What is Love and How Many Types of Love Are There Anyway?
“Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.” ~ Paulo Coelho
You love your parents. You love your children. You love your life-long best friend you’ve had since grade school. You love your romantic partner. You love them all, but not in the same way. Each one holds a special and unique place in your heart.
Why is it that we immediately “fall in love” with some people, while not others? Just to give you an example: I’ve become acquainted with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work (www.chimamanda.com). And I immediately felt a strong connection with her. What she says and her way of being really resonates with me. She’s funny, graceful, authentic, and the kind of powerful person that makes me proud to be a woman. So I’ve fallen in love with her and have adopted her as my new role model.
From a biological point of view, love is fundamentally chemistry. While lust is a temporary sexual state caused by the release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen, true love is caused by the release of a whole range of chemicals such as pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin.
From an evolutionary standpoint, love can be viewed as a survival mechanism because it holds the family and community together for mutual security and shared resources.
The word “love” is confusing, because in English we have just one word to describe so many emotional states. It would be so much better to follow the example of the ancient Greeks who had numerous words to describe the various feelings of love:
- Philia – the deep intimacy between close friends or family members.
- Ludus – the playful affection like flirting.
- Storge – affection within the moment similar to when you see a child do something adorable.
- Pragma – the mature love that develops over a long period of time between committed couples who actively practice goodwill and understanding.
- Agape – the generalized love for all of humanity.
- Philautia – the self-love that we need in order to care for others.
- Eros – the sexual passion and infatuation, which fades unless it turns into a deeper love like philia or pragma.
Even growing up in Italy we distinguished between love towards family and friends by saying: “Ti voglio bene’” and towards a romantic partner using the phrase: “Ti amo.”
Love is never static. It’s expansive. Your heart will never be too full to accept another love. However, it needs to be nurtured and expressed in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice to stay alive and active.
You can be open to accepting love, but you can’t dictate how, when and where love strikes. You can’t make somebody love you. Love usually arrives in our lives without warning. You can’t buy it. Sell it. Imprison it.
True love is so powerful that it can never hurt anyone. Although, it may cost you dearly because it gives you the courage to speak up and stand up for what you believe in. While it comes freely, it creates an unbreakable bond, one that can be stronger than death. There is nothing it can’t face. If you have love you have a blessed life.
Yet sadly, too many people live without love. They’ve been abused. They’re too busy. Or their fears keep love away. They feel unloved, unworthy, unappreciated. The good news is that anyone can change their situation.
If you’d like to experience deeper, more meaning connections in your life, remember change starts within you. Please check out the Women in Leadership Retreat I’m leading with my close friend Nando Raynolds on May 20 and 21. Everyone gets to choose their own goal to work on so creating loving relationships could be yours. Or feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation, in-person, by phone or via Skype.