Why do we need love?

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Sun, 2008-01-20 13:05.

The Beatles believed it. Mary J. Blige crooned about it. And Alfred Kinsey (the doyen of all things sex, love and lust), surmised that love is the answer to everything; (only sex brings up a lot more interesting questions).

So why are we so desperate to be loved? Is it because we've been fantasizing about our dream white wedding ever since we were eight years old and played kissing catchers with bridal Barbie and Ken? Is it because we don't feel valued until someone else can truly love us - flaws, warts, hairy legs and all? Or is it because we're afraid to be alone? And do we choose to fall in love, or is it something we're simply hardwired to do?

Either way, the dating industry seems to be making a motza out of exploiting our inexplicable hunger to love and be loved, evidenced by the ever-rising battalion of relationship books currently sitting up on my desk, in a pile large enough to shock even Dr. Phil out of his suspenders ...

"Ten commandments of dating!", "The Street Guide to Flirting!", "How to change a man!", "The Hookup Handbook!" "How to find love in just ten days!" Argh! And while the authors of these books occasionally do a semi-respectable job of attempting to tell us how to date (and understand) the objects of our affection, the majority don't seem to deal with the more pressing issue at hand: why we are so desperate to find love. Why do we need it? What's in it for us?

Speaking of Dr. Phil, (and these days I'm not sure who is the bigger publicity hound, him or Britney), his motto for women in his bestselling tome Smart Love: Fix the One You Want - Fix the One You Got, is somewhat disappointing to me, feeding on our insatiable hunger for love, without really explaining why we need it. By his reckoning it's time to "start being a bride instead of a bridesmaid" (sounds more like a line out of a Katherine Heigl flick to me) and hence we should embark on the GPS (Great Partner Search), with all the precision and hunger of a Surviver contestant fighting for immunity.

Thankfully anthropologist and love-expert Helen Fisher of Rutgers University has realised we're seriously lacking in information and has penned the definitive guide on the subject titled Why we need love. Her theory? The need to be loved is a physical drive no different to hunger, and comprises of three different facets: sex (which gets you out of the house and on the hunt); romantic love (which gives you those first-love giddy emotions), and attachment (long-term fulfilment).

"People don't die for sex," she told Good Morning America. "I've at looked at poetry all over the world, even as much as 4,000 years ago. People live for love, they die for love, they sing for love, they dance for love."

And the most unusual part of her research? It's the men that are the big love softies after all! "Men fall in love faster than women do, because men are so visual," she notes. "And three out of four people who kill themselves over love are men, not women."

So back to why we need love.

Fear of loneliness

Is it fear of loneliness? Helen Gurley Brown, the former editor-in-chief of women's bible Cosmopolitan magazine and author of Sex and The Single Girl (1962), says the answer is a resounding yes. (In taking a stand against this common belief, she refused to get married until she aged 37 and the right man had finally come along.)

"I believe that as many women over thirty marry out of being alone someday - not necessarily now but some day, as for love of or compatibility with a particular man," she writes.

My Single Female Friend (who by the way is a blonde bombshell who recently got burnt by a bona fide bad boy), is testament to Gurley Brown's hypothesis as she recently declared that she desperately wants a man because, "I am just so damn lonely".

(I didn't have the heart to tell her that the stench of desperation is a bigger buzz-killer than unshaven legs and a text from an ex in the middle of sex.)

But as one blogger recently wrote in an email to me: "loneliness is unattractive," and the more lonely and desperate singletons come across, the more unattractive they'll seem.

Society tells us we do

Another theory as to why we're all so obsessed with finding love is because society tells us we need to. As Gurley Brown writes; "I think a single woman's biggest problem is coping with the people who are trying to marry her off!" (And I'm sure many women can attest to that.)

We can't love ourselves until someone else does

Finally, while they say that we can't truly love another before we learn to love ourselves, what if that statement were the other way around? What if we truly couldn't love ourselves until someone else came along and stuck a "taken" sign on our forehead? Will we then feel like someone else can love us and therefore we can finally love ourselves? Now there's food for thought ...

Why do you need love and to be loved? Do you think people need love as much as food and sex? Who falls in love faster: men or women?

[Via - The Age

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