I love, therefore I am: between family, friendships and love

Relationships

“It’s the friends you can call up at 4 am that matter.”
– Marlene Dietrich –

Interpersonal relationships are of fundamental importance for human beings. When you’re not doing well, or something has happened to you, or you need advice – or you just want to talk about life, the universe and everything – you usually turn to someone you trust. They could be your parents, your friends or your partner. Who are you thinking of right now?
In this article we’re going to consider the issue of “family, friends and love”, and discover why social ties are so important for human beings.

Human beings – social animals

Humans are social animals. Since time immemorial, family ties have formed the basis of our survival and the continuation of our species in terms of evolutionary biology. Our families and the environment we grow up in shape us for the long term and provide models for our values and behaviour patterns – and indeed, what love is. Consequently, this influences how we form bonds of friendship and how we love. This bonding behaviour is modelled by our parents, both in how they treat their children and how they treat each other as a couple. A substantial role is also played by the family and how we grow up.

What is love?

What does love mean, actually? Love is another word that is understood and lived in different ways. In general, the term covers devotion, care, understanding, listening to each other and paying attention to each other. Giving and taking are also part of it. We support the people dearest to us, but we also know that we will get something back if we ever need support. How would you explain the word ‘love’ in your own words?
Qualitatively, good relationships with friends, your partner and your family don’t just boost your happiness, but are also good for your health, regardless of whether they last forever or not. These bonds make us feel less lonely, for example, and help us to feel that we belong. This feeling or need to belong also has an evolutionary basis: people were always interdependent, because this increased their chances of survival. As a result, we have a deep-rooted, elementary and innate motivation to form stable, positive bonds with others.

As you can see, we are naturally beings who need interpersonal relationships. But how do we choose our friends and partners? Unlike the families we are born into, we generally make autonomous choices about the people we start friendships or love relationships with. Have you ever asked yourself why XY became your best friend? Or why you always choose a similar sort of person as your partner?

Birds of a feather flock together – or do opposites attract?

These sayings are both well-known, but is there any truth to them? Does similarity play any role in interpersonal relationships? From the scientific perspective, the issue can be clarified with the similarity-attraction effect. In brief, that means we like people who are like us. This can mean opinions, personality, interests or experiences. But why is similarity so important to us? This question can be answered from various perspectives. If someone is like us and holds the same beliefs and opinions, this acts like a reward on us. What’s more, we also feel better understood and accepted. When we discover similarities with someone else, we experience them as likeable, which in turn leads to the discovery of more similarities. If we are dissimilar to someone and can’t find much in common with them, this does not necessarily mean something negative from the scientific perspective. Such relationships are often viewed as an “adventure”, but are harder to maintain.


“History only shapes a moment, but love shapes your entire life.”
− Unknown −


Conclusion

So much for the scientific facts. How we foster our interpersonal relationships, whether friendships, romantic or familial, varies from person to person. This does not necessarily mean that you’re happier the more friends you have, just because we are social animals, or that someone in a relationship is happier than someone who is single. The health effects of even a small friendship circle can be palpable. Would you like to know more about the subject of friendship? Then this article is the right one for you!

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References
Byrne D. (1971) The attraction paradigm. Academic Press.
Universität Bern (2023). What is love? uniFokus, 3(2). 50.

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