Spike Lee, University of Toronto – Framing Love

Spike Lee

Flowery depictions of transcendent love have inspired some of the finest art we have. But, is our conceptual idealization of love & romance perhaps hurting us?

In today’s Academic Minute, Spike Lee, a marketing professor at The University of Toronto, frames the shared experience of love in a completely different way.

Spike W. S. Lee is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Toronto. He is interested in the embodied and metaphorical nature of human thinking, which often leads to quirky effects (e.g., physical cleansing helps people move on by “wiping the slate clean”; when people “smell something fishy,” they become suspicious and invest less money in a trust-dependent economic game). Specifically, he explores how the mind interacts with the body in multiple ways; why mind-body relations are often predicted by the metaphors we use; when and how metaphors influence judgment, affect, and behavior; what cognitive principles govern these metaphorical effects and how they vary by experimental, social, and cultural context.

Framing Love


Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” It sounds poetic. But as it turns out, thinking that you and your partner were made in heaven for each other can actually hurt your relationship.

People think about love around certain themes. For example, one theme frames love as perfect unity, as in phrases like “we were made for each other.” In another theme, love is like a journey, as in “look how far we’ve come.”

But conflicts are inevitable in relationships. If your relationship was a perfect match made in heaven, theoretically conflict would never arise.

But, rather if you think of love as a journey, well, journeys have their rough spots.

In fact, twists and turns give the journey of love special meaning when romantic partners look back and think how far they’ve come.”

To test this idea, my collaborator Norbert Schwarz and I ran several experiments.

We approached people in long-term relationships and asked them to tell us a couple of conflicts with their partner. Not surprisingly, thinking about conflicts made people less satisfied with their relationship—but only if people were primed to think of love as perfect unity. If we got people to think of love as a journey instead, then recalling conflicts did NOT make them any less happy about the relationship. In fact, their relationship satisfaction was just as high as when they were recalling celebrations with their partner.

So, next time you have a conflict with your partner, you may want to consider the words of the vow you took: Specifically think about the for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health part

These words frame the journey of your relationship, and present a more realistic understanding of the shared experience of love.

Read More: NY Mag: The Case Against “Soul Mates”

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