would exist otherwise. But all three of these things would be satisfied by the forces of attraction or infatuation. Anyone who has been in love, like yourself, could vouch that there is so much more involved. Love is impossible to quantify or define because it manifests itself differently for every person experiencing it. When you really get down to critically evaluating what love is, the utility of the phenomenon gets murky. While love has the power to make us feel happy or motivate us to improve, what is the purpose of such strong feelings that can even cause irrational or self-detrimental actions or heartbreak? “Love” looks different throughout time. For our hominid ancestors, love was seen as the force that promoted “serial pair bonding.” Couples would be “in love” long enough to conceive and raise a child until it reached independence (around 4 years). After the pair would split and move on to their next relationship. The biological reasoning behind serial bonding was to increase the genetic diversity of the population (Fisher, 2004, as cited in Hatfield, Rapson, & Martel, 2010). But now with people staying together longer, or couples choosing not to have children these original displays of love don’t seem to fit with our modern conceptions of it. This forces us to ask if the purpose of love has evolved as society has changed? Similarly, in a 1960s study, 76% of people (in a 1000-person sample) reported being okay with marrying out of convenience (Kephart, 1967, as cited in Hatfield, Rapson, & Martel, 2010). In a 1994 study American, Russian, and Japanese students were all asked: “If a person had all the other qualities you desired, would you marry him or her if you were not in love?” Results showed that only 11% of Americans, 18% of Japanese, and 37% of Russians would accept the proposal (Spreecher, et.al., 1994, as cited in Hatfield, Rapson, & Martel, 2010). These results show how love is valued across cultures. It would be beneficial from a mating standpoint to be with a partner that had ideal qualities, so turning down people who would be good partners indicates that there must be some sort of purpose to love beyond finding an ideal mate. Some argue that love is nothing more than attachment which is supposed to make you feel good. Research by Liebowitz (1983) found that as attachment grows “endorphins, peptide neurotransmitters that are chemically related to morphine, giving partners the feelings of safety, stability, tranquility, and peace” take over (Liebowitz, 1983, as cited in Jankowiak). This ties into attachment theory because as attachment grows people find security in their partners to be there as safe havens and secure bases. But this still doesn’t fully explain loves purpose in regards to why we sometimes fall for people who might not fulfill these need. To put it simply, while we can find justifications for the purpose of love in regards to reproduction, or even cultivating a secure relationship with another person, we have no true answers on the utility of romantic love because of how complex and multifaceted it is. Hatfield, E., Rapson, R. L., & Martel, L. D. (2010). Handbook of Cultural Psychology. New York: Guilford Press. Jankowiak, W. (n.d.). Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience?