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I have a hypothesis that the sensation we describe as love is actually a feeling of relative safety that another individual provides. The "relative" part is important. Allow me to expand on this idea.

Humans are essentially animals that somehow learned to read. Our most basic instincts for survival are still very much intact. We are living danger detectors. That feeling of stress you experience so often is your early warning system.

Danger can come in many exotic forms. One form of danger involves physical safety, and here we can see that our loved ones would be the most reliable when it comes to protecting us in a dangerous situation. When the bear goes after you in the forest, your coworker tries to outrun you, but your spouse is likely to grab a tree branch and join the fight.

You will be tempted to argue that an armed hunter who happens to be in the general area during the bear attack would be more beloved than your spouse, according to my hypothesis, because only he can shoot the bear and revive your feelings of safety. But I think the hunter example supports my argument. If the hunter kills the bear and saves your life, you will in fact feel an immediate and deep affection for him that is a lot like love. For cultural reasons, you won't define your feeling as love, but it will feel spookily similar. And you know that after you thank the hunter, he will no longer be your protector. Your feelings for him are temporary.

Likewise, there's probably a good reason that women are often attracted to men in uniform, particularly the ones in lifesaving professions, such as police, military, and firefighters. As further evidence for my hypothesis, a cool uniform doesn't benefit doormen or waiters in the love department. For women, it must be the feeling of safety that makes a difference. It probably also helps that healthy-lookin men are more likely to produce healthy babies, which in itself makes a mother safer as the children get older and can help out.

Danger comes in many forms beyond physical peril. For example, one of my worst fears involves the risk of loneliness, or the risk of not being seen as useful to others. For me, that would be worse than death. Our loved ones are the best protection from that sort of danger. As long as you have a good relationship with your family, significant other, and friends, you feel safe from the dangers of loneliness. And you always feel potentially useful.

From a species perspective, our fear of eventual death is closely related to our impulse to spread our genes and create a sort of immortality. We feel love for the person we see as baby-making material, even if we override the instinct for reproduction for practical reasons, such as economics, age, etc. We're simply wired to feel safer, gene-wise, when we're around someone who might help us reproduce.

Religion also supports my hypothesis. The pious don't simply prefer God, or find it convenient to obey God. They literally love God. This is consistent with my hypothesis because the opportunity for an afterlife is the ultimate safety net. Even if things go pear shaped during life, believers still feel safe in the long run, and therefore they feel love.

Your dog appears to love you above all others, but it's no accident that you are your dog's main protector. You feed it, shield it from bigger dogs, shelter it, and let it sleep near you at night for group protection. In return, you know your dog will make you feel less lonely. We're a species that relies on group size to keep us safe. The more creatures we have on our side, the less likely we will be attacked.

A cat is harder to explain by my hypothesis. A cat makes you feel less lonely, but it has little or no protective qualities beyond sensing approaching danger faster than you can. I think that explains why an unusual number of men dislike cats: Cats don't have your back when the trouble comes down.

Love has many flavors, of course. You experience different kinds of love for a spouse, a family member, a friend, a pet, a hero, and a deity. My hypothesis is that each of those flavors of love is related to how safe each individual makes you feel. A little bit safe feels different from very safe.

That's my moist robot explanation of love. I hope I didn't ruin it for you, or minimize its importance. Making another person feel safe is the most perfect gift you can give. Love is the glue that binds society. If my hypothesis is correct, love is how you know you're doing things right.
 
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Apr 17, 2012
That barf is truly marinating in testosterone.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 17, 2012
Counter-argument:
Then why do women feel attracted so often to dangerous men like adventurers, bankrobbers, drug-addicted rockstars, etc?

* looking for a uniform to put on to be hot*
 
 
Apr 16, 2012
Then why do I love chocolate?
 
 
Apr 15, 2012
The reason that most men prefer dogs to cats is that dogs hunt in packs and cats do not. Most men are genetically predisposed to the pack mentality. (follow strong leader, breed as many females as possible, fight with males from rival packs, etc.). My pack instincts are not strong, so I identify with cats more than dogs. Plus cats kill mice. If you have ever had mice in your house, eating your food, chewing holes in your clothes, and !$%*!$%* everywhere, you will appreciate the cat that solves this problem.
 
 
Apr 14, 2012
Gee, Scott. Have you shared this warm, cuddly vision of love's true meaning with S h e l l y? You hopeless romantic, you! I can't wait to see what you'll get her for next Valentine's day - since love=safety, I'd wager it will be either a Glock 17 or a Glock 26; they're great ladies' pistols - I hear you can get the latter model in pink. She will be overwhelmed, I'm sure, with your clear expression of what love really means.

Think how much safer you'll feel once you get her a concealed carry permit! Wow! Love times ten!!!!! Dinners out will be so much more romantic! Not to mention those shopping trips to Broadway Plaza!

So your wife made you feel safer than other women you've dated; thus you married her. Well, actually, that explains a lot.

You also, as I recall, have a cat. Go figure.

I've heard that the European Sami people have hundreds of words for snow. You have topped them, having virtually no words for love. I can't wait to see how this one plays out at your house. Good luck.
 
 
Apr 13, 2012
The most profound experience I ever had of love was in a dream. A young woman was aging rapidly in front of me. As soon as I decided not to judge her appearance, I felt an immediate and perfect sense of love.

I believe this fits into Scott's theory about love being related to safety. Since judgement kills safety, As soon as I judge you (or myself), I am more likely to attack you, or leave you- threats to safety. If I instead kill *judgement*, I improve the conditions for safety and love.
 
