How Passionate Love Emerges from Arousal

Here is a psychophysiological secret about why we fall in love with someone at first sight. It happens in special circumstances of autonomic arousal and the exciting context of a situation. In the appropriate conditions, the extrinsic arousal effect transforms any extrinsic arousal into love and sexual attraction. When and how?

How Misattribution of Arousal Makes Us Fall in Love

In his book The Art of Love, Ovid, a first-century Roman poet, suggested that a man seeking to seduce a woman take her to a gladiatorial tournament. It would most likely arouse her sexual passion and increase her desire. Only intense and vivid emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, can trigger passionate love. Why does this phenomenon occur?

Modern research has provided evidence regarding the consequences of misattribution of arousal, which occurs when individuals erroneously attribute the source of their aroused state. When people experience arousal in their autonomic nervous system due to fear, they misattribute those physiological responses to passionate love and sexual arousal.

How Men Fell in Love on the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The well-known studies, which Dutton and Aron did, are often called the Capilano Suspension Bridge Study (Dutton and Aron, 1974). For the experiments, they used a suspension bridge, and for the control conditions, they used a strong bridge. People were scared when they saw the suspension bridge because it was so high off the ground. People would be scared of the suspension bridge, which was hanging over the river and wasn’t stable enough to walk on. On the other hand, the same experiment would not show fear when walking across a strong, stable bridge. Researchers used that condition as a comparison control.

A pretty female interviewer went up to 85 male pedestrians, some of whom were on a scary suspension bridge and some of whom were not. Before the interview, the person asking the questions asked them to fill out questionnaires with pictures from the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) and tell stories based on those pictures.

The stories told by the people standing on the scary bridge contained more sexual content. Also, these male participants were more likely to try to get in touch with the female interviewer after the test.

How Strong Arousal Enhances Our Attraction to Attractive Women and Decreases Our Attraction to Unattractive Women

Two additional studies provided further evidence that misattributing arousal can facilitate romantic attraction. During those experiments, specific activities—listening to audiotapes of gruesome murders or comedy routines—or running in place—triggered physiological arousal in the men (White, Fishbein, & Rutstein, 1981).

Following that, they viewed a pre-recorded interview featuring a woman who possessed either physical attractiveness or unattractiveness. They then evaluated the woman’s physical attractiveness and sexiness. Additionally, they rated their level of interest in dating her and kissing her.

The findings indicated that, under each of these experimental conditions,

  • First, men had the impression that attractive women were more sexily attractive when they were first physically aroused by the experiments than men who were not aroused.
  • Second, men had the impression that unattractive women were less sexually attractive when they were first sexually aroused by the experiments, compared to men who were not aroused.

Therefore, prior states of arousal amplified both positive reactions to attractive women and negative reactions to unattractive women, contingent upon cognitively appropriate evaluation (White, Fishbein, & Rutstein, 1981).

How to Make Someone Fall in Love

I believe that the psychophysiological mechanism of arousal transfer offers a solid explanation for the transition of pleasurable emotions from sexual attraction to romantic attraction (Karandashev, 2017, p. 270).

There have been many variations of these kinds of experiments in the following years, illustrating how the arousal transfer effect makes men and women fall in love. They all replicated the scientific validity of the effects that arousal has on attraction.

So, what personal lesson can we take from this research? Next time, when you want someone to fall in love with you, bring him or her on some adventurous journey or exciting circumstances.

What Occurs in Our Brain When We Fall in Love with Someone?

The need for love is one of the most basic physiological and psychological needs people have. We need to love someone and be loved by somebody. Although people’s experiences and expressions of love may vary across cultures and situations, their basic human needs for love are still universal across the world (Karandashev, 2019).

I wrote about how our brain developed the ability to love in another article.

The activation of certain neural and physiological mechanisms in our body and brain generates the psychological experience and expression of love. These biological mechanisms for the capacity and necessity to love have developed in our mammalian ancestors throughout the course of biological evolution (Karandashev, 2022).

How Our Brain Works When We Fall in Love

Studies of the neurophysiological processes involved in our feelings of love have proliferated in the last two decades. Brain imaging techniques have been a valuable method to study human cerebral functions associated with love and romantic relationships.

Neuroscientists have traditionally investigated the subcortical structures of reward-related systems involved in the experience of love. Later neuroimaging studies showed that, in addition to these subcortical structures, different cortical networks and cognitive factors play an important role in reward-related systems associated with the experience of love.

