Love stories – IELTS Reading Passage 3

Love stories

“Love stories” are often associated – at least in the popular imagination – with fairy tales, adolescent day dreams, Disney movies and other frivolous pastimes. For psychologists developing taxonomies  of affection and attachment, however, this is an area of rigorous academic pursuit. Beginning in the early 1970s with the groundbreaking contributions of John Alan Lee, researchers have developed classifications that they believe better characterise our romantic predispositions. This involves examining not a single, universal, emotional expression (“love”), but rather a series of divergent behaviours and narratives that each has an individualised purpose, desired outcome and state of mind. Lee’s gritty methodology painstakingly involved participants matching 170 typical romantic encounters (e.g., “The night after I met X…”) with nearly 1500 possible reactions (“I could hardly get to sleep” or “I wrote X a letter”). The patterns unknowingly expressed by respondents culminated in a taxonomy of six distinct love “styles” that continue to inform research in the area
forty years later.

The first of these styles – eros – is closely tied in with images of romantic love that are promulgated in Western popular culture. Characteristic of this style is a passionate emotional intensity, a strong physical magnetism – as if the two partners were literally being “pulled” together – and a sense of inevitability about the relationship. A related but more frantic style of love called mania involves an obsessive, compulsive attitude toward one’s partner. Vast swings in mood from ecstasy to agony – dependent on the level of attention a person is receiving from his or her partner – are typical of manic love.

Two styles were much more subdued, however. Storge is a quiet, companionate type of loving – “love by evolution” rather than “love by revolution”, according to some theorists. Relationships built on a foundation of platonic affection and caring are archetypal of storge. When care is extended to a sacrificial level of doting, however, it becomes another style – agape. In an agape relationship one partner becomes a “caretaker”, exalting the welfare of the other above his or her own needs.

The final two styles of love seem to lack aspects of emotion and reciprocity altogether. The ludus style envisions relationships primarily as a game in which it is best to “play the field” or experience a diverse set of partners over time. Mutuallygratifying outcomes in relationships are not considered necessary, and deception of a partner and lack of disclosure about one’s activities are also typical. While Lee found that college students in his study overwhelmingly disagreed with the tenets of this style, substantial numbers of them acted in a typically ludic style while dating, a finding that proves correct the deceit inherent in ludus. Pragma lovers also downplayed emotive aspects of relationships but favoured practical, sensible connections. Successful arranged marriages are a great example of pragma, in that the couple decide to make the relationship work; but anyone who seeks an ideal partner with a shopping list of necessary attributes (high salary, same religion, etc.) fits the classification.

Robert J. Sternberg’s contemporary research on love stories has elaborated on how these narratives determine the shape of our relationships and our lives. Sternberg and others have proposed and tested the theory of love as a story, “whereby the interaction of our personal attributes with the environment – which we in part create – leads to the development of stories about love that we then seek to fulfil, to the extent possible, in our lives.” Sternberg’s taxonomy of love stories numbers far more, at twenty-six, than Lee’s taxonomy of love styles, but as Sternberg himself admits there is plenty of overlap. The seventh story, Game, coincides with ludus, for example, while the nineteenth story, Sacrifice, fits neatly on top of agape.

Sternberg’s research demonstrates that we may have predilections toward multiple love stories, each represented in a mental hierarchy and varying in weight in terms of their personal significance. This explains the frustration many of us experience when comparing potential partners. One person often fulfils some expected narratives – such as a need for mystery and fantasy – while lacking the ability to meet the demands of others (which may lie in direct contradiction). It is also the case that stories have varying abilities to adapt to a given cultural milieu and its respective demands. Love stories are, therefore, interactive and adaptive phenomena in our lives rather than rigid prescriptions.

