Have you experienced falling in love? What was it like? Did it feel natural?
One biological theory suggests that falling in love is like “being drunk.” The love hormone can make people fall in love, making them “drunk” with erotic passion and altruism. Scientists who prescribed to this theory identified the hormone associated with falling in love as oxytocin, a hormone produced in one part of the brain called hypothalamus which is said to be playing a significant role in bonding, falling in love, and making friendship. To some social scientists at the School of Psychology at Birmingham University, the love hormone of oxytocin has an intoxicating effect to lovers similar to alcohol. It relaxes people and removes their social inhibition, anxiety, and fear when falling in love with their partners. It increases their pro-social behavior such as generosity, empathy, and trust and makes them feel more relaxed, happy, and confident in their romantic relationship.
The biological approach to romantic love suggests that falling in love is primarily influenced by people’s biological or physiological make-up and not by the social environment is somehow unacceptable to sociologists. To sociologists, falling in love is basically a socially-learned experience and behavior, determined by societal factors and not merely by hormones. The biological and bodily reactions felt by people when they fall in love are triggered and shaped by cultural forces outside the self. In the sociology of emotions, for instance, sociologists believe that people’s emotions are determined by society and culture. Thus, people’s deep feelings and emotions of love are primarily a product of cultural and social conditioning. In the same manner, people’s romantic feelings and expressions are learned and shaped by the local culture and not solely by biology. In many primitive societies, for instance, where arranged marriages and betrothals are common cultural practice, romantic love between the bride and groom is not a prerequisite for marriage. The feeling of falling in love and romance is nonexistent in these societies because there are no romantic things and expectations that can trigger the so-called love hormones and people’s minds are not ideologically conditioned to fall in love. Therefore, the idea that people must fall in love in courtship before marriage is not universal or found in all human societies. In many non-Western societies, couples do not fall in love before marriage. Some couples do not even know each other before the wedding. In these societies, the families and relatives are tasked to find the lifelong partner for their bride or groom and arrange the marriage. In Southern Philippines, a council of Muslim elders decided the marriage between a young and beautiful 20-year old girl and a 60-year old Moro rebel leader who already had 3 wives. The girl neither personally knew nor met him before their wedding. She only knew him through a photo given to her by the council before the ceremony. Thus, there was no falling in love and romantic love between them before marriage. And the marriage seemed to work well and they were blessed with beautiful kids. In Bangladesh, the youngest marriage in the world took place without romance and falling in love. According to 2001 Guinness Book of World Records, the youngest marriage involved an eleven-month-old baby boy and a three-month-old girl. The marriage took place in order to end a twenty-year feud between the children’s families (Delaney, 2012). These two cases illustrate that falling in love is not always required before marriage. It is not a natural or biologically-determined behavior such as drinking or eating which can bring death to the couple without it. People will not die without falling in love and romance. Think of the thousands of celibate Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and other religious monks and religious who live normal and generous lives despite being unmarried and chaste throughout their life. For sociologists, falling in love and romantic love are social constructions of society that started in the late 18th century in order to preserve the institution of marriage. Because of industrialization, migration, and urbanization, the influence of families and relatives in the arrangement of marriages declined. Thus, society has to create and manage various socialization tools such as romantic music, novels, films, posts, cards, stories, and other romantic things and processes in order to condition people’s minds that to fall in love is natural and a necessity for marriage.
If falling in love and romantic love are socially learned behavior, then people should have some control over them. With sufficient knowledge about what men and women look for in their partners, romantic people, for instance, can change or enhance their looks and appearance. With the advent of modern medicine, cosmetic surgery, and other physical enhancing technology, they can change and improve their looks and appearance to make them attractive to their crushes or partners. They can also manage and improve their personal impressions in social interaction and dating by taking up personality-enhancing courses to make themselves romantically desirable and attractive to others. Through sufficient knowledge on the dynamics of romantic love and falling in love, they can, furthermore, discern which of their suitors are deserving of their true love and which of their romantic relationships is deceptive, obsessive, or authentic and leading towards marital commitment. Finally, they can structure and schedule their social functions to make themselves visible and desirable to people whom they want to establish romantic relationships. It is not true that real love and romance are written in the stars and determined by fate. More often, true love can be found and realized through scientific knowledge on romantic love and marriage, mature and realistic decision-making process, and proper social positioning and management of the social tools of romantic love.