In this time of global uncertainty, we need love more than ever. It keeps us bonded to each other, and it’s the driving force behind the success of most romantic relationships. It’s also an important component of many friendships, familial relationships and even work partnerships. But what exactly is it? It seems to mean different things to everyone, and it can be difficult to pin down. So, with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 10 different ways to define love.
The most straightforward definition is that it’s a feeling of affection and attachment that can be felt for anyone or anything. Some people also consider “infatuation” to be a type of love, but it differs from true love in that infatuation doesn’t necessarily lead to commitment. Infatuation is more like a sexual attraction that may or may not develop into true love, depending on the person and the relationship.
From an evolutionary psychology perspective, love evolved to keep parents bonded and committed to their children. It can help them survive the stress of raising young children and ensure that their genes are passed on to future generations. But, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be toxic. It can also lead to feelings of jealousy, anxiety, rage and despair. In fact, studies have shown that the lack of companionate love — rather than passionate love — is what can most negatively impact long-term relationship satisfaction.
Many philosophers and psychologists disagree about the characterization of love. Some think it isn’t really an emotion in the sense that we typically understand emotions, but instead a necessary physiological drive. Others think that it’s a complex emotion with distinct features that make it unlike any other. And still others argue that it’s too complicated to be captured by a single concept.
Despite the controversy, most of the literature on love seems to agree that it involves more than mere liking. It involves the desire to be close to someone, the need to trust them and feel secure with them. This is also why some scholars have suggested that the concept of love should include the notions of affection, commitment and trust.
In order to try to make sense of this complexity, it is common for accounts of love to rely on quasi-reductionistic language. This can lead to confusion, as the ideas that are classified under one type often overlap with, or are contained within, the concepts categorized under another. Nevertheless, the four types we have identified here — love as union, love as robust concern, love as valuing and love as an emotion — are useful in helping to clarify the various themes that are relevant to an explanation of love.