Several scientists investigated how men and women feel in the early stages of romantic love and what occurs in their brains and bodies. Early-stage romantic love often induces euphoria.

What is happening in our brains when we are falling in love? According to Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist at Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and her colleagues, the first activation of love occurs in a primitive part of the brain’s reward system that is located in the midbrain. This finding once again confirms that our ability to love stems from the long evolutionary history of our animals’ ancestors. It is possible that romantic love originated from a mammalian drive to pursue preferred mates.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Love

Lucy Brown and her colleagues studied seven men and ten women who were “in love” using the method of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Some of these participants were intensely in love, while others were moderately in love or had a low thrill for their partner.

Participants in this study alternately perceived a photograph of their beloved and a photograph of another familiar person that researchers exposed to them in the fMRI machine. When participants perceived the photo of their romantic partner, they experienced a feeling of love. What occurred in their brain? Researchers recorded brain activation in the midbrain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA). This is the part of the brain connected to meeting basic needs, such as eating when we are hungry and drinking when we are thirsty.

Professor Brown commented,

“It’s the area of the brain that controls things like swallowing and other basic reflexes. While we often think about romantic love as this euphoric, amorphous thing and as a complex emotion, the activation we see in this very basic part of the brain is telling us that romantic love is actually a drive to fulfill a basic need.”

The Hormones of Love

Stephanie Cacioppo, a professor from the University of Chicago, and her colleagues revealed more findings on how love affects our brains.

Researchers found 12 areas of the brain that are activated to release chemicals such as dopamine, the hormone associated with “feel-good,” oxytocin, the hormone associated with “cuddle hormone,” and adrenaline, which stimulates a euphoric sense of purpose. These findings also showed that the brain’s reward circuit, which includes the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the prefrontal cortex, is sensitive to behaviors that induce pleasure. These parts of the brain are active when we are talking about a loved one, and these areas have increased blood flow.

When these processes are occurring in the brain, our level of serotonin, a hormone responsible for the regulation of appetite and intrusive anxious thinking, decreases. Low levels of serotonin are common among men and women experiencing anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.

“This explains why people in the early stages of love can become obsessed with small details, spending hours debating about a text to or from their beloved,”

Stephanie Cacioppo

How Our Brain Developed the Ability to Love

Love is one of our core psychological and biological needs. We need to love, and we need to be loved. These needs are cross-culturally universal, even though the way people experience and express their love may differ across societies and contexts (Karandashev, 2019).

As a cross-cultural psychological phenomenon, love stems from some basic neural and physiological processes that occur in our brain and body. The need and capability to love evolved over a long history of biological evolution (Karandashev, 2022).

The Neurophysiological Evolution of Love

The evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system (ANS) has provided a neurophysiological basis for emotional processes related to the experience and expression of love, such as reproduction, proximity, and safety (Porges, 1998). Sexual arousal, passionate sexual activities, and long-term pair bonding develop as a result of phylogenetic changes in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The vagus nerve of the mammalian autonomic nervous system (ANS) is anatomically connected to the cranial nerves that control social interaction between individuals through vocalization and facial expression. Subsequently, courting, love, and seduction behaviors develop.

Mammal Neural Systems for Love

Mammal brain systems exhibit specific neural activity patterns related to sexual behavior, affectionate emotions, and love. Several brain systems are involved in mating, including neural systems for sensory perception and cognitive and emotional responses to the object of love.

Dopaminergic reward pathways are the specific brain mechanisms involved in sexual and romantic attraction (Dixson, 1998, 2009; Fisher, Aron, & Brown, 2006; Panksepp, 1998).

Passionate attraction during courtship in mammalian species is directly associated with increased levels of central dopamine and norepinephrine, as well as decreased levels of central serotonin in the brain’s reward pathways (Fisher, 2004; Herbert, 1996).

Mammalian Human Brain

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in humans has revealed that passionate attraction and love are associated with activity in primitive brain regions (Aron et al., 2005; Bartels & Zeki, 2000, 2004; Fisher, Aron, & Brown, 2006; Ortigue et al., 2010, see for review, Karandashev, 2022). Passionate love involves the brain’s subcortical reward pathway and motivation systems focusing on a specific person. Thus, basic evolutionary mechanisms embed the basic emotion of love. This form of love could have appeared early in hominid evolution, providing people with emotional signals for mate selection (Fisher, 2004).

How to Avoid Date Night Boredom and Passion Decline

The article describes how a date night, and a romantic relationship can become boring and what partners can do to make them more passionate.

