What Is Love?


As a concept, love is incredibly difficult to pin down. It’s a feeling, an emotion, a state of mind – sometimes all three at the same time. Some people use the word to describe their feelings about their significant others, friends or family; others feel it’s a universal human experience. It’s a feeling that can be so strong it drives us to do extraordinary things, and at the same time can make us feel insecure and inadequate.

Some psychologists see it as a mammalian drive, similar to hunger or thirst. Others see it as a complex emotion that develops from the combination of primary emotions. Whatever the definition, there’s no denying that it’s powerful and pervasive.

It’s the reason our cheeks glow, our palms get sweaty and our heart races when we first meet someone who excites us. It’s the jumble of chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine and adrenaline that can make it feel exhilarating to fall in love. And it’s the same reason why, after a while, those feelings may turn to something mellow or calmer.

While the chemistry can change, some core aspects remain consistent in all types of love. Sternberg breaks it down into three components that can be viewed as the vertices of a triangle: intimacy, passion and commitment (or decision). Intimate love refers to trust, affection and closeness; this is often present in all forms of love. Passionate love involves feelings of attraction and desire; this is usually more present in romantic relationships.