Love is a word that brings up all sorts of images, whether we are thinking about that first kiss with someone special or a long-time relationship. It can be sweet and sexy, or bitter and painful. Some people think love only exists between opposite sexes, but many other types of love exist in the world, including family and friend love, love between siblings, and even love for pets.
The idea that there are different kinds of love is a long-standing one, but researchers have largely only studied it as a specific concept in the last 75 years or so. Even then, it was controversial. For example, Senator William Proxmire railed against researchers who were investigating the nature of love, calling it “a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
While research into this topic has expanded enormously since then, a lot of work is still left to be done. Many people have different opinions on what love is, ranging from those who believe it only exists between romantic partners to hopeless romantics who dream of soulmates. Others believe that everyone should strive for true love, and others have more cynical views.
A central issue is how to define what love really is. Some people suggest that it is a feeling of intense passion, infatuation or obsession, while others say it’s something more than that, involving a sense of commitment and attachment. It may also involve a desire for affection and loyalty, or an attitude of caring and concern.
Another big question is how to make sense of the kind of constancy and commitment that love seems to involve, and what makes it special. Some argue that it is simply a matter of liking someone, but this can be problematic if there is no real affection or commitment. Other people suggest that love is a form of evaluation, or a particular kind of appreciation, and that it can be justified in various ways.
A lot of the debate about these issues focuses on love as an emotion, with some scientists suggesting that it is a primary drive similar to hunger or thirst, and other scientists arguing that it’s a secondary emotion resulting from a combination of other feelings. Some philosophers have suggested that the way we feel about someone is what constitutes love, but this is a highly controversial view.
Regardless of what theory you favour, it’s worth pointing out that most of us have experienced the ecstasy and agony of falling in and out of love. There will probably be days, or weeks, when you don’t feel all mushy and gushy, and perhaps moments when you look at the person you’re in love with and realize that your heart can’t possibly hold it all and might actually burst. But those are all perfectly normal parts of a loving relationship. It’s all part of the process, and it’s totally worth it. Love is a beautiful thing, and it’s a big part of what makes life so amazing.