Falling in love

Falling in love

Ask a question about 'Falling in love'
Start a new discussion about 'Falling in love'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
In romantic relationships, "falling in love" is mainly a Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 term used to describe the process of moving from a feeling of neutrality towards a person to one of love
Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. In philosophical context, love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection. Love is central to many religions, as in the Christian phrase, "God is love" or Agape in the Canonical gospels...

. The use of the term "fall" implies that the process is in some way inevitable, uncontrollable, risky, irreversible, or that it puts the lover in a state of vulnerability
Vulnerability refer to the susceptibility of a person, group, society, sex or system to physical or emotional injury or attack. The term can also refer to a person who lets their guard down, leaving themselves open to censure or criticism...

, in the same way the word "fall" is used in the phrase "to fall ill" or "to fall into a trap". The term is generally used to describe an (eventual) love that is strong, although not necessarily permanent.


'Sociobiologists point to the preeminence of heart over head at such crucial moments...[as] bonding with a mate'; suggest that 'the answer to why we fall in love encompasses...complex neurochemical processes that occur in our brains when we are attracted to another person'; and 'tell us that when we fall in love we are falling into a stream of naturally occurring amphetamines running through the emotional centres of our very own brains'.

Arguably however 'explanations like these neo-Darwinist
Neo-Darwinism is the 'modern synthesis' of Darwinian evolution through natural selection with Mendelian genetics, the latter being a set of primary tenets specifying that evolution involves the transmission of characteristics from parent to child through the mechanism of genetic transfer, rather...

 ones...obscur what it is in sexual passion
Passion (emotion)
Passion is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something....

 that so often leads not to attachment
Attachment may refer to:Attachment- An emotional connection. Attachment involves being dependent on someone for something: emotional, mental or physical....

 but to impossibilities of attachment, whether tragic or comic or tragicomic', as well as just what in falling in love is 'so frightening to us human beings and so frighteningly difficult'.


For Stendhal
Marie-Henri Beyle , better known by his pen name Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism in his two novels Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme...

, "love is largely self-generated", and falling in love a "process Stendhal calls crystallization....Before you fall in love, you see the other person as a bare branch; as you fall, you coat him or her with jeweled attractions about 80 percent of your own making".

Who and why?

'Factors known to contribute strongly to falling in love include proximity, similarity, reciprocity, and physical attractiveness'. Similarity would seem especially important: some would even claim that 'when we fall in love we fall into narcissistic
Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait...


Family therapists
Family therapy
Family therapy, also referred to as couple and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counseling, is a branch of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of...

 maintain that 'the reason we're attracted to someone at this very deep level is that basically they are like us - in a psychological sense'. Others suggest that 'the very act of falling in love sets in motion old patterns of how we love...Falling in love returns us to emotions of infancy and childhood'.

Alberoni's theory

In his socio-psychological
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 theory, Francesco Alberoni
Francesco Alberoni
|right|150px|Franesco AlberoniFrancesco Alberoni is an Italian Journalist, and professor in Sociology...

 states that falling in love is a process of the same nature as a religious or political conversion
Religious conversion
Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

. He believes that people fall in love when they are ready to change, or to start a new life.

According to Alberoni, falling in love is a rapid process of destructuration-reorganization called the nascent state
Nascent state
The nascent state is defined as a psychological process of destructuration-reorganization where the individual becomes capable of merging with other persons and creating a new collectivity with a very high degree of solidarity...

. In the nascent state, a state of pure creative energy, the individual loses his or her previous identity, and becomes highly fluid and capable of merging with another person to create a new "us," a unit of two that is highly charged with solidarity and eroticism. The new couple realizes their dreams, aspirations, and unexpressed potential through one another, and develops a shared life project and common view of the world. Individuals in the nascent state put one another through tests, which if successful eventually give way to a solid love relationship, and the forming of new identities and life structures formed by the merging of the two individuals.

Alberoni does not consider falling in love as a regression
Regression (psychology)
Regression, according to psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, is a defense mechanism leading to the temporary or long-term reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses in a more adult way...

, but instead as a launching of oneself towards the future and change, and as fundamental to the formation of a romantic partnership. 'Falling in love transforms their whole world, it is a sublime experience, an act of folly...the discovery of one's own being and one's own destiny'.

Others would agree that 'falling in love, being by definition an intense experience of change...is itself in some way also a therapeutic experience'; while arguably 'the most severe form of love disturbance is the inability to fall in love'.


Some maintain that 'falling in love in the truest sense of the phrase, not just infatuation
Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoned passion or love: 'expresses the headlong libidinal attraction' of addictive love...

...is really the closest most of us come to seeing life in its spiritual form'.

Others would take the view that - in the majority of instances, at least - 'the temporary collapse of ego boundaries
Personal boundaries
Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for him- or herself what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how he or she will respond when someone steps outside those limits.'Personal boundaries define...

 that constitutes falling in love...is a genetically determined instinctual component of mating behaviour', and so that 'falling in love has little to do with purposively nurturing one's spiritual development'.

Both standpoints could perhaps agree with Eric Berne
Eric Berne
Eric Berne was a Canadian-born psychiatrist best known as the creator of transactional analysis and the author of Games People Play.-Background and education:...

: 'Love is a sweet trap from which no one departs without tears'.


  • In Practical Magic, the boyfriend-to-be of the heroine's eldest daughter wins her heart with the contemptuous phrase: '"Love...Love is worth the sum of itself, and nothing more"'. By the book's close, however, the heroine herself has acquired certain things that she 'knows for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can'.

  • In Possession: A Romance
    Possession: A Romance
    Possession: A Romance is a 1990 bestselling novel by British writer A. S. Byatt. It is a winner of the Man Booker Prize.Part historical as well as contemporary fiction, the title Possession refers to issues of ownership and independence between lovers, the practice of collecting historically...

    , the academic hero falls in love in the teeth of his own convictions. '"It isn't convenient....But that's how it is. In the worst way. All the things we - we grew up not believing in. Total obsession, night and day. When I see you, you look alive and everything else - fades. All that"'.


Biographers of Picasso have noted the force of 'Dora Maar
Dora Maar
Dora Maar was a French photographer, poet and painter, best known for being a lover and muse of Pablo Picasso.-Life:...

's maxim - whenever a new woman comes into Picasso's life, everything changes....The style changed, and so did the way of life'.

See also

Further reading

  • Denis de Rougemont
    Denis de Rougemont
    Denis de Rougemont was a Swiss writer, who wrote in French.He studied at the University of Neuchâtel, and then moved to Paris in 1930. There he wrote for and edited various publications, associating with the personalist groupings and the non-conformists of the 1930s...

    , Love in the Western World. Pantheon Books, 1956.
  • Eric Fromm
    Eric Fromm
    Eric Fromm is a former tennis player from the United States. Perhaps Fromm's best result was reaching the fourth round of the French Open in 1983 in singles, where he lost comprehensively to Jimmy Connors....

    , The Art of Loving (1956)
  • Francesco Alberoni
    Francesco Alberoni
    |right|150px|Franesco AlberoniFrancesco Alberoni is an Italian Journalist, and professor in Sociology...

    , Falling in Love (New York, Random House, 1983)
  • Roland Barthes
    Roland Barthes
    Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

    , A Lover's Discourse (1990)