Eric Fromm, whose theory of love is concentrated in the book The Art of Love, once said, “Love is the only sound and satisfactory answer to the problems of human existence.”
Fromm and his love story
Erik Fromm, born in 1900, a German-American Jew, is a well-known international humanistic philosopher and psychoanalytic psychologist. Fromm spent his life aiming to modify Freud’s psychoanalytic doctrine and is regarded as one of the founders of “psychoanalytic sociology”. Fromm’s works are mostly related to social politics, basic philosophy and psychology, and his representative works include Escape from Freedom, Man for Himself and The Art of Love. Among them, The Art of Love has been called the “Bible of Love” by later generations.
Fromm’s love life was full of twists and turns, and he had three marriages and a close lover who did not share the same marriage. Fromm’s relationship with his first wife came from psychoanalysis, and although the marriage lasted only five years, the two remained close friends and studied psychoanalysis together after the divorce. In terms of psychoanalysis, Fromm’s first wife was his teacher.
Fromm’s second marriage lasted eight years and his third marriage lasted four years, experiences that had a significant impact on his bestselling book, The Art of Love. It has even been said, “It was the nourishment of love that led to The Art of Love.”
Another important woman in Fromm’s life was Karen Horney, who had known Fromm since the early 1930s, and the two had an intimate relationship, and Horney’s closeness with Fromm seems to have been more than just friends. However, their relationship broke up in 1943.
Horney’s biographer has written, “Horney never again found a lover like Fromm, and never again let herself down as she did with Fromm.” These experiences also profoundly influenced Fromm’s thoughts about love.
The Five Elements of Love
According to Fromm, the core element of love is giving, while other elements include caring, responsibility, respect and understanding.
Why is giving is the core element of love? True love is motivated by the desire to give and share, not by the desire to satisfy self-needs or make up for self-impairment. So what do lovers have to give for love? “Giving” does not mean sacrificing oneself for the other person, but rather giving what is most vital and alive within oneself. In love, we can give each other joy, interest, understanding, knowledge and humor. By “giving,” we enrich the other person; by improving our own sense of life, we also enrich the other person’s sense of life. Looking at real-life love, it is easy to see that in any long-lasting love, both parties can grow from the relationship and grow together.
What caring is, according to Fromm, is in love: a positive and active concern for the person we love, a concern that is positive rather than negative, active rather than passive. In Fromm’s view, if there is a lack of concern, love is just an emotion and not what we call love. At the same time, caring also contains another essential element of love – responsibility. Responsibility is an individual’s reply to the expressed or unexpressed desire of another living individual. To be responsible means to be able and ready to give an answer to these wishes.
Without the third essential element of love – respect – responsibility can easily degenerate into control and possession. Respect is not to deprive the other person, but to work hard to enable them to grow and develop themselves. Respect means wanting a person I love to grow and develop in his own way and for his own sake, not to serve me. Through many cases in counseling we have found that there are boys who limit and restrict the development of girls, and this love has turned into control. Therefore, we can say this: without care and respect, there is no love, and without giving, there is no love.
Understanding is also crucial in the element of love. For a person, without understanding there can be no respect, and without the guidance of understanding, care and responsibility in love are blind. Understanding means: one has to go deep inside things, to know others deeply, to understand them from the other’s point of view.
There is a classic quote from Fromm’s book “The Art of Love”.
“I need you because I love you; I am loved because I love people.”
This quote tells us that love is a prerequisite; because I love you, I am willing to give to you, I am willing to care for you, I am willing to respect you, I am willing to learn more about you, and I am willing to give to love. This is what Fromm calls “mature love” or “fulfilled love”. So what should mature love look like?
According to Fromm, mature love is active caring. Love is active concern for life and the people/things we love, and love without such concern is an emotion, not love. You love what you work for, and you work for what you love. Mature love comes from the heart and grows consciously from within, not from captive emotions; mature love is first and foremost a “giving” rather than a “taking.
For Fromm, the opposite of mature love is immature love, also known as scarcity love. “I love you because I am loved. I love you because I need you.” This kind of love is predicated on the self and places more emphasis on its own acquisition and gain.
Thus, mature love contains the five elements of love: giving, caring, responsibility, respect and understanding; whereas immature love is demanding, indifferent to the lover, not taking responsibility, and not understanding the object of one’s love. In everyday life, immature love is not uncommon, such as “princess” women and “giant baby” men who are immature in love.
Developing the ability to love does not have to be specific to a particular person of the opposite sex, but can be a broader sense of love. Our loved ones, classmates, and friends are all worthy of love. To develop the ability to love is to develop a selfless character and a spirit of giving, to develop the ability to deal with conflicts well, to effectively resolve and eliminate conflicts and disputes in love, and to take responsibility for lovers in order to create a beautiful and happy love.
(1) The core element of love is to give, other elements include care, responsibility, respect and understanding, men and women in love need to strive to achieve these points.
(2) Naive, childlike love follows the following principle: “I love because I am loved.” The principle of mature love is: “I am loved because I love people.” Immature, childlike love is: “I love because I need you.” And mature love is, “I need you because I love you.”
— EOF —