♦ LAST UPDATED ON November 23, 2020 ♦

Major 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 Love — overall?

what is love

Love is intuitioned as a most delightful phenomenon in a highly personal and deeply intimate relationship between two people, begetting a new belonging and making life worth living for each one of them.

However, love is not a child’s play.

The notion of love has been approached from a few perspectives. Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said that love is an illusion if not a delusion; North African bishop St. Augustine said that love is a craving, empiricist David Hume said that it is a passion we suffer, and phenomenologist Max Scheler said that love is a felt emotion. Psychologist Robert Trivers sees love as a mechanism acquired by humans in order to reproduce and to keep children alive. Many honorable men and women of faith insist that love is acts of benevolence.

Contradictory as they seem, I reconcile all of the above positions in that love is a construct of all of the above and, regardless of whether the glass is half empty or half full, the intuition of love is meaningful and real and not a delusion.

My simple view of love’s genesis goes like this: the construct of love assembles in consciousness. It is provided for by primeval instincts and needs that stir desires which, subsequently, evoke and arouse intense emotions and erotic passions which, subsequently, cause re-alignment of perspectives which, subsequently, motivate reason — kind of as afterthoughts — and inspire manners, behaviors, and actions. Kinds of love (read below) weave people’s lives together overtimes and inform much of morality and ethics.

Does all that make love an illusion, a desire, a passion, an emotion, a phenomenon, or an action alone? No, love is not reducible, fairly, to just one ‘thing.’ Love is a construct of many ‘things,’ complex and — in the end — desirable as well as intriguing.

Thus love is what makes the world go ’round.

What matters to people most, however, is perhaps how love is actually experienced in life, that is, not so much where love comes from or what love is, but how love expresses itself. What does love do — to lovers and others (what love does depends on what it is), and what lovers then do, especially to each other.

In his essay In Praise of Love, philosopher Alain Badiou, makes the case for love being an antidote to loneliness as it creates a lasting interdependency between and changes the outlook on life for the lovers. I prefer to say that love creates a new belonging.

Essayist Jose Ortega y Gasset points out that, ‘what exists in love is surrender due to enchantment.’ And because of that, from the outside, from the point of view of others or even rivals, a delightful love may be looked at with envy and then some. And from the inside, it is then protected with jealousy.

Even if love is a construct, it doesn’t mean its experience is not meaningful and real. Love seems to make the world go ’round!

What is ‘Romantic’ Love?

woman on bike reaching for man's hand behind her also on bike

Romantic love is when it wants to last forever. ‘True love will never fade…’ sings Mark Knoepfler on his fifth solo album Kill To Get Crimson. While romantic love, passionate as it may be, is true, it is not yet true love — or even real love — as it will have a little way to go.

‘Being in love’ is akin to upheaval, and when not unrequited, the singles want to be together as one, they are not sure of themselves, yet they have acknowledged each other but not fully endorsed each other in their encounter.

In other words, romantic lovers are still uncertain as to the notion of their co-belonging. ‘Do we belong together?‘ is the question that really needs an affirmative answer for romantic love to resolve itself into real love. Modern courtship is that time for the two to find their certitude.

There often is also the case whereas the lovers, or perhaps just one, are really more in love with themselves for being ‘in love,’ or are in love with an idealized version of the other, a representation, rather than the actual other-as-is. Therefore the saying that ‘love is blind.’

On top of that, romance is not concerned with the duties and obligations arising out of that newfound possibility of two merging into one, as they will need to ‘make it’ in an indifferent world.

This is to say that romantic expectations can become the rabbit hole one wants to avoid getting lost in. It is attachment science that can guide us to real and lasting love, says Sue Johnson, and that ‘love has a logic and is something we can intentionally shape.’

‘Falling in love’ is not necessarily the misfortune many worried parents make it to be. Most folks will find that falling in love is exhilarating and, one day in old age, may fondly remember such an experience. That memory, then, might go a long way in sustaining a bonded relationship that has lasted past its prime.

Instead of ‘falling madly in love and going up in smoke,’ singles themselves may prepare for the odds of just ‘falling gently in love,’ if love happens at all, by resorting to modern courtship by default.

When love does ‘smite,’ the aid of modern courtship can be resorted to. This soft, self-imposed ‘timeout’ simply is meant for the two singles to allow themselves to get to know each other more cautiously over time, that is without early physical intimacy and runaway emotions clouding their view and possibly causing harm.

The words ‘I love you,’ if not spoken frivolously and reciprocated in kind, then mark the transition of romance to a new co-belonging for the lovers.

Luckily, there is no cure against any possibility of being ‘smiten’ by love. ‘Falling in love’ is a feature, not a bug, of what makes the world go ’round, and it would be a rather cold world without it.

Fear not, there would be no warmth anywhere without a fire somewhere.

What is ‘Erotic’ Love?

passionate love

Erotic love is a love that is borne out of instincts and needs, out of desires and passions, it is a love that wants to possess the other — the object of desire — even if only for a moment, and may or may not be consummated.

Desires are the desires of the Others,’ explains Jacques Lacan. The desires and passions of erotic love are not purely sexual in nature, as beauty (men are an instance of platonic ‘beauty’ as well) can simply arouse the mind or heart alone. Regardless, however, erotic love is susceptible to all kinds of intrigue.

