Love is a word with many meanings and types, and you’ll probably experience some or all of these at different points in your life. While many of these are a little less than official, they’re undoubtedly real and can be very intense. How many of these have you had in your life?
- Erotic love This kind of love is about desire and sexuality. This is a passionate form of expression and can be experienced when you’re attracted to another person. It’s also the drive for procreation, a natural desire that most people possess. You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to feel erotic love for another person. Erotic love can often translate as lust and is a totally natural chemical response in the body.
- Familiar love It could be a lover you’ve dated before or someone from a past life. Either way, this person feels totally familiar to you. It can have power over you even when the person is no longer in your life. It ensures that there’s always a little something between you and the person you’ve previously been with. That history can never be erased.
- Manipulative love This is a kind of love that is full of suffering. One party (or both) is taking advantage of the other one. They’re being manipulative by gaslighting their partner, making them feel poorly about themselves, and controlling what they do and don’t do. This is a sad kind of love, leaving both people feeling actually more lonely than if they were alone.
- Obsessive love With this type of love, it’s as if the person has a hole in their heart that they’re desperately trying to fill by using another person. These are the types that often get into codependent relationships because they feel as if they “need” their partner and they wouldn’t be whole without them. It’s a sad kind of love because it misses out on a lot of the good things due to its selfishness.
- Family love The feelings you have for family are different than the feelings you have for a lover or even a friend. They run deep, almost as if the love grew with your bones. Family love is often (but not always) unconditional. It isn’t dependent on how a person is behaving or who they are, family just kind of loves you just as you are. It’s a unique kind of love.
- Universal love The love that you have for a stranger when they’re going through a tough time is an example of this kind of love. It’s a kind of love that most humans are naturally equipped with. It can be equated to empathy or altruism. It’s totally natural to be concerned for other people and this manifests itself in the form of universal love.
- Selfless love A step further than universal love, this kind occurs when you’re giving to someone without any expectation of something in return. It can be when you’re volunteering your time or when you’re in a relationship with someone you deeply care about. It’s almost a spiritual kind of love because it’s so magical. It extends beyond the individual and is a worldly experience.
- Platonic love The love you have for a friend is generally platonic. There’s a quote by Elbert Hubbard that says, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” It’s the truth—friends get to see all of your imperfections and they choose to stick around anyway. Platonic love can mean different things to different people, but it’s essentially companionship. This is a special kind of love.
- Self-love The sort of adoration and gentleness that you have for yourself (hopefully) is self-love. It’s turning all that mushy stuff in your heart back inwards to shine on your self-esteem and confidence. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be blessed with self-love, but those who are know how absolutely crucial it is to living a happy and fulfilling life.
- Enduring love When two people love each other well for a great deal of time, that’s where enduring love is found. You see it in some married couples who have been together for a while and even in some friendships that have lasted the test of time. This kind of love is strong and reliable. It takes two people, though—you can’t have enduring love with just one person doing the emotional labor.
- Playful love In the beginning stages of a relationship where both parties feel light and silly, that’s where playful love hangs out. It’s a flirty energy that makes you feel young and carefree. This kind of love is fun. It can even be experienced in friendships when you banter back and forth or have a good time together.
What types of love do psychologists recognize?
American psychologist Robert J. Sternberg has studied relationships extensively and concluded that while there are seven different types of love, only the right combination of intimacy, passion, and commitment will lead to a successful relationship. So how does your current relationship stack up to the science?
- Liking and friendship How many people do you know who used to date before they decided that they’re better off as friends? It’s such a common relationship between two people who have a genuine bond and are incredibly close. You want to chat or text every single day and they’re the one you call on when something amazing or awful or pee-your-pants hilarious happens. It’s a deep bond and many of us mistake this intimacy as something more. The absence of a physical relationship and commitment make this fail romantically but succeed as an amazing friendship.
- Infatuated love We’ve all been there. The incredible chemistry between you is intoxicating and it’s a mind-blowing physical relationship. These dalliances are powerful but unfortunately, they don’t tend to last very long. Some very lucky people will develop intimacy, which is great for a long-term relationship. For the rest of us, it’s short and sweet.
- Empty love Sounds depressing, right? Surprisingly many of these relationships start out strong and happy. Over time, however, the passion flickers away and so does the intimacy. You’re still committed to each other but less intimacy and passion means a less-than-perfect relationship where one or both of you will become miserable and things will eventually end.
- Romantic love Ever wondered why the commitment issue is so divisive? Why does it suddenly become a make-or-break issue? Most longer-term relationships start out as romantic love ones. You are in that sweet place where you like each other, you have a really close bond, and you want to be with them all the time. You can relax and be yourself with each other but still have great chemistry. Nice. This is one where the relationship can potentially be “The One.” So what goes wrong? Commitment or lack of it. For this relationship to stay healthy, you both need to be on the same page in terms of the future. If they want to move in with you but you’re not looking to commit, then sadly the relationship is doomed.
- Companionate love The age-old joke about married people not having sex might be more than just a stereotype after all. Companionate love is a kinship which may have had all the important elements to begin with, however, as time has passed, the passion has inevitably gone. There is still deep affection and commitment, so people in these relationships still want to share their lives, but don’t have any sexual desire.
- Fatuous love This is one of the more complex relationships. There is commitment there but it’s actually driven rather ironically by the passion in the affair! Think of the cliché whirlwind romance and a 10-minute wedding at the Little White Chapel. OK, it’s a glib example, but essentially this is fatuous love. The passion in a relatively new relationship is so overpowering that the couple believes it’s far more than that. They make the commitment but the essential element of intimacy isn’t there to ground it. Sadly, these relationships will also end.
- Consummate love Ah yes, I saved the best for last. The holy grail of relationships, utopia itself. Of all the seven types of love, consummate love is the only one which contains all three magic ingredients; intimacy, passion, and commitment. The trio of triumph is the one which will go the distance. Sternberg warns us that once you have achieved consummate love, it can be more of a challenge to maintain it. If you lose the passion, it becomes companionate love; if the intimacy ebbs away too, then you have empty love. These types of love can evolve from one to another depending on the combination you have at any one time. If you have already have the trio of triumph and you make sure to work on the passion, intimacy, and commitment then you may have achieved the oh-so-elusive perfect relationship.