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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

One of Jeff Winking’s recent publications uses a study of marriage among an indigenous group in Nicaragua to question assumptions about relationship quality in existing scholarship on marriage.

His research will give light to cross-cultural differences in the nature of marriage. Research on marriage and relationships are often conducted on larger, Western-influenced populations. Dr. Jeff Winking will fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the nature of marriage by peering into these complex relationships on populations often overlooked.

“Our current version [of marriage], in which the primary criterion for success is a deep romantic attachment, is actually a cross-cultural and historical outlier,” Winking commented. “The patterns and challenges we’re facing are not as predictable as they have been in the past. It’s important to understand how humans operate and the tools available to explore those things.”

A village next to a river in Nicaragua

Village in Nicaragua

Romantic love is the basis of Western-style relationships, but this is not the case for all peoples around the globe. In populations like Dr. Winking’s case-study, the community’s reliance on subsistence-level farming requires a partner for a successful life. Romance isn’t the important factor in their marriages. Marriage requires differet factors for different cultures; learning what makes a marriage “good” for every culture is key to understanding humans.

“We should be careful in assuming that our ways of doing things are normal or natural,” Winking said. “The things we get hung up on as Americans [such as romantic love] are often culturally arbitrary.”

The question remains the same: What’s love got to do with it? Thanks to Jeff Winking’s research, we see that the answers across cultures are substantially different.


For a longer version of this article, see the Liberal Arts article  “What’s love got to do with it?”

For access to Dr. Winking’s research article, click here : Applicability of the Investment Model Scale in a natural‐fertility population