Is Love a Many Splendored or Splintered Thing?

Splenored Love Record
This Four Aces’ release was the number one song on Billboard in 1955

Ann’s tale of disappointment in not having the opportunity to blow out a candle in her sorority days (you will have to read why) got me to thinking about love.  More specifically, it brought back memories of when, as a grad student, I decided to explore the sociological meaning of love.  I even went so far as to collaborate with another grad student on a paper which we presented at the 1974 Midwest Sociological Society annual meeting in Omaha.

In retrospect, our paper title, “Love Social Psychological Style: The Relationship of Empathy, Love, and Attribution Theory” was not much of an attention-grabber; we definitely should have come up with a clever title like the one I used for this blog.  (Full disclosure: although I thought my title for this post was unique, I discovered that the “splintered” title was used for a Simpsons episode back in 2013).

Bart Simpson Love splintered
Scene from the Simpsons’ Love is a Many Splintered Thing.

Despite our rather blah title, it turned out that our 8:30 AM presentation (along with three other paper presentations) was to a standing-room-only audience.  Paper sessions that early in the morning are typically pretty lonely affairs for presenters.  I think the attraction had something to do with the fact that the catalogue billed the session as “Correlates of Deviant Sexual Behavior in America” or something to that effect.  It was pretty clear that the program organizers didn’t know where else to put a theoretical paper dealing with love.  I must admit that the level of interest in our presentation was underwhelming;  although there were lots of questions from the audience directed to the other presenters during the discussion period, not one person asked about our paper.  Great start for aspiring professors!

If you are dying to get a copy of the paper,  you’re out of luck (or, in luck as the case may be).  I may still have a copy stored in a box of old papers stowed somewhere in our basement; no icloud in those days.  But just in case you are interested, I will take a one sentence stab at summarizing our paper.

Love can be described as a positive sentimental orientation to another person based on a synthesis of a wide range of emotions arising from interactions with that person over time and across situations within a cultural context which provides a socially acceptable vocabulary of indicators of “love”.  

If that didn’t get your passionate blood flowing, nothing will.

To be more down to earth, I would venture that to find love we must quit searching for it and accept that the emotional roller coaster of everyday life shared with another person is as much of an endurance contest as it is a love-fest.   Ann and I have been on this roller coaster for over 50 years –  which certainly must satisfy the endurance side of it.  The love-fest part is more subtle — but real nevertheless.

Dfo you lover me
Golde and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.

Perhaps Golde’s response to Tevye’s question “do you love me” gets to my point:

For twenty-five years I’ve lived with him
Fought with him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that’s not love, what is.

Out of curiosity, I googled the upcoming 2018 Midwest Sociological Society program and did a word search for “love.” Not one of the listed paper titles contains that word.  What a shame.


  1. James Dean says:

    I remember breaking up with my boyfriend in grad school and reading “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm, among other books, to understand love. Great post. I agree with your definition and Fromm’s, which is that love is an extension of oneself in the spiritual development of another.


    • theRaggedys says:

      Thanks for the comment. It is a true compliment coming from someone who has published books about relationships. I have to admit that my thinking on this topic was inspired by Tamotsu Shibutani at UCSB from my undergraduate days.


  2. Helen Weaver says:

    As you sister I know about you being a wise something or other, like a donkey or that cute little rocking horse you rode all the time. Still love you though.


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