Understanding the Different Types of Love

Love is complicated, mysterious, and messy — but it’s also beautiful, pure, and unpredictable. It’s why we forgive our partner for always being late, or work so hard to make our creative vision a reality, or get emotionally invested in our favorite sports team. Love is what makes us feel connected and safe — and even when the world seems to be falling apart around you, you can still find happiness in small things like seeing your grandmother walking towards you or the smile on someone’s face as they greet you.

It’s important to remember that love is not a single emotion, but a combination of feelings and behaviors — like intimacy, passion, trust, commitment, & empathy. While it’s associated with many positive emotions, such as joy, life satisfaction, and euphoria, love can also trigger negative feelings, such as anxiety, jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness, and sadness.

Scientists primarily study love in terms of biology, with the conventional view being that it’s an essential mammalian drive akin to hunger or thirst. It’s thought that hormones such as oxytocin, neurotrophins, and pheromones play an important role. This type of love is sometimes referred to as “infatuation” or “romantic love.” There are several other types of love as well, including ludus (flirty love), pragma (rational relationship choices), and agape (self-sacrificing love). Evidence suggests that most people experience a mixture of these different types of love throughout their lives.