Many love scholars consider passion to be a key feature of romantic love and the beginning of romantic relationships. The boost of passion appears so high that it seems like its intensity will never fade. However, keeping the spark of passionate love alive is challenging.

How to Maintain Passion in a Romantic Relationship

In romantic relationships, passion entails intense feelings of emotional and sexual longing for a partner. In European and European-American cultures, many people believe that they can be happier when their romantic relationships are more passionate. However, the reality of relationships shows that passion, which is usually high when a romantic relationship starts, tends to fade over time as the relationship evolves (Karandashev, 2019; 2022).

You can certainly foster passion in long-term relationships by participating in exciting activities with a partner, such as travel, hiking, or date nights. People can gain new perceptions of a relationship and themselves through these kinds of activities, especially when they are distinctively special.

For instance, you might discover that you enjoy camping, hear various political viewpoints, or encounter various cultural practices and cuisines. Being engaged in these events may lead to greater sexual arousal, passion, and relationship satisfaction. This psychological phenomenon refers to the “excitation transfer.”

The excitation-transfer effect explains the secret of falling in love instantly. It also explains how sexual arousal transfers to other emotions.

The advantages of participating in an exciting activity with a partner are evident. However, many have difficulties doing so. For example, some people may not be very good at setting up exciting dates with their romantic partners. Others may experience difficulties or be stressed by something else. They might be ill. They may have a hard time finding childcare, or they may be strapped for cash.

What Is the Boredom of Date Night and a Relationship?

Another problem is that one of the partners or both can become bored in a relationship rut, also known as boredom.

Boredom is a dissatisfying emotional state that can affect all aspects of a person’s life, including their relationships. At its most extreme, relationship boredom is apathy associated with feeling trapped and not wanting to be around the partner.

Typically, a person feeling bored in a relationship can feel like they have lost something once positive. You may feel as though the spark, fun, and laughter have disappeared. ‘Spice things up’ is a common piece of advice given to individuals who feel stuck in a rut. However, does it work?

Boredom Affects the Frequency and Quality of Date Nights

The feeling of boredom makes it more difficult to add excitement to the relationship. To investigate the problem, Cheryl Harasymchuk, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, studied how people maintain happy relationships.

In a recent study, the authors tracked the relationships of couples who were already in committed relationships. Researchers monitored their experiences on a daily basis over three weeks, followed by a three-month follow-up.

The authors revealed that on days when partners were more bored in their relationship than usual, they had a lower occurrence of exciting, shared activities (such as date nights).

Furthermore, when men or women who were more bored than usual went on dates, they had dates of lower quality and experienced lower feelings of enjoyment, passion, closeness, and satisfaction. The authors also discovered that men or women who were bored at the start of the study had fewer exciting dates and less relationship passion three months later. Thus, oddly, just when couples need it the most, bored partners are less likely to engage in date nights. Even if they do, the quality of their dates may be lower.

How to Avoid a Boring Date Night and the Decline of Passion

What can couples do, then, to rekindle their passion and break out of a rut?

First of all, you should remember that not every type of date night will be ideal for you. A couple may attend a play as an idea for an exciting date. While it can become another couple’s disappointment. This does not mean that you must go “bungee jumping.”

Talk with your partners about what will fit the level of excitement in your relationship. What fascinates you two? Attempt a novel, exotic restaurant? Or testing your teamwork to see if you can survive a terrifying haunted house? Even discussing potential outcomes can occasionally be exciting.

Partners may also try a variety of activities before settling on one that appeals to both of them in their relationship. For instance, both a man and a woman may not enjoy dancing or rock climbing, but they might enjoy taking a cooking class together.

Partners’ expectations are also important. They may need to adjust their beliefs in order to avoid unrealistic goals, such as recreating the intense feelings from the beginning of the relationship. Instead, partners should concentrate on being present in the moment and being thankful for the time spent with their loved ones.

Finally, there are numerous spices in the “spice things up” cabinet. If you can’t find the right ingredient for your love and relationship, ask around or look it up on the internet.

Lastly, doing fun things together is just one way to make a relationship more passionate. Spending time apart doing hobbies can give couples new things to talk about and give the relationship new energy in terms of how each person feels and how the other person sees them.

The Art of Making Love in Roman Culture, Part 1, What Is “His Task”

Many love scholars have heard of Ovid, the Roman poet of the ancient Roman Empire.He is famous for his series of three books, “Ars Amatoria” (The Art of Love). The books presented the poems with practical advice for men and women on how to make love.

