Defining Love


People often underestimate the power of love. Psychologists have found that love is essential to someone’s well-being and physical health. It has been proven that love is a fundamental human need. Strengthening relationships with others and nurturing a relationship with ourselves can help to bring happiness to our life.  

Understanding Love

The experience of love has been discussed by philosophers such as Plato in works like Phaedrus. Love has been defined with figures of gods and goddesses such as Eros and Aphrodite. The literary works of Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare have sought to capture the trials and tribulations of falling in love in their stories. 

Psychologists have been attempting to study and define love as well. In the article Love in the Fourth Dimension by Ellen Berscheid, a social psychologist at the University of Minnesota, Berscheid attempts to define love and understand the complex emotions that accompany it. Berscheid’s studies focus on romantic love, attraction theory, and interpersonal relationships. 

“Some anthropologists and social psychologists maintain that love is a cultural universal,” Berscheid said. “They believe that at least one variety of love, romantic love, is likely to have appeared in all human groups at all times in human history.”

Robert J. Sternberg is a Professor of Psychology in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. Stenberg has developed a model that divides love using three different categories: intimacy, passion, and commitment. 

  1. Intimacy describes relationships that are affectionate, connected, and close that provide a deep understanding of someone else.
  2. Passion is driven by an intense and overwhelming conviction or desire. 
  3. Commitment involves devotion to a person for a long period of time. 

These three terms are arranged in a triangle which combines all of them together forming consummate love. Consummate love represents the ideal relationship with a complete commitment to love. 

“For example, greater intimacy may lead to greater passion or commitment, just as greater commitment may lead to greater intimacy, or with lesser likelihood, greater passion. In general, then, the components are separable, but interactive with each other. Although all three components are important parts of loving relationships, their importance may differ from one relationship to another, or over time within a given relationship,” Sternberg said.

The Seven Different Types of Love

Love takes many different shapes and forms. It can develop and progress over time in various aspects of a person’s life. Understanding other types of love instead of primarily looking for romantic relationships can lead to more balance and fulfillment.

In psychology, there are seven fundamental types of love:

  1. Eros is most similar to the romantic love people experience today. This love is driven by sexual desire and passion. Sigmund Freud used eros to describe an overwhelming attraction or longer for someone. Eros is also connected to libido which is a biological instinct.
  2. Philia is associated with goodwill often found in friendships. The Greek translation of philia means brotherly love. Philia describes actions of care, respect, and compassion for fellow human beings. It is most commonly known as a term for close friendship.
  3. Storge is the natural love felt with family. A good example of storge is the love felt by a parent for their child. It is a deep and caring bond that is felt between different members of a family. It is can be recognized as protective. It can also withstand hardships and trials. 
  4. Agape is known as self-sacrificing love. This is a nonjudgmental and unconditional love felt for someone. It is often connected to spiritual practices where people associate it with the love for all mankind and the suffering that is experienced for the benefit of others. 
  5. Ludus is often described with the term “playful love.” This form of love is experienced while having fun such as teasing, laughing, or dancing. People often experience this when they are flirting. Ludus does not always lead to romantic relationships and is closer to phlia. 
  6. Pragma is the form of love often experienced in long-term, committed relationships such as a marriage. Pragma is an endearing love that is felt through companionship. The example of two people “making it work” is often connected to pragma. 
  7. Philautia is the term used to describe self-love. The attitude and relationship that someone has with themself can be explained by philautia. This is connected to our confidence and self-esteem. 

Finding Love in Our Lives

Understanding the three components and seven different forms of love can help you to improve and strengthen relationships. Evaluating our attitudes toward love may involve our backgrounds and beliefs. Learning to love someone or accept the love and affection of someone else is not easy. Sometimes this can mean trusting someone, putting a significant other’s needs before your own, or even letting go of the past. 

Not receiving enough love and affection can have negative effects on an individual. It can change a person’s mood drastically which can cause them to have an adverse outlook on life. If someone does not receive affection and some type of love in their life, they may experience depression and feelings of worthlessness. It can also result in a lack of motivation which can lead to trouble completing responsibilities or poor self-care.  Feelings of abandonment may stem from childhood causing isolation and loneliness. 

Working with a Therapist

A therapist can help you to work on accepting and giving love. Utilizing skills like understanding, forgiveness, and respect can lead to breakthroughs with the people in your life. Learning to be honest and transparent can create a stronger bond between you and the person you love.

If you are not sure where to start or what method to use in order to fix these problems, you can reach out to the team at June Health. A skilled therapist can help you understand the cause of your feelings and help to bridge the gap between you and others in your life. 

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