Spaniards of all ages, in the main, have a "romantic" conception of love. They see it as an irresistible passion, which involves great intimacy and a strong physical attraction, which is classified as "Eros" love. Far fewer of them view the sentiment as a lasting commitment based on closeness, friendship, companionship and affection (amiable or "storge" love), a model which is more common in the north of Europe.
Behind "Eros", but also with a high level of acceptance among the Spanish population, comes "Banquet" or altruistic love, which implies making sacrifices for the welfare of the other. Pragmatic "Pragma" love, based on searching for a partner based on rational criteria, along with friendship-based love, both have a similar level of acceptance in Spain - around 54%.
These are the highlights of a research project headed by five psychologists from the University of the Balearic Islands, based on 1,351 telephone interviews, and which has been published recently in the journal Psycothema.
"Maniacal", or obsessive, love, characterised by its intensity and intimacy, but also by jealously, lack of communication, and "physical and psychological symptoms", and which is "closer to gender violence", was only rejected by 25% of those taking part in the survey, while almost 40% viewed it with indifference and more than 30% said it was acceptable. This is a similar percentage to that in other countries, but "still significant", as Victoria Ferrer, director of the research study and a professor of social psychology at the University of the Balearic Islands, which led the study, tells SINC.
The participants were responding to a shorter version of the questionnaire on the Love Attitude Scale, which is used to deduce the level to which respondents agree with different descriptions of this emotion, such as "the deepest kind of love stems from long friendship".
In Spain, 80% of those interviewed agreed with the idea of a passionate kind of love. "In this respect, we are similar to other Latin countries, such as in Latin America, and differ from others that are geographically closer but have a more different culture," says Ferrer.
The researcher believes that contributory factors to this could include the more expressive culture of Latin people, and the fact that gender equality in Spain is a relatively recent phenomenon compared with in northern Europe. "Romantic love is probably less egalitarian than friendship-based love, although this is something we are studying," she says. Some scientists focus on the biological aspect of love, "although it seems clear that culture has an influence", she adds.
Hollywood creates false myths
Hollywood has a lot to do with "Eros" being the dominant conception of love. "Cinema has created many myths, and has made us believe things that are not real" because in reality "passion dwindles, and life in a couple is a transactional game in which one has to overcome frictions", says Ferrer. "The movies end when the real stories are about to begin," she adds.
Ferrer finds it surprising that this "mythical idea of love" also predominates among older sections of the population. "The acceptance level dips a little in middle aged groups, when people are more pragmatic, but it rises again among older age groups."
The acceptance levels of love based on friendship increased in line with respondents' age, along with "Banquet" love, while acceptance of the idea of love as a game declines, showing that "as time passes, our concept of love changes and we become more pragmatic".
Love as a game, with little emotional involvement, and no expectations for the future "is not our cup of tea", she says. This concept was rejected by 66% of the population, particularly women. "Banquet" love was accepted by 70% of respondents, above all men (86% compared to 60% of women), which "undermines the cliché of self-denial being a feminine characteristic", according to the study. The researchers are now looking for the reasons behind this.
Among women, "Pragma" love is the second most accepted model, at 63.9% of respondents, coming behind self-denying love, while only 47% of males agree with it (25% say they are indifferent and 27% reject it).
This "could be related to the traditional gender roles, which in the context of a couple translate into women putting in more effort (in their role as carers), and which could lead to them placing greater positive value on these practical aspects", according to the study.
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