Ars Amatoria presented a fascinating depiction of the hedonistic and sophisticated life of the Roman aristocracy of that time. Ovid’s advice can still be interesting to know for modern people. The books instructed men on how to find and keep a woman. The books also gave women advice on how to win and keep a man’s love.

The translation and publication of Ovid’s books in 1885 presented just a literal English translation in prose, not in its original poetic form. However, the recent translation and publication of 2001 provided their poetic translation.

Let’s take a look at some excerpts from the first book. Its content is mostly about how to find a woman and how to keep her (Kline, 2001, Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: The Art of Love). Ovid suggested learning how to love by reading his lines. He explains that love is led by art. Then he presents several examples. They are difficult to read without understanding the context of Roman culture at the time. Nevertheless, let’s try:

“Should anyone here not know the art of love,

read this, and learn by reading how to love.

By art the boat’s set gliding, with oar and sail,

by art the chariot’s swift: love’s ruled by art.

Automedon was skilled with Achilles’s chariot reins,

Tiphys in Thessaly was steersman of the Argo,

Venus appointed me as guide to gentle Love:

I’ll be known as Love’s Tiphys, and Automedon.

It’s true Love’s wild, and one who often flouts me:

but he’s a child of tender years, fit to be ruled.

Chiron made the young Achilles perfect at the lyre,

and tempered his wild spirits through peaceful art.

He, who so terrified his enemies and friends,

they say he greatly feared the aged Centaur.

That hand that Hector was destined to know,

was held out, at his master’s orders, to be flogged.

I am Love’s teacher as Chiron was Achilles’s,

both wild boys, both children of a goddess.

Yet the bullock’s neck is bowed beneath the yoke,

and the spirited horse’s teeth worn by the bit.

And Love will yield to me, though with his bow

he wounds my heart, shakes at me his burning torch.

The more he pierces me, the more violently he burns me,

so much the fitter am I to avenge the wounds.

Nor will I falsely say you gave me the art, Apollo,

no voice from a heavenly bird gives me advice,

I never caught sight of Clio or Clio’s sisters

while herding the flocks, Ascra, in your valleys:

Experience prompts this work: listen to the expert poet:

I sing true: Venus, help my venture!

Far away from here, you badges of modesty,

the thin headband, the ankle-covering dress.

I sing of safe love, permissible intrigue,

and there’ll be nothing sinful in my song.

Now the first task for you who come as a raw recruit

is to find out who you might wish to love.

The next task is to make sure that she likes you:

the third, to see to it that the love will last.

That’s my aim, that’s the ground my chariot will cover:

that’s the post my thundering wheels will scrape.”

Kline, A. S. (2001). Translation of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: The Art of Love.

In another post, I quoted some other excerpts from the next part of the book.

What Did Ovid Advise on the Art of Making Love?

The Roman poet of the ancient Roman Empire is well known by many love scholars for his “Ars Amatoria” (The Art of Love)-an instructional series in three books of poems about what is love and how to make love with the art of seduction and intrigue. Ovid’s very practical instructions on making love have been quite popular among educated and aristocratic people throughout centuries.

Who was Ovid?

Ovid was a famous Roman poet who lived between 43 BCE and 17 CE in the ancient Roman Empire.He was well known for his Metamorphoses, a collection of mythological and legendary stories that he told in chronological order, from the beginning of the world until the 1st century BCE.

The Ars Amatoria, written by Ovid in three books, presented a fascinating depiction of the sophisticated and hedonistic life of the Roman aristocracy. The books advised men on how to find a woman and how to keep her. The books also gave women advice on how to win and keep the love of a man.

How Did Ovid Advise Men and Women to Love?

 Ovid was a very good observer and psychologist. He knew a lot about modern women’s and men’s natures.

The primary purpose of Ovid’s “Ars Amoris” was to teach men how to out-trump the presumably natural cunning of women. Nevertheless, he did not forget the female readers. He provided them with many tips on the effective means of enticing fickle men.

In the Remedia Amoris, Ovid described a variety of remedies for curing Cupid’s wounds. Many of them are still suitable today. Ovid’s Elegies and Heroides are full of modern references and insights into the meanings of love.

Several of these points are briefly mentioned below.

How Ovid Depicts Female Sexuality and Passion

Ovid’s poems frequently describe the images of female sexuality and passion as excessively gross and malicious. They are, however, not so crude and cynical as those of Martial and Catullus, two other great Roman poets of that time.

Ovid’s poems still frequently express frivolity that may mislead the current generation’s aesthetic judgment. They still support the myth that Virgil and Horace are better poets than Ovid. Nevertheless, Ovid appears by far the best in terms of originality and inventiveness.