Steinberg also explores how our love stories interact with the love stories of our partners. What happens when someone who sees love as art collides with someone who sees love as business? Can a Sewing story (love is what you make it) co-exist with a Theatre story (love is a script with predictable acts, scenes and lines)? Certainly, it is clear that we look for partners with love stories that complement and are compatible with our own narratives. But they do not have to be an identical match. Someone who sees love as mystery and art, for example, might locate that mystery better in a partner who views love through a lens of business and humour. Not all love stories, however, are equally well predisposed to relationship longevity; stories that view love as a game, as a kind of surveillance or as an addiction are all unlikely to prove durable.

Research on love stories continues apace. Defying the myth that rigorous science and the romantic persuasions of ordinary people are incompatible, this research demonstrates that good psychology can clarify and comment on the way we give affection and form attachments.

Questions

Questions 27–34

Look at the following statements (Questions 27–34) and the list of styles in the box below. Match each statement with the correct term, A–F.
Write the correct letter, A–F, in boxes 27–34 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

27.    My most important concern is that my partner is happy.

28.    I enjoy having many romantic partners.

29.    I feel that my partner and I were always going to end up together.

30.    I want to be friends first and then let romance develop later.

31.     I always feel either very excited or absolutely miserable about my relationship.

32.    I prefer to keep many aspects of my love life to myself.

33.    When I am in love, that is all I can think about.

34.    I know before I meet someone what qualities I need in a partner.

List of Love Styles

A.    Eros
B.    Mania
C.    Storge
D.   Agape
E.    Ludus
F.    Pragma

Questions 35–40

Do the following statements agree with the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 3? In boxes 35–40 on your answer sheet, write

YES    if the statement agrees with the claims of the writer
NO    if the statement contradicts the claims of the writer
NOT GIVEN    if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

35.    People’s notions of love affect their relationships, rather than vice versa.

36.    Some of our love stories are more important to us than others.

37.    Our love stories can change to meet the needs of particular social environments.

38.    We look for romantic partners with a love story just like our own.

39.    The most successful partners have matching love stories.

40.    No love story is more suited to a long relationship than any other.

ANSWERS

Questions 27–34

27. D

  • Key words: most important concern, my partner, happy
  • It is stated in paragraph 3 that: “When care is extended to a sacrificial level of doting, however, it becomes another style – agape. In an agape relationship one partner becomes a “caretaker”, exalting the welfare of the other above his or her own needs”.
  • This sentence suggests that in an agape relationship, a person would put the well-being (happiness) of their partner before their own, or that the well-being of of their partner is their most important concern.

=> The answer is D

28. E

  • Key words: enjoy, many, romantic partners
  • It is stated in paragraph 4 that: “The ludus style envisions relationships primarily as a game in which it is best to “play the field” or experience a diverse set of partners over time”.
    • having many romantic partners = experience a diverse set of partners
  • This sentence suggests that people in a ludus relationship like to have many different partners over time.

=>The answer is E

29. A

  • Key words: my partner and I, always, end up together
  • It is stated in paragraph 2 that: “Characteristic of this style (Eros) is a passionate emotional intensity, a strong physical magnetism – as if the two partners were literally being “pulled” together – and a sense of inevitability about the relationship”.
  • This sentence suggests that people in an Eros relationship think that they and their partner will inevitably (=always) be together.

=> The answer is A

30. C

  • Key words: be friends first, romance, later
  • It is stated in paragraph 3 that: “Storge is a quiet, companionate type of loving – […]. Relationships built on a foundation of platonic affection and caring are archetypal of storge”.
  • This sentence suggests that people in a storge relationship establish friendship (platonic affection) with their partner first and let romance grow later.

=> The answer is C

31. B

  • Key words: always feel, very exicted, absolutely miserable
  • It is stated in paragraph 2 that: “Vast swings in mood from ecstasy to agony – dependent on the level of attention a person is receiving from his or her partner – are typical of manic love”.
    • either very excited or absolutely miserable = vast swings in mood from ecstasy to agony
  • This sentence suggests that in a manic relationship, a person is often moody, capable of changing from very happy to very sad.

