What Is Love?

What is love?

Of course, if you have ever loved (or even if you have never) the question of what love is can be something you are wondering. We all want to know the secret of what constitutes love, and therefore what to do to find the perfect love in your life. Spoiler alert, there is no definite answer. Just like many other existential questions, no scientists can tell for sure what love is. However, there are multiple theories that have interesting explanations and maybe you can find the description that resonates with you the most. 

Sternberg’s triangular theory

This theory is the most common one. Imagine love as a triangle with each angle representing one of the three main components: intimacy (connectedness and closeness), passion (physical attraction and sexual consummation) and commitment (decision to love and commitment to maintain).

Depending on how you combine these components you get different “types of love”. 

Only intimacy means liking, only passion brings infatuated love and only commitment – empty love. If you combine passion and intimacy you get romantic love, while combining intimacy with decision making can bring companionate love. Passion together with commitment give birth to fatuous love. And finally, if you combine all three, passion, intimacy and commitment, you get the consummate or complete love. This theory gives plenty of options to choose from and leaves space for improvement to reach the “perfect” love. 

Elaine Hatfield’s love model

According to this psychologist there are two types of love: passionate and compassionate. Passionate love is characterised by strong feelings, longing for union with one another and possible distress when separated. This type of love is more common at the beginning of the relationships. During this type of love people tend to experience partner idealisation, desire to know and be known, a need to maintain physical closeness and intrusive thoughts about their partner. 

Compassionate love is a calmer type of love with deeper feelings of trust and commitment. This doesn’t mean there is no passion in the relationships, it just tends to be less overwhelming. Compassionate love often comes after 1-2 years of passionate love. It is characterised by deep trust and intimacy with long-term commitment. 

The type of love you end up in is often determined by you readiness to be in a relationship at that moment in time, your attachment style (read our post on attachment styles to have a better understanding) and similarity to our prospective partner. 

John Alan Lee’s colours of love 

It has been proposed recently that there are 6 different types of love. However, we are not locked into just one, but rather display the degrees of some or all of them. This theory can help you determine what type of lover you are and what type of lover you need (as always though, take it with a pinch of salt). 

There are 3 primarily styles:

1. Eros – stereotypic romantic love, intense attraction, passion

2. Ludus – love as a sport, possibility of multiple partners, acceptable deception and manipulation, often short-term relationships that are based on physical characteristics

3. Storge – love often grows from friendships, enduring and committed love, is based on trust and similarity

There are 3 secondary styles (combinations of primary styles):

1. Mania (Eros + Ludus) – obsessive love, partners are often emotionally dependent, possessive and jealous

2. Pragma (Ludus + Storge) – practical and realistic love, based on compatibility and future prospects, includes evaluation of social, emotional and financial characteristics

3. Agape (Eros + Stroge) – selfless love, concentration on partner’s needs and unconditional acceptance, value kindness and care

Regardless of the theory you chose to explain your deep feelings, remember that love is not static and can change over time. You may notice some things and maybe improve some aspects that you want to improve. But we urge you not to judge yourself (or your partner) based on this information, but rather use it to meet each other’s needs better.

Meanwhile, explore your love, stay home and stay safe!

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