Ovid was unquestionably the first poet who had a conception of the high possibilities of love. According to Henry Finck’s judgment, he was the greatest and the only great love-poet before Dante. Even so, he was wholly devoted to the ancient sensual side of love. His genius enabled him to anticipate and depict the modern images of love (Finck (1887/2019, p. 91).

Some of Ovid’s Advice on Making Love

Roman women in Ovid’s poems often display their coyness in a crude way, as if to a savage. However, it doesn’t seem like all of them understood its full value. So, the poet often gives them advice on how to use it in a more subtle way. One of his rules for women was that if they hurt a man’s feelings, the best way to make him forget it is to hurt themselves. This will bring things back into balance.

Another passage shows that when women are aware of their beauty, this makes them brave, coy, and cruel.

Ovid also knew that a short absence favors and a long absence kills passion.

He warns men against feigning love, which can spark real passion.

Men are told that having courage and confidence is half the battle when it comes to making love.

Ovid also said that disappointed lovers should know that failure can be a good thing if it makes people feel sorry for them and lets love come in as friendship. 

How Ovid Depicts Mixed Feelings in Love

Ovid tends to use emotional exaggeration and depict the mixed feelings that come with love.

He compares the number of love’s tortures to the number of berries on the trees or the number of shells on the beach. He says that true love always causes pain and suffering. He said that “the sweetest torture on earth is women.”

The two things that go with Cupid’s love arrows are flattery and illusion. “

But “even if the beloved misleads me with false words, hope itself will give me great pleasure” could only have been written by someone who knew that love is also creative. In another part of the poem, the poet says that intellectual culture must replace the charms of youth that have worn off.

What Is Erotic Love?

What is love? What is sex? What is sexual love? And what is erotic love?

For love studies to be truly scientific, there are a lot of scholarly questions that need to be answered. As I noted in another article, love and sex are inextricably linked to one another. Yet, there are several concepts related to these two that researchers should distinguish in this field of research. One of those is the concept of “erotic love.”

What is “sex” and what is “sexual love”?

The concepts of “sex” and “sexual love” have different phenomenology. Even though they may have behaviorally similar forms and expressions, they play their distinct psychological roles and associated with difference experiences (Karandashev, 2022a). How different are they?

“Sexual desire” is easily aroused, fleeting, and short-lived. Any sexually attractive individual is capable of satisfying sexual desire.”

“Sexual love” is a collection of more intimate and complicated feelings related to a certain other person. Only a specific individual can fulfill a person’s sexual urge.”

What is “love,” what is “eros,” and what is “erotic love”?

Love is directly yet intricately connected with sexual and erotic feelings. According to numerous stories, novels, and movies, both men and women have a preference for the beautiful and handsome. Such expectations are in their romantic dreams. Love and eroticism in life are tied to each other in many different ways (Featherstone, 1998).

The word “erotic” originates from the Greek word eros (érōs). The ancient Greek “eros” first emerged in the sense of aesthetic appreciation and yearning for beauty (Lomas, 2018). In modern scholarship and public opinion, however, this word often takes a different twist of meaning, associated with sexual and passionate connotations (see for review, Karandashev, 2019).

In ancient Greek origins, the concept of érōs is intimately linked with epithymia (as sexual love). However, both describe different emotional experiences. The word érōs conveys meaning beyond physical sexual desire. The word érōs implies a broader meaning—an appreciation of beauty.

Because the attractive appearance of a man or a woman easily triggers these feelings, the word certainly conveys connotations with emotions of passionate love (Tillich, 1954). Other subtle differences which scholars convince us to make are (1) the difference between elation of romantic sex-esthetic attraction and sexual arousal of sexual desire, and (2) the difference between non-sexual affectionate sexual love (Grant, 1976).

The Love of Beauty Is Erotic

“Erotic love” means that a lover perceives his or her beloved as a beautiful object worthy of aesthetic admiration. “Erotic love is about aesthetic pleasure, while sexual love is about sensual (sexual) pleasure.” (Karandashev, 2022a).

Both are certainly closely intertwined. In sexually stimulating situations, erotic can easily transition to sensual and sexual experiences. People frequently perceive erotic love as inextricably linked to sexual and passionate love. Such a mixing of these experiences is natural for complex human emotions. However, some people consider a partner’s attractive body, face, expressions, and other appearances to be “sexy,” while others consider them to be “beautiful.” It is an individual yet culturally determined experience associated with personal dominant motivations that the lover has in mind at the time. It can be a strong or moderate sexual drive. It can be the cultural values of a society that stress being “sexy” or being “beautiful.”

