7 Types of Love Not Everyone Can Feel All of Them
Our understanding of what love is has come a long way since the first caveman felt the first case of the butterflies. Advances in neuroscience have helped us visualize our physical reactions to the feeling we call love, while philosophers and psychologists have helped us hammer out what we mean emotionally when say we love.
1. Infatuation (Passion)
Passion is a love component that many of us are familiar with. It’s responsible for the wildly beating heart, the flip-flops in the stomach, that feeling of love at first sight. Of course, when it’s just passion alone, there’s none of the true knowing that comes with intimacy nor the steadfastness of commitment – so what you end up with is less nuanced than some other types of love. The best description for passion on its own is thus infatuation.
2. Liking (Intimacy)
Next up is intimacy. Unlike passion, intimacy can be a solely platonic feeling – it’s that sense of familiarity and friendship that comes with meeting someone you really get on with, someone you can be your true self around. It is certainly a great component to have in romantic relationships, but on its own, without passion or commitment, it’s more likely to result in friendship – or, as the Triangular Theory of Love puts it, liking.
3. Empty Love (Commitment)
Thirdly we have commitment, the active steps taken to preserve a relationship. It’s an essential part of any lasting love, but, when devoid of intimacy and passion, it’s a part that can feel more like a duty than a romantic choice. Often, a long-term relationship that has lost all passion and intimacy will hover in this ‘empty love’ stage before ending, but as Sternberg points out, love can begin here too: in an arranged marriage, for instance, the commitment often comes first.
4. Fatuous Love (Commitment + Passion)
When you combine the fire of passionate infatuation and the bonds of commitment but don’t intimately like who the other person is, you get fatuous love. Whirlwind celebrity marriages and the clichéd quickie Vegas wedding can often be described as fatuous love, as can any ardent, committed connection built without much substance behind it. The lack of intimacy means that when passion mellows such relationships are often difficult to sustain (and also, depending on the level of commitment involved, tricky to dissolve!)
5. Romantic Love (Passion + Intimacy)
In romantic love, the intimacy component brings a meeting of minds, while the passion component means that there’s physical attraction too. As glorious as this combination is, the lack of commitment means that romantic love is very much focused on the now rather than the future. This means it’s often seen in the giddy, early phase of a romance; that time when you’re learning all about each other and loving what you discover, but before your lives and loyalties are fully merged. With the addition of commitment, this can blossom into consummate love – without it, it’s more likely to be the stuff of tempestuous romance novels.
6. Companionate Love (Intimacy + Commitment)
At the other end of the drama scale to romantic love is companionate love. When combined, commitment and intimacy make powerful emotional bonds, meaning that the companionate connection is stronger than simple friendship. However, the lack of passion means that this is often quite a chaste, comfortable arrangement – the sort of thing that might happen after years of familiarity. According to Sternberg, this isn’t a death knell for love – in fact, this mellow phase is a common part of relationship progression.
7. Consummate Love (Passion + Intimacy + Commitment)
When passion, intimacy, and commitment are all three present, then the result is consummate love. The three components don’t have to be present in equal measure of course, but this ideal form of love must have at least an element of them all. The excitement of passion, the comfort of intimacy, and the team spirit of commitment are all needed to get to that ideal.
So how can you know if you’re in consummate love? If it’s been years and you can’t see yourselves happier with other partners, if you’re still enjoying sex or physical affection with each other, and if you’re both still putting the time in to communicate and commit to each other, then chances are you’ve reached the consummate stage.
It may not last forever – one of the caveats of the Triangular Theory of Love is that relationships can move from one point to another over time – but it is something that can be worked towards, or that you can work to recover. And it’s worth working for – consummate love is a special type of bliss; the kind of connection that sees couples continue to adore each other long into a partnership. And who wouldn’t want that?