What Is Love?


The idea of love has long been a cherished subject for philosophers, writers, and artists. It has also been a source of conflict and confusion, since one person’s “love” can look very different from another’s. People use the term to describe feelings of affection, closeness, protection, and respect for their family, romantic partners, and friends — as well as for non-human animals and principles, like freedom or religion.

Biology sees love as a mammalian drive, like hunger or thirst, and psychology views it as a social and cultural phenomenon that can be shaped by hormones, neurotransmitters, and pheromones. The simplest way to think about love is as an emotion that involves feeling close and caring for someone.

In a 2014 talk, Match’s chief scientific advisor Helen Fisher explained that when we fall in love, we experience a surge of chemical activity in the brain. The area that lights up during this time is the ventral tegmental area, or VTA. It’s associated with craving, focus, and motivation, and it’s located in the reptilian core of the brain. It’s why your cheeks get flushed, your palms sweaty, and your heart races when you meet someone who makes your heart flutter.

The ancient Greeks referred to this feeling as agape, which means selfless love. It’s often characterized by giving without expecting anything in return, and it’s a common form of love that couples nurture over time. Another type of love is pragma, or committed love. Pragma tends to develop over a prolonged period of time and focuses on shared goals, mutual benefits, and long-term plans.