Multisensory Erotic Attraction

When a man or a woman experiences erotic love, the lover admires the beloved for his or her attractive physical appearance as perceived through various sensory impressions: visual, auditory, tactile-kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory. Interpersonal perception of lovers involves multisensory processes and several sensory impressions that are inextricably linked with each other (Karandashev et al., 2016, 2020). The dynamics of interaction are also involved. Men and women not only passively admire their partners, but also approach them, speak, sing, dance, touch each other, smile, hug, cuddle, kiss, and so on. Such dynamic expressive behavior often tells them more about erotic attractiveness than static body and facial appearance.

All of these perceptions and aesthetic qualities merge to produce what we call “erotic attraction” and “erotic love.” A lover admires his or her beloved for having attractive erotic impressions (Karandashev, 2022a).

Can you recognize erotic love from the facial expression of another person?

According to studies, people generally distinguish the faces of people experiencing love from those experiencing other emotions such as joy, sadness, anger, and fear. They can also recognize specific types of love, such as erotic love and tender love experienced by another person. Both erotic love and tender love have different facial expressions from joy and each other. A person expresses erotic love in semi-closed eyes, while tender love is expressed through a slight head tilt and a slight smile (Bloch, Orthous, & Santibanez, 1987; Hatfield & Rapson, 1993).

The Stories of Nigerian Love in the 1960s

The transformations of West African societies in the mid-20th century substantially changed the social conditions of people’s lives. Increasing urbanization was among those. Western cultural influences had affected the modernization of cultural life in Nigerian cities.

Let us consider the examples of romantic love from the ethnographic field study of Leonard Plotnicov, which he conducted in urban life in Nigeria. He presented several illustrative cases of romantic love from Nigeria between 1960 and 1962 (Plotnicov, 1995).

Romantic Lust or Romantic Love?

From Plotnicov’s observations and conversations, it appears that romantic love was of little interest for many men and women. The expression of lust, however, was an important part of the masculine gender role. For many Nigerian men, talking about sex and lust was more exciting than talking about love. Philandering was a common male behavior in relationships with women.

For some men, fulfilling their lust was like pursuing a favorite sport; they did this with great and passionate interest. They, however, had little interest in real romantic love and serious relationships.

Many Nigerian marriages did not involve love, both during courtship and during marital life. Love was rather an extramarital affair.

Many men had girlfriends and lovers before being married or during their marriages. But only wealthy men could afford to engage in frequent philandering. Men usually make an effort to keep their womanizing secret from their wives.

Nevertheless, the majority of women appeared to be aware of these indulgences of their husbands when they happened. Many wives had reason to be suspicious of their husbands’ womanizing. However, some were reluctant to voice their jealousy or protest against such extramarital relationships. In their spare time, men shared tales of philandering over rounds of canned beer in the neighborhood taverns. Occasionally, men told how their wives made trouble when they learned who their girlfriend was.

The Nigerian Men’s Stories of Romantic Lust

For example, Isaac, Musa, and Olu never experienced real romantic love. They preferred philandering and womanizing. Olu appeared to be a staunch traditionalist and a good Christian. He had no formal education, did not speak English, and always got dressed in traditional style. Unlike Olu, Isaac and Musa had an extensive Western education. Both were proud of their good command of the Queen’s English. Isaac always wore western attire, while Musa preferred to dress in traditional styles. However, both Isaac and Musa were modern-oriented men. However, terms like “modern” and “traditional” were not imperfectly precise in these cases (Plotnicov, 1995).

The Nigerian Men’s Stories of Romantic Love

Some other Nigerian men had little interest in womanizing behavior. They were more serious in their relationships.

In the other four cases, which Plotnicov portrayed, men had fallen in love. They were culturally conservative. Their descriptions evidently indicated that they experienced real romantic love. But the love of these men showed no evidence of Western cultural influences involved in the way they loved. This romantic love appeared to be culturally specific. And what was interesting was that the Western and modern-oriented Nigerian men expressed their experience of love in the same way as the culturally conservative men. Their romantic love was the fervent, ardent, and passionate desire for another, without whom a man felt utterly incomplete (Plotnicov, 1995). These examples were illustrative to show the cases of romantic love in Nigeria, where romantic love under traditional Nigerian conditions was unexpectedly present. As Leonard Plotnicov demonstrated in those anthropological cases, for the most part, these occurrences of romantic love could not be attributed to the Western influence of romantic love ideas. The cases could not also be attributed to other exogenous influences. Thus, Nigerians had their own endogenous cultural understanding of romantic love (Plotnicov, 1995).