 
Apr 13, 2012
"how do you explain all the stress we love to induce in ourselves voluntarily (extreme sports or group sports, for example)?"

DOES that really put stress on you? Or does it give you a buzz? I'll wager that when you or they are competing in those extreme sports, the rush of endorphins and feeling of joy is what's going through your head, rather than constantly thinking "oh man I hate this" - if it was the latter, you'd quit. Same point as for the guy loving wild girls - they are giving him "buzz" rather than "stress"....so although another person may not be wired to love the same qualities, they are still getting the same "I am getting enjoyment and validation from this person".

Re: the question "why do women love cats".....a cat is a non-judgemental listener. You can tell it all your worries and it won't try to "fix" them like a guy would. Perhaps a cat makes you feel "safe" in that you can offload without judgement?
 
 
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Apr 13, 2012
HumilityRocks:

If you drop 1) Love God, I'm on board... But I guess that makes me not a Christian.
 
 
Apr 13, 2012
.In regards to your hypothesis and other species.

When adopting pet house bunny's. The rabbit adoption foundation near where I live requires adopters to adopt rabbits in specifically matched pairs.( their all neutered) This particular agency strictly makes sure the rabbits paired, get along with each other before adoption.

when paired their usually monogamous and at times very protective of their paired mate.

Like many people,Rabbits are social animals. They get noticeably lonely and depressed when left by them selves without social interaction . Rabbits are Especial depressed if they end up stuck in a cage all day. They need room to play...

I couldn't imagine what its like being a lab rabbit....
 
 
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Apr 12, 2012
Might I offer a topic for a future discussion regarding uniforms? I find it interesting that uniformed !$%*!$%* like police, firemen, and priests as well as some medical !$%*!$%* in their uniform scrubs/white coats are automatically afforded TRUST. I believe a media suppressed item was the looting that occurred by the trusted during the devastating Trade Tower disaster, and heaven only knows the number of folks that have trusted a surgeon to not make basic fundamental mistakes. How does our species train itself to automatically trust certain societal roles? Is this beneficial? Lots of effective sociopaths are hiding in their uniforms/costumes - I believe. Want free respect? Don the custume!
 
 
Apr 12, 2012
Aren't there different kinds of affection? I wouldn't shag my best friend, for example. I really don't think that you can just say "cultural reasons" are the only barrier between friendship, brother/sisterhood, and spousal affection.

And the theory begins to fall apart when you talk about pets, especially cats. I guess you could say the guarantee that the cat will never hurt you is SORT of like safety. After all, it's just a cat, if it starts trouble you can punt it across the bedroom.

Which is why people think small things are cute. Consider it an addition to the theory.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 12, 2012
Scott,

Saw you for the first time on a youtube clip introducing an episode. I feel Dilbert comes closest to looking like you.

You should make more international appearances. You really have no idea how popular you are in the ME and Asia.

.
 
 
Apr 12, 2012
It's an interesting theory. I'm trying to think of counter-examples -- for instance, we typically don't love our local beat police. In fact, considering that they have the first or second most important job in society, police get a bad rep. But perhaps we'd love our nearest beat cop if we met him time and time again and came to view him as a friend. So I can't think of any concrete counter-examples -- whereas Batman, everyone loves the idea of Batman. People love superheroes in general. Why is that? I think you're onto something.
 
 
Apr 12, 2012
cats have protective qualities but they're largely diminished in modern society - they became domesticated when people figured out they killed rodents that ate/polluted food stores.

it's mostly (admittedly sick) entertainment but our Siberian's a pretty efficient killer of wasps & bees in our screen room under our deck...
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 12, 2012
I believe you have hit the nail on the head...while I hate to admit it, I would agree 100% this entire blog today, and I'm a female.
What sealed the deal is while my younger son was in cub scouts, we went to the local firestation for a tour. A rather plain looking man in plain clothes was giving us the tour, and he began to tell us about when the fire bell rings they have to get their firefighter gear on within 1 minute and would anyone like to time him to see how he does.
I am not kidding: with every piece of gear he put on...the pants, the jacket, the air tank thingy, etc...he got more and more attractive. By the time he was done I was standing there with my jaw wide open thinking he was the hottest man I'd seen in ages.

 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 12, 2012
Learning how love works is as likely to affect what it feels like as learning how hunger works affects the taste of chocolate.
 
 
Apr 12, 2012
baguioboy, we are hardwired to like children and cute things, so in one sense they are a bit of an exception. In another, in past times your kids would help you out in your old age (in return for inheriting your house that wasn't underwater and the like) and in modern times, they'll at least pay for your social security and medicare if all else goes wrong. So there's still safety plus the "safety" of having your genes and memes passed on.


PS. Cats offer safety from rodents at least in past times. Dogs could do that too, but I don't think I'd want my dog to put one of those things in its mouth where I wouldn't care if my cat did.
 
 
Apr 11, 2012
How do you explain people like me who love danger and find it easier to fall in love with girls who cause trouble, stress, and fun? Are my wires just crossed or did you miss something with your hypothesis?
 
 
Apr 11, 2012
But if Love is about safety, why do people (and dogs) sacrifice their lives for another? Defeats the purpose of feeling and being safe with that person if you do the ulitmate unsafe act on their behalf.
 
 
Apr 11, 2012
A lot of this makes sense, but what about the love you have for your children? For most people, it's one of the the most pure and enduring sorts of love there is. I understand that children are passing along your genes, but that seems like a pretty attenuated sort of safety to me, especially compared to the bear analogy.

Certainly, children are particularly good at hurting their parents emotionally, and yet we still love them.
 
 
 
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