5 Types of Love and How to Recognize Them

We live in a world that has so many conflicting ideas of what love is, how it should feel and how people who are in love should behave. What we learn about romantic love in literature is reinforced by Hollywood love on the big screen, but then all of it is contradicted in real life when we compare what we think we know to the relationships we see in real life, and the ‘love’ we experience ourselves.

Then we read self-help books to try and understand love from the perspectives of different genders… all of this coinciding with our hormones causing havoc in our love lives of course! No wonder nobody has a clue.

What if we are all looking at love as a singular unchanging thing, when really we should be viewing it as a rare gem that has different facets? See if you can recognise these 5 types of love in your life. Perhaps love is something that has much more to offer us. Perhaps love is a collection of lessons that start when we are born, designed to develop us as people and steer us in the direction of a happy future, to pass on the lessons to the next generation.

1. Unconditional Love

Our parents bless us with the purest kind of love that exists, when we are at our purest point in life – the innocence of childhood. The love we receive at this crucial stage is so important in shaping who we are. Maybe that’s why the journey of love is so important, because we have a lot to learn before we are equipped to provide this kind of love to such a vulnerable human being ourselves.

Unconditional love is selfless, and nonjudgmental. It is forgiving but sensible. It is both rational and irrational at the same time. You would do anything for someone you love unconditionally, even something as rational as giving a child up to a better family because you couldn’t look after it.

It is the most powerful type of love there is. Unconditional love isn’t afraid of sacrifice, rejection or pain.

2. Platonic Love

Platonic Love

The bonds we build with friends, family and work colleagues offer us plenty of opportunities to learn about ourselves and the ways in which we interact with different people. These relationships are non-sexual and allow us to distinguish between appropriate behaviour – we learn how to edit and manage our emotions.

We are guided by teachers and parents and different situations in life, hopefully all of which is preparation for us to begin handling the much more intense emotions we will experience in puberty, with our hormones wreaking havoc on our personal relationships.

Platonic friendships continue throughout our lives and help us to balance ourselves. They provide a platform of support, and provide a constant level of rational comparison. Without the support and balance of platonic friendships, emotional and romantic ‘love’ would drive us crazy.

3. Unrequited Love

Sometimes love between friends or colleagues isn’t as equally balanced as we’d like to think, especially when hormones and gender differences become affecting factors. When someone we hold a little too dearly close to our hearts doesn’t reciprocate our feelings it hurts.

Unrequited love is a painful fact of life that many people have to bear. Sometimes it is caused by the fact that a person doesn’t have the courage to express how they really feel for fear of rejection. Other times it is because the reciprocate isn’t available. There are even times when a person may hold the friendship they have with another person on such a pedestal that they don’t want to ruin it by declaring their love, and they would rather suffer in silence than risk changing what they already cherish.

Learning to love and accepting that it isn’t returned in the same way can be an important lesson in discovering the true potential of love on your journey. If you are experiencing unrequited love for a person, for whatever reason, don’t be afraid to embrace the pain and become a better and more knowledgeable person because of it.

4. Obsessional Love

Obsessional Love

This is a dangerous and selfish kind of love. People who suffer from obsessional love, and I say ‘suffer’ because it is a painful and destructive kind of love that can take you over like an illness, are inherently insecure about themselves. They feel restless when they are without their partner because they don’t feel whole alone.

This leads them to displaying possessive behaviours such as calling and texting their partners to keep tabs on what they are doing, and infringing on their partner’s privacy by going through personal belongings. Obsessional love is invasive. It possesses the sufferer, who then in turn wants to possess their partner.

The sad fact is that because this love is selfish love it only ends up pushing the person further and further away, the closer you try to get. It changes who you are and it makes you deeply unhappy.

If you find that your partner is becoming your world, be careful because obsessional love could be getting it’s grip on you! Experiencing obsessional love can be an important learning curve though, because once you lose someone by pushing them away, you have to make a choice with the next person whether or not you are going to learn from your mistakes – and if you do then at least you know that all of that suffering wasn’t for nothing, and that you are a stronger person now because you were once weak.

5. Sexual Love (or Lust)

Love that is based in the physical is actually a form of obsessional Love. It has the same feelings of desire and the urge to be with a person. It is like a powerful force, and while it can leave you feel wonderfully satisfied, it can never keep you satisfied for very long.

The reason for this is that Lust is not a balanced kind of love. It exists only in physical form. When you lust after someone you may think you have created a strong mental connection, but really it is just a physical attraction based on sexual desire and visual pleasure – it is based on the way you feel physically.

It is therefore satisfied only by the physical act of merging your bodies, not your minds or hearts, and this is the reason that essentially lust will end up leaving you feeling empty, unfulfilled and want more in a long term relationship.

Experiencing a relationship based on lust though can open you eyes to the fact that love is made up of a variety of important components, and that there are some things that are stronger and more important than physical attraction, like emotional compatibility and mental compassion, not to mention practical issues and personal values.

Note: I haven’t mentioned Romantic love in my list, because I believe that this is something comprised of all the above, and types of love that haven’t been mentioned here. Romantic love is a fine balance and a feeling of harmony, perhaps even of finding a soul-mate… but you can read more about soul mates