Modern Western Love in Nigeria in the 1960s

Nevertheless, many instances of romantic love among modern-oriented men in Nigerian cities, which Leonard Plotnicov described in his ethnographic reports, reflected Western cultural penetra­tion and acculturation. Modern-generation men were typically younger, worked in trades or occupations introduced from Europe, and preferred to live in cities. They were commonly fond of various Western cultural products.

Romantic Love in the Taita Marriage Culture

The Taita are an East African ethnic group that has lived in Kenya for four or five hundred years. They are also known as Wadawida or Wataita. The Taita are mostly farmers who reside in the southern mountainous region of the country. The Taita tribes consist of small communities known as clans and extended families.

In another article, I talked about the three kinds of love the Taita have: infatuation, lust, and romantic love. Each of these has its own feelings and ways of expression.

The third type of love, “romantic love,” is of particular interest to us in the context of this article. The Taita “romantic love” is an intricate emotional experience that combines passion and affection. This type of romantic love, as opposed to infatuation, is a more enduring affectionate bond. For the Taita, “romantic love” unites the characteristics of passionate romantic love and companionate romantic attachment. It seems that Taita does not distinguish between “romantic love” and “companionship love.” According to the Jim Bell’s anthropological field study, love is still present in the Taita marital relationships, even though some of them are arranged marriages, some are polygamous (Bell, 1995).

The Respected Taita Family System

The Taita culture follows a patrilineal pattern of descent that prioritizes the interests of the larger lineage over those of the individual. People accept and respect the passion that makes up folklore love stories. Although they respect the passionate feelings of youth, they encourage men and women to keep these strong emotions apart from the conventional marriage arrangements. They strive to limit individual passion so that these strong emotions do not disturb a normal relationship and the societal order.

Family Responsibilities Are the Priority in the Taita Marriage Culture

The people of the older generation encourage young and unmarried Taita men and women to keep their romantic and passionate relationships within limits to avoid diminishing their commitments to the extended family. So, many Taita men and women do their best to fulfill their responsibilities to the lineage and their family. They comply with their duties in an arranged marriage.

How Romantic Love Fits in the Taita Culture of Marriage

Once the responsibilities of an arranged marriage are fulfilled, romantic love may start to play a major role in choosing a new wife. Those who were in arranged marriages, not being romantically interested in their wives, might be in love with their “outside lover.”

Many Taita men admitted wanting to be in a relationship with another woman. However, they were frequently directed at someone unattainable. Only a few men admitted to being really in such a relationship. Nevertheless, these “affairs of the heart” often happen in Taita society.

One man who Jim Bell interviewed commented that

“it can happen that your heart is lost to one you can never marry, but you love that person for your life.” A middle-aged parent con­curred, saying that “this notion is not a rare one.” Many older men expressed their love for a woman who “belonged to another man.” Some informants assured me that they had lovers elsewhere or that some of the children I had interviewed were the offspring of lovers who “played in the forest together.”

(Bell, 1995, p.159).

How Taita Men and Women Manage Their Extramarital Affairs

The Taita keep their extramarital affairs very private, following elaborate rules. Taita lovers are discreet in their relationships and rarely show their emotions or affectionate relationships in public. They act as if they are strangers whenever they meet.

Usually, Taita strive to balance their family obligations and personal desires. They acknowledge that there are various reasons for keeping men and women in marriage. They are doing everything possible to express their emotions and love without undermining the existing social order.

The first and second marriages are intended to honor family responsibilities. After that, a man can allow himself to make his love the primary interest by taking on a new wife.

Dramatic Love Stories of the Taita Past

An old Taita woman admitted, recalling her younger years, that she was infatuated with three or four men at different times during her early teenage years.

“Her father had, however, arranged a marriage for her with one of hispeers. She had eight children. Several old men remembered their affairs in sharp detail, as though theyhappened yesterday, rather than some forty or fifty years earlier. A woman, also in her seventies, stressed (through an interpreter) that “even when I was a young girl, women were having babies before marriage. And others had lovers in the forest after marriage. “

(Bell, 1995, pp.160-161).

In private conversations with anthropologists, the old Taita people openly expressed their views on infatuation, lust, and love. They compared the stories from when they were young with modern life. They agreed that the Taita’s attitudes toward love had shifted with the passage of time and social conditions. (Bell, 1995).

