♦ LAST UPDATED ON November 19, 2020 ♦

Other Kinds of Loves


Mysterious, risky, desirable, generative, unpredictable, and also delightful? Many kinds of love weave people together throughout their lives. The love between a man and a woman is a big topic.

What is ‘Unrequited’ Love?

black and white cat watching adult yellow Labrador retriever on window

Unrequited love or one-sided love is love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such by the beloved. The beloved may not be aware of the admirer’s deep and strong romantic affection, or may consciously reject it.

To love is to love something. Very often, however, the object of allegedly unrequited love is a fiction, or rather, an idealized version of a person.

‘The real person, by contrast, is not a good match. That’s precisely why he or she is rejecting us. So the object of our unrequited love — the fictional person — is not rejecting us since that person is an excellent match. And the real person who rejects us is not the person we love,’ explains Iskra Fileva in an essay on Psychology Today.

On the other hand, the beloved may simply not ‘feel’ the same, may simply not be interested in or capable of an intimate relationship with the romantic lover.

The daughter of a friend of mine used to be ‘infatuated’ with the persona of actor Johnny Depp. And she argued, ‘that I love him, what business is it of his?’

What is ‘Illicit’ Love?

courtly love

Illicit love is a love not allowed or approved by common custom, rule, or standard.

The ‘courtly’ love between a knight and a maid of higher social standing, sung about by troubadours in the Middle Ages and as associated with chivalry, was often an illicit love affair, although most often never consummated.

The strong adoption of marriage to foster families in the last few hundreds of years has made illicit and promiscuous love a much more pernicious issue. Surely, all children deserve being raised in a functional family.

Yet, as Alain de Botton writes, ‘what distinguishes modern marriage from its historical precedents is its fundamental tenet that all our desires for love, sex, and family ought to reside in the selfsame person. No other society has been so stringent or so hopeful about the institution of marriage, nor ultimately, as a consequence, so disappointed in it.’

Erotic love is and always has been uneasy about being put into a cast.  

What is ‘Platonic’ Love?

silhouette of two mens near seashore about to high five during sunset

Platonic love, or ‘philia,’  is a special emotional and spiritual’ relationship between two people who admire and respect one another because of common interests, a felt connection, or similar worldviews, etc. It is like being good friends and does not involve any type of sexuality.

Platonic love is named after Greek philosopher Plato, though the philosopher never used the term himself. In Plato’s seminal dialog Symposium, the speech of Socrates highlights the idea of platonic love as a means of ascent to contemplation of the divine.

Good friendships are likely of platonic love. So, do not marry your best friend, but marry someone you only love instead. That way you won’t lose your true, your best friend to erotic passions — true friends are too priceless.

What is ‘Unconditional’ Love?

woman standing near wall

The idea that a human’s kind of love is or could be unconditional is highly abstract, idealistic, unsustainable except in brief situations between humans here and there, and more wishful thinking than humanly actionable on a consistent basis.

Sure, we can be in awe with the idea of humanity (a pseudo-love), the idea of a totally egalitarian society, but when it comes down to particulars, to one’s actual relationships with others, we find that living is mostly transactional and that we cannot refrain from taking advantages.

Mother Theresa tried to be an ‘unconditional love’ automaton, and it made her feel abandoned by God.

Watching a Roomba vacuum moving about a floor and cleaning all by itself makes me think that people have now programmed ‘unconditional loving’ into robots. But perhaps not ‘love.’ There might very well be Christian robots in the future — full of charity. But in my guestimates, they will not be able to delightfully ‘fall in love.’

A mother’s love for her child comes possibly closest to unconditional love — and when it fails, it really hurts.

What is ‘God’s’ Love?

women's yellow jacket

Also labeled as ‘agape’ or ‘love of neighbor,’ this kind of love is considered to be the highest form of love, the love of God for man and of man for God and of man for man.

The apostle Paul, who taught the gospel of Jesus to the first-century world, and St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo in Roman North Africa, were the major proponents of this kind of love.

‘For it is written, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” and only one seized by God and his commandment is able to do so,’ remarks Hannah Arendt in her studies of St. Augustine’s conceptions of love.

