Everyone has a “need for love” of some kind. For women and men who believe that love is bonding, the “need to belong” is basically the “need for love.” Those who have a strong desire to belong to a group tend to think that love is a form of bonding.
Just imagine being dropped on an island alone for the rest of your life, like Robinson Crusoe, the protagonist of a novel by English writer Daniel Defoe (c. 1660–1731). You have food, a place to sleep, and comfort, but there isn’t a single other person around and no way to bond with loved ones. For the majority of men and women, these would be extremely challenging living conditions. For some, it is more challenging than for others.
The Basic Social Need to Belong and Be Accepted
As the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle noted, humans are social animals. Therefore, they have the need for social bonding, the need to belong, and the need to be accepted by others, like a tribe, kin, family, parent, or mating partner.
Many people are acutely aware of their lost connections to significant others when they are separated from them by being away from family or in a foreign country. Being rejected by a significant other is an especially challenging feeling.
Evolutionary Benefits of Belonging
Love as community bonding is the key survival mechanism that brings people together and strengthens bonds between them. Living in a community gives them a better chance to survive due to the support they provide to each other. Consequently, the need to belong is intrinsic to the nature of some animals and humans.
Love as Social Bonding
Love as a form of social bonding has biological and cultural evolutionary roots. In this sense, love is helping another survive and thrive. The acts of love are feeding, protecting, supporting, and caring about others. In other words, in a practical sense, “love” is doing something good for another person (Wierzbicka, 1999).
Social bonds increased the likelihood of survival for our ancestors. This bonding encouraged parents to keep their kids close and shield them from danger (Esposito et al., 2013). Attachment as bonding kept children close to their parents. As adults, those who had close relationships were more likely to survive, reproduce, and help their children grow up to maturity. To be without kin nearby would be detrimental (see Karandashev, 2019; 2022 for a review).
Physical and Psychological Survival Due to Social Bonding
Individuals have a better chance of surviving in a physical sense, such as maintaining sustenance and security, when they are a part of a social group. People who live in tribal communities feel safer in social relationships than those who live alone. Social cooperation provides the members of a community with better access to food. And they are better able to protect themselves from predators and aggressive foreigners.
In later stages of human evolution, the needs for psychological security and emotional bonding evolved into the most fundamental human motives. Having positive social connections helped not only with physical survival but also with psychological resilience.
People in traditional collectivistic societies tend to feel a higher need to belong compared to people in modern individualistic societies. Cultural values of Eastern-Asian collectivistic societies encourage the need to belong, connections, and kin relationships.
I extensively reviewed the evolutionary origins of bonding, the need to belong, and the need for love elsewhere (Karandashev, 2022, chapter 3).
The Basic Needs to Belong and to Love
Even though some people are more social than others, this deep need to belong is a fundamental human motivation (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). An individual’s need for social bonding motivates their desire to belong to and be accepted by a group or another person. It is fundamentally the desire for other people’s love.
As Wystan Auden, a British-American poet (1907–1973), wrote,
“We must love one another or die.”(W. H. Auden, “September 1, 1939”).