Three Types of Love in the Taita Culture

The Taita are an ethnic group from East Africa that has lived there for about four or five hundred years. They are often referred to as Wadawida or Wataita. The Taita are mostly farmers who live in a mountainous area in the south of Kenya. The Taita tribes are organized into separate groups called clans, living in their own hilly areas. Clans consist of extended families. The Taita people fully engage not only in sex but also embrace love.

How Love Is Different from Sex in the Taita Culture

The topic of sexuality was prevalent in early missionary and ethnographic accounts of African social life and gender relations. Observers did not mention anything about love in relations between young men and women.

Therefore, European and American anthropologists were ethnocentric in their views and thought that Africans could not love romantically, only sexually. They considered their “native” love and sex as primitive. Christian missionaries taught them about romantic love, “proper” sexual conduct, marital values, and family virtues. They refined and acculturated the Taita people’s understanding of sex, lust, and love. So, African indigenous beliefs and Western values come together in the African culture of gender and family relations (Bell, 1995; Kenyatta, 1938/1953; Jablow & Hammond, 1977).

Culturally sensitive anthropological investigations discovered that people in East African societies had their own unique beliefs about sex, lust, and love before Europeans arrived. It appears that their traditional love stories and folk narratives have often been romantic, not only sexual (Bell, 1995).

A field study in the early 1990s among the Taita of Kenya showed that cultural ideas of romantic and passionate love were natural for East African culture. The Taita words “ashiki” and “pendo” already distinguished “desire” and “love” in Taita culture prior to the arrival of Christian missionaries. In their folk tales, both love and sexual affairs are common (Bell, 1995).

What Are the Three Kinds of Love in Taita Society?

According to Bell’s study (1995), the Taita people discern the three kinds of love, which differ in their styles of romantic expression. These are (1) infatuation, (2) lust, and (3) romantic love.

The First Type of Taita Love

The first kind of love – “infatuation” – is portrayed as a strong attraction toward someone, an emotional longing, accompanied by irresponsible feelings. At first, it appears like passionate Western love, even though the Taita do not perceive infatuation in this way. The Taita people of the older generation consider this type of passionate feeling “a kind of sickness” or misguided infatuation. This type of love typically characterizes the emotions of youth in their early years of 10–12 or older. These feelings usually last for a few weeks or months before they wane away.

The Second Type of Taita Love

A second kind of love—”lust”—is described as a sexually motivated yearning for someone. It is a sort of love primarily based on sexual desire, not romantic love. The Taita recognize that this love does not persist for a long time.

This type of love among young men and women can be solely in their sensual imaginations. When these relationships happen in real life, cultural norms place strong control and censorship on their possibility. The Taita society limits the partner’s choice.

Many young Taita men of 18–24 years old feel a sexual desire for women in their 30s or 40s. On the other hand, young women of 15–17 years old favor mating with men who are of their age at 18–22 years. However, they are rarely able to marry them. These discrepancies in attraction and cultural limitations make these sexual longings and yearnings unrealistic.

The Third Type of Taita Love

The third kind of love—”romantic love”—is a complex emotional experience combining the feelings of passionate ardor and deep affection. Different from infatuation, this type of romantic love is a more enduring affectionate bond. The Taita notion of romantic love combines the qualities of passionate romantic love and companionate attachment love. Yet, people still refer to this kind of love as “romantic love” rather than “companionship love.”

The younger generation of Taita can witness such romantic love between spouses, between a husband and a “favorite wife.” It is adoration and affection of “love out of the heart” or “love for life.” Young Taita men and women consider it to be “the best type of love” that one could dream of in their life.

Young men believe that the desire for this kind of love motivates men to look for and marry a second, third, or fourth wife. Young women like to speak of the “luck” of those older siblings who married for love. When a man and a woman are in a romantic relationship but unable to marry each other, they may carry on their affair for years. The Taita people witnessed many stories of such romantic affairs.

Love Is in the Air Among Taita Men and Women

Taita love, whether it is infatuation, lust, or romantic love, motivates men and women to engage in either a short-term or long-term relationship. Love is in the air on any weekend night in the hills of the Taita community.

Some Taita marriages occur out of interest in social alliances or economic benefits. In other cases, men and women marry for love of the heart. Any type of love, whether it is momentary infatuation, strong sexual yearning, or romantic longing, can lead to long-lasting committed relationships and marriages in Taita society (Bell, 1995).