This kind of love largely refers to a pure, willful, sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children, that is, being loved by God regardless of ‘inherited sin,’ of natural shortcomings, of personal failures, etc. It is said that God’s love allows people to encounter each other in trust when personal motivations and intentions alone would only lead to suspicions.

Whether or not God and ‘his’ love are real or a figment of our imagination seems to matter less since humanistic morality and ethics have shown serious limits as well.

I guess humanity could use all the help it can get.

What is ‘Pseudo’ Love?

Narcissism, the love of self, is surely one form of pseudo-love. Falling in love with your beliefs, expectations, ideas about love is another form of pseudo-love. Also, it is being in love with the idea of being in love, or being in love with yourself for being in love, etc. Pseudo-love, in other words, is falling in love with thoughts, images, feelings you associate with what you think love is.

Consequently, pseudo-love makes you feel you have everything you’ve always wanted in a relationship — all without much of the troubles of negotiating the intricacies of love and life with the other. You are actually not much in love with the other, you rather miss the target — so to speak.

Pseudo-love can be an early stage in the development of romantic love, and remains a stumbling block if not corrected or overcome.

Make sure you don’t get stuck with a partner who cannot step up.

What is Sex and Lust?


Normal stuff in itself. As it takes two to tango — and a lot of courage — we must continuously negotiate our way through the maze of love and life. That makes coping with sex and lust, highly personal and intimate matters, rather tricky.

Sex is the physical activity of, let’s say, rubbing erotic-sensitive body parts, one’s own and/or those of another. Sex usually peaks with an orgasm, but not necessarily.

Lust is a lived emotion that emerges from the regressive depth of our ancient psyche and takes over when, in our case, we are being aroused by beauty (men are an instance of platonic ‘beauty’ as well), more specifically when we are aroused by the prospects and acts of sexuality.

Thus, being simply aroused erotically is not the same as being ‘in love.’ Something is missing here, and that something is affection and esteem — as it were regardless of lust.

On the flip side, can one be in love without being aroused ever, that is never aroused by the actual other and only because the body ‘blooms’ all of its own?

‘We are a weird, wonderful and sometimes downright kinky species,’ says Neil McArthur in his essay Stone-age sex on Aeon.

Don’t be afraid, there’s no warmth anywhere without a fire somewhere.

What is ‘Lost’ or ‘Empty’ love?

domestic violence

Can love be lost? Sure, needless to say. How so, however, depends a bit on the kind of love in question. A romantic lover may lose him or herself easily in pseudo-love, and if not overcome, the ‘love’ goes nowhere. On the other hand, romantic love may very well survive early insecurities and mature into real love — that of an acknowledged and endorsed relationship.

Real love can be lost as well. Boredom is perhaps enemy #1 for a loving couple, as it may lead to dreaded infidelity sooner or later. When real love loses its erotic aspect, that is when the lovers drop their delightful, alternating enchantment and surrender of each other, the loving relationship becomes a companionate relationship characterizable by habit, by friendship. Real love is not anymore.

Is being wanted, being desired, asking fairly for love? Surely, most of us prefer to be loved rather than be used. But it is hard to come to and keep an equal footing in relationships of love. It takes a lot of intimate negotiation to tango, even if only well enough. There is nothing natural about love so as to make it drive in automatic mode, in ‘set it and forget it’ mode.

“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.” — W.H. Auden

And there is always the fear of losing that love, especially if it has gotten to be overly possessive.

What is ‘Only’ or ‘Last’ Love?

grayscale photo of man and woman

“The first, the second or may be the third.
I don’t care about your past.
As long as you promise me that
I’ll be your last…..”

Nobody wants to be just used, not even outside of intimate relationships. ‘In order for love to be authentic,’ according to Simone de Beauvoir, ‘it must be reciprocal and non-exploitative.’

It is hard to argue with that, perhaps even for the living soulmates of Casanova and Don Juan, Ninon de Lenclos and Anais Nin. But their lives were and are not conditioned by a binding endorsement of authentic love. You know that, right?

In any case, being exploited is no fun – so, I mean, what can I say? Read my musings and don’t be a victim ever.

The more cardinal kind of loves are described them here.

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