Love is one of the most complex, intriguing and mysterious emotions we can experience. It’s also a favored topic of philosophers, poets and artists throughout history. But the exact definition of “love” can vary significantly from person to person and culture to culture. There are even different theories on whether love is a feeling or a choice, and whether it’s permanent or fleeting.
There’s no doubt that most people will agree that love is a powerful force. It can make us feel elated, joyful, and happy when it’s reciprocated. On the other hand, unrequited love can feel devastating and leave us with a deep sense of sadness and loss. Love can even motivate people to do extreme things, such as sacrificing their lives or careers for the sake of another.
Despite the many debates, psychologists have generally agreed on some common features of love: it’s a positive feeling of attachment and loyalty, it can cause us to act in ways that are uncharacteristic, and it can cause a wide range of physical reactions, such as butterflies in the stomach, weak knees, separation anxiety, cravings for food or sex, and feelings of intense longing or neediness.
Researchers have also developed some models to explain how we love, and these can be broken down into three types of love: mania, pragma and agape. Manic love is a feeling of intense, uncontrollable emotions, which can lead to obsessive thinking, unrealistic expectations and problems in sustaining the relationship. Pragmatic love is a mature, responsible love that develops over time and often involves forming a mutually beneficial partnership. It involves commitment and structure, as well as a shared vision for the future. Agape is a self-sacrificing love that is usually found among religious people, and is based on compassion and a desire to help others.
While pragma and agape are the main types of love, people sometimes fall into different categories, or have a mixture of these styles. This can be especially true in romantic relationships, where couples typically have both passionate and companionate love. Companionate love is an important element of a healthy romantic relationship, and it’s often referred to as “committed friendship.” It may include acts like helping each other with household chores, giving gifts to show affection, and sharing meals together.