But to cheat erotic love of its deserved honors as a natural and irreplaceable function in the spotlight of human creativity is unfair escapism. Needless to say, none of us would be here without erotic love. It may very well be risky or unsafe, but so is looking into a mirror first thing in the morning, or childbirth.

Erotic love does harbor a process of discovery as Heidi Matthews suggested: ‘sometimes what we want is not fully known to us in advance. The details of desire and satisfaction are often discovered, and produced, in the sexual moment.’ That is akin to saying that the inner workings of our unconscious psyche are less than perfect, if not somehow even ‘glitchy.’

Luckily, Friedrich Nietzsche offered relief by saying that ‘what is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.’ In other words, a person can be perfectly wonderful without being perfectly moral.

What is ‘Real’ Love?


Real love is when and while it lasts. It is a new belonging, and may have started as romantic love, pseudo-love, erotic love, or even friendship — real love unites all of that. It expresses itself as reciprocal affection and esteem to significant degrees and is benevolently consummated under the umbrella of exclusivity. Sexuality, then, is held not so much for its own sake but in service to the other — the One — as well as progeny.

When love is reciprocated, as in real love, each lover knows who the other is, the real other, and it is that real person — the person the other is and not just an idealized representation of him or her — who is being loved.

Real love has successfully resolved the romantic question ‘Do we belong together?‘ However, if that question returns as doubt, real love could be in trouble.

Real love is a dream come true for a woman, the perhaps more vulnerable in the pair — especially in the perspective of childbearing and rearing. But it isn’t that men cannot appreciate the touch of compassionate love by a spouse once in a while.

On that note, we should not forget that we can’t tell ourselves whom to ‘fall in love with,’ only whom ‘to love.’ And that might not always be enough.

A case in point is perhaps Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It is said that Prince Charles told Diana he didn’t love her on the eve of their wedding. The couple married in 1981 and divorced in 1996. She died at age 36 after an auto crash in Paris in 1997.

What is ‘True’ Love?

true parents

True love is a ‘real love’ that outlasted the inevitable ups and downs of life, a real love that endures the test of time.

Literature and Hollywood are full of stories and movies depicting romantic love as it is more dramatic — tragic or comedic — and that makes the money. It is hard to turn the lifelong affair between two people devoted to each other into a climactic short movie that patrons would go gaga over.

Without true love, men and women cannot trust each other. They use each other to serve themselves.Sun Myung Moon

Perhaps he had meant to say ‘Without the aspiration of true love…’ In any case, it is a bit of a motivated assessment, in my opinion, as trust is not an either/or thingy. Nevertheless, true love — even real love — and trust are natural bedfellows.

Again, true love is not so much a thing to possess as it is more about the path that two people walk together in a relationship — the path of true love if you so will. And that path/relationship is constructed from the mosaic pieces of sex, love, family, and then some. It is a path/relationship without the serious doubt of ‘belonging.’

As Helen Rowland said, ‘true love is not what stands many years of separation, but the one which withstands many years of intimacy.’

One can never say that his’, that her’s, or that their’s is true love, only that one aspires to it.

What is ‘True’ Friendship?

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

Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection and respect between people. It is a lesser form of interpersonal bond than that between two enamored or infatuated persons, but stronger than that between acquaintances and possibly even family.

A ‘true’ friend is someone who has your back, no matter what. Religious or not, s/he will always have your best interest at heart, and that includes telling you a ‘truth’ about you — if necessary and only in private, of course, and even if it then hurts a bit.

Sometimes, this kind of relationship is also called ‘platonic,’ or ‘philia’ in Greek terms.

So, do not marry your true friend, but marry someone you ‘only’ love instead. That way you won’t lose a true friend to erotic passions — true friends are too priceless.

What is ‘Sexual’ Love?

erotic love

Perhaps a misnomer, a name that is incorrectly or unsuitably applied. Sex is what it is — with or without love, and I doubt that it makes much sense to believe in sexual love. Erotic love? Yes, see above.

There is not much-felt affection and esteem left when two have sex and are close to their climaxes. In the end, a lover is always alone in his or her orgasm. As Ovid already said, ‘love and dignity cannot share the same abode.’ By love, I assume, he meant sex.

That, however, is the problem for the faint-of-heart. It is so that during the act of regular sex, love seems to dissipate as it is gradually replaced by lust. Is sexual love in effect having sex without much-felt lust, that is having sex ‘just lovingly?’ Can that be? If so, then that is what sexual love may be — lukewarm sex.

Are people, when they talk about sexual love, just too ashamed, too modest, too avoidant, or too castrated?

How about replacing ‘sexual love’ with ‘loving sex,’ a term with an emphasis on sex instead of loving ‘it?’ That then is real sex, by all means, and with all of its kinks within the larger embrace of overarching, genuine and personal love. When finished, lust retreats quickly back into the ancient recesses of the psyche, and much-felt affection and esteem again rises to shine and bathe the lovers in the afterglow.

I am much in favor of calling an apple an apple and eat it too.

There are many more ‘loves’ to consider, the less cardinal or less significant kinds are described here.

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