=> The answer is B

32. E

  • Key words: keep to myself, aspects of love life
  • It is stated in paragraph 4 that: “The ludus style envisions relationships primarily as a game in which it is best to “play the field” or experience a diverse set of partners over time. Mutually-gratifying outcomes in relationships are not considered necessary, and deception of a partner and lack of disclosure about one’s activities are also typical”.
    • keep to myself = keep secrets = deception of a partner and lack of disclosure
  • This means people in a ludus relationship may keep many things secret from their partner, by not disclosing (telling their partner about) what they are doing.

=>The answer is E

33. B

  • Key words: in love, all, think about
  • It is stated in paragraph 2 that: “A related but more frantic style of love called mania involves an obsessive, compulsive attitude toward one’s partner”. This sentence suggests that people in a mania relationship are so attached to their partner that the relationship is all they think about.
    • all one can think about = obsessive, compulsive attitude

=> The answer is B

34. F

  • Key words: know before meet, qualities, need in a partner
  • It is stated in paragraph 4 that: “Successful arranged marriages are a great example of pragma, in that the couple decide to make the relationship work; but anyone who seeks an ideal partner with a shopping list of necessary attributes (high salary, same religion, etc.) fits the classification”.
    • qualities = attributes
  • This sentence suggests that people in a pragma relationship, especially in arranged marriages, usually seek a number of qualities (high salary, same religion, etc.) even before they meet them.

=> The answer is F

Questions 35–40

35. YES

  • Key words: notions of love, affect relationships, vice versa
  • It is stated in paragraph 5 that: “Robert J. Sternberg’s contemporary research on love stories has elaborated on how these narratives determine the shape of our relationships and our lives.”
    • people’s notion of love = people’s narrative of love
    • affect = determine the shape of
  • This means how people think about love will directly influence their relationships.

=> The answer is YES

36. YES

  • Key words: some love stories, more important
  • It is stated in paragraph 6 that: “Sternberg’s research demonstrates that we may have predilections toward multiple love stories, each represented in a mental hierarchy and varying in weight in terms of their personal significance”.
    • more important = varying in (personal) significance
  • This means that we prioritise some love stories over others.

=> The answer is YES

37. YES

  • It is stated in paragraph 5 that: “It is also the case that stories have varying abilities to adapt to a given cultural milieu and its respective demands.  Love stories are, therefore, interactive and adaptive phenomena in our lives rather than rigid presciptions.”
    • change = adapt to
    • needs = demands
    • social environments = cultural milieu
  • This means that love stories can be adapted to fit in with the demands of different social/cultural environments.  Love stories are not fixed and rigid – they can change.

=> The answer is YES

38. NO

  • Key words: partners, love story, like our own
  • It is stated in paragraph 7 that: “Certainly, it is clear that we look for partners with love stories that complement and are compatible with our own narratives. But they do not have to be an identical match”.
    • just like = identical
  • This means we often seek partners with similar love stories, narratives that may complement our own love stories, or enable us to have a good relationship (to be compatible).  We do not need, however, to look for romantic partners who have exactly the same love stories.

=> The answer is NO

39. NOT GIVEN

  • Key words: successful, matching love stories
  • The information about having similar love stories is mentioned in paragraph 7.
  • This paragraph states that people with certain different love stories are not likely to have relationships that will be successful. However, no information about people who have similar love stories having the most durable (long-lasting) relationships was mentioned.

=> The answer is NOT GIVEN

40. NO

  • Key words: no love story, more suited, long relationship
  • It is stated in paragraph 7 that: “Not all love stories, however, are equally well predisposed to relationship longevity; stories that view love as a game, as a kind of surveillance or as an addiction are all unlikely to prove durable”.
  • Some love stories are unlikely to prove durable – they will probably not last for a long time.  Examples are given: stories in which love is a game, an addiction or a kind of deception/surveillance. This is in contrast to other love stories, which are more suited to a longer relationship

=> The answer is NO

IELTS Reading British council

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