We use the word “love” to describe a range of emotional experiences, states of mind, and relationships: from the type of love you have for your friends and family to love at first sight to your love of tacos — and more. Love can be defined broadly, like the type of love you might feel for your whole community, or specifically, like the love you might feel for a romantic partner. Love has been defined differently over time, and by various cultures and religious traditions. Are you curious about the type of love you may be experiencing? Here are 15 types of love, explained.
Components of love
According to psychologist, professor, and former president of the American Psychological Association Dr. Robert Sternberg, there are three components of love. He described his theory in an article titled “A Triangular Theory of Love" published in the journal Psychological Review. These components are:
- Intimacy: Feelings of closeness and connection.
- Passion: Intense desire or longing for another person.
- Commitment: The decision to maintain a relationship over time.
7 types of love
Sternberg explained his theory that there are seven types of love, each arising from different combinations of intimacy, passion, and commitment. Understanding these definitions can help you determine which type of love you may be experiencing and how that love may be affecting you. Just because there are different types of love doesn’t mean that one is necessarily better than another as each type can contribute to meaningful connections.
1. Liking. Liking is a type of love that involves intimacy, without passion or commitment. This is the type of love you’re likely to feel for a close friend.
- How to know if you’re in liking love. You feel a bond with someone and want the best for them, but aren’t sexually attracted to them and don’t share a formal commitment.
2. Infatuated love. According to Sternberg, this is the type of love often described as “love at first sight.” Infatuated love occurs when you feel passion without intimacy or commitment, and often involves a strong component of sexual attraction.
- How to know if you’re in infatuated love. Your heart races when you think of someone, and you can’t get them out of your head — even though you don’t really know them on a deep level.
3. Empty love. This type of love is characterized by commitment without passion or intimacy. Although often associated with the end stages of long-term relationships and marriages, Stenberg notes that in certain cases — as with some arranged marriages — empty love can represent the beginning of a relationship that develops passion and intimacy over time.
- How to know if you’re in empty love. You’re in a relationship simply because of a sense of duty or obligation.
4. Romantic love. Romantic love is when passion and intimacy are present without commitment. This type of love often goes along with the early stages of a relationship, before you settle down.
- How to know if you’re in romantic love. You feel both lust and a deep connection with your partner, but you haven’t made a commitment to each other.
5. Companionate love. Love that combines intimacy with commitment, but doesn’t include passion, is defined by Stenberg as companionate love: Think the elderly couple who still hold hands after 50 years together, but no longer share a sexual connection.
- How to know if you’re in companionate love. You feel deep affection and commitment towards you partner, but little (if any) sexual attraction.
6. Fatuous love. This type of love exists when a couple shares both passion and commitment, but no intimacy. An example of this is a couple with a passionate sexual connection getting married before they get to know each other on a deeper level.
- How to know if you’re in fatuous love. You’ve already made a big commitment to someone you’re majorly into–even though you’ve just met.
7. Consummate love. This type of love is a trifecta, combining passion, intimacy, and commitment.
- How to know if you’re in consummate love. You and your partner know all each other's secrets, support each other no matter what, have an electric physical connection, and are committed to the relationship for the long haul.
8 types of love, from ancient Greece
Stenberg’s theory of love isn’t the only one out there. The ancient Greeks, for example, defined eight different types of love. Learn the definitions and perhaps ask yourself, what kind of love are you in right now, if any?
1. Agape is selfless, universal love for all people–the type of love that leads to altruism and good deeds for their own sake.
2. Philautia is self-love, which can help give you the capacity to care for yourself and others.
3. Philia is the kind of love you have for a close friend; it’s sometimes called “Platonic” love.
4. Pragma is deep, lasting love that often comes with long-term commitment.
5. Storge is the type of unconditional love often felt by parents for their children, or between close family members.
6. Ludus is a type of love that’s playful and flirty–the kind that gives you butterflies.
7. Eros is defined by sexual attraction and passion.
8. Mania is obsessive love and is often considered destructive and harmful.
The bottom line
Whatever type of love you’re in, know that your experience is valid. Even if you’d like to be in a different kind of love than the one you’re experiencing currently (say you’re in infatuated love, and want to progress to something deeper) each type of love can be valuable and lead to growth. Knowing about different types of love can help you to work towards the kind of relationship that will feel the most fulfilling for you and your partner. And for all the different types of love there are, there are also all different types of ways to say “I love you.”