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The Eight Types Of Love, Explained By Relationship Experts


Whether it’s felt between family members, best friends, or people in a romantic relationship, love is one of the sweetest parts of life. With love comes trust, openness, and a complete lack of judgment. And best of all, you can find it everywhere—in fact, thinking about love in strictly a romantic sense can limit the ways you might receive it, says Vienna Pharaon, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York.

Although love is hard to define (my go-to definition has always been “putting someone else’s needs before yours”—thank you, Olaf from Frozen), there are several different ways to think about it. According to Pharaon, love is “anything that nourishes you,” or “anything that helps you feel a sense of connection, belonging, worthiness, prioritization, safety, and trust.”

In other words, try not to equate your relationship status with the amount of love in your life because “that [would mean] that if romantic love isn’t present in your life at any particular moment, you’d have to live life without love,” she says. Totally not true!

Love can be shown in a variety of ways, and it can come from family, partners, friends, and even strangers, Pharaon adds. By keeping yourself open to various avenues of receiving love, you’re making yourself capable of feeling the eight (!!!) different types. Here’s everything you need to know about all of them, including whether they’re healthy and how each type might manifest in your life:

1. Enduring Love

First up: Enduring love, which can be defined as “love that grows over time,” says Pharaon. This type of love is created when individuals continue to further their relationship in a number of ways and build intimacy—physically, emotionally, or intellectually, depending on whether the relationship is romantic, sexual, or platonic.

Both partners will be working toward a commitment to a long-term relationship and the emotional connection is strong, says Tamekis Williams, MSW, LCSW, licensed social worker and founder of Real Life Solutions. “The couple has a good grasp on teamwork and are able to endure hard times in a healthier way than couples who have the other types of love,” she adds.

You might be feeling this type of love if you’ve had a conversation about your long-term future with your partner. It’s also a sign if the two of you continue to advance the relationship more each time you’re together—similar to if you make a new friend and the two of you continue to open up to each other every time you hang out. “Enduring love is a beautiful and healthy expression of love,” Pharaon says.

But time is a factor, too—after all, enduring love is lasting love, says Williams. “Enduring love is not short and quick. Instead, it is patient and lengthy,” she says. To feel this type of love, you’ll have to be together long enough to overcome some challenges and have some fights, emerging a stronger, more supportive unit.

2. Universal Love

This type of “love is offered between human to human because we remember that we are one, equal, and a part of something much bigger than us,” explains Pharaon. Universal love is shared between humans with the knowledge that we’re all interconnected. You can experience this love when you get rid of your ego, hate, and the hierarchy of humankind, says Pharaon. If you feel connected to humans on a basic level and share the understanding that we’re all in this together, you might be feeling universal love.

3. Self-Love

Pharaon views self-love as “the intersection of grace for the self as well as accountability and ownership with the self,” she says. Basically, it’s all about remembering that, as a human, you aren’t perfect. And while you should hold yourself responsible when you cause harm, you should also have some compassion for yourself when making mistakes.

Practicing this healthy type of love doesn’t just mean getting your nails done or getting a facial at the spa. “Self-love is making good decisions, planning, eating healthy, assessing friendships and other relationships, exploring needed changes,” says Williams. It’s focusing on yourself and living intentionally.

Try checking in with yourself, either during regular intervals or major life adjustments—new jobs, new relationships, new health issues, you name it—to assess how you’re doing and if you need to make any changes. But you can also resort to basic self-love practices, says Williams, whether that’s keeping up with your physical health, practicing therapeutic activities with your mind, or checking in with your spiritual practices.

Just remember, self-love doesn’t happen overnight—it’s okay if it takes some time, too.

4. Obsessive Love

Even though it’s technically a form of love, this one is less about love and more about one person craving control, says Pharaon. It’s most likely to happen when one party in a romantic relationship wants to control or possess the other. “The focus becomes the other person,” she says. “All energy is directed there.”

This form of love is unhealthy and very toxic. It happens “when one partner is seeking an extreme level of validation, enmeshment, and codependency from the other,” says Williams.

Those who tend to love obsessively don’t take rejection well, which can make them hurt others around them, she explains. If someone thinks they’re in a relationship with someone who loves obsessively, she recommends leaving it right away: “When you know your worth, you will be able to recognize an unhealthy relationship easily without wavering with [your] safety and time,” she adds.

5. Passionate Love

Passionate love can be viewed as either passion-led or companion-led, Pharaon says. She describes it as “a state of intense longing for union with another,” based on definitions from psychologists Elaine Hartfield and Richard Rapson.

If you’re feeling passionate love, you’re building an emotional connection with another party that you’re hoping will evolve into some type of relationship, says Williams. This one gets some criticism because passionate love can start relationships off hot and heavy, but over time, a passionate love can, and ideally will, turn into an enduring love.

In other cases, though, “it may not have enough in the tank to get a couple through the integrated love stage” if there isn’t more to the relationship, Pharaon says. ICYDK, the integrated love stage is when “two people decide to become one in different ways,” says Williams. So, that could be marriage, sharing a bank account, buying a home together, or another way to show your commitment to one another. (And it’s not just romantic—it can happen in friendships as well!)

But it’s important to note that just because two partners are coming together, that doesn’t mean they’re not still individuals—it’s imperative that both people still have their own relationships with friends and family outside of the ‘ship. “Allow the couple to have an opportunity to miss each other, therefore, when they reconnect, they will have so much to talk about and share, which will build memories and strengthen the emotional connection,” Williams adds. Because getting sick of your partner is pretty unsexy, IMO.

Whether passionate love is healthy or not depends on the situation. “Passionate love is healthy when it comes from a place of excitement and attraction,” says Williams. But it’s unhealthy “when the love is with someone who is already in a relationship, or when it is borderline obsessive love.”

6. Playful Love

Playful love might be the most wholesome form of love—after all, you really can be yourself when you’re feeling it. “You often feel like children when this healthy type of love is present. You’re dropped into your body and out of your head,” Pharaon says, adding that it often feels like “freedom.”

You’re not concerned with what others think, and you’re present in the moment. You might even have butterflies in your stomach, feeling like a teenager with a crush. “It gives the couple something to look forward to, which keeps the relationship fresh and exciting,” says Williams. However, one should know their limits to their playfulness, she adds.

Playful love and passionate love have some overlap because they often both show up at the onset of a relationship. “Couples are playful and tend to have a lot of fun with each other as they work to build an emotional connection,” she says. “They both have the element of enjoyment.”

7. Deep Friendship

Deep friendship is, of course, a platonic form of love; you might experience it with your closest friends. “Within the friendship there is a deep knowing of each other’s inner worlds,” Pharaon says. Simply put, you care about and trust the other person.

Surprise, surprise: it’s healthy! “It provides a person and space you can depend on and confide in,” Williams adds.

8. Familial Love

Familial love is—you guessed it—within one’s family. But you don’t have to be related to feel this type of love: It can also exist between friends or family friends. Familial love doesn’t have to be active, it can also be dormant, Pharaon says. But still, it’s one of the longest-lasting forms of love.

“You might hear people say, ‘I love my parent because they’re my parent,’” Pharaon notes. “It’s not an active love, but there might be a deeper sense of love that remains or is ever present because of the longevity and commitment that has laid the foundation for the relationship.”

For the most part, familial love is healthy because it helps you develop deeper connections with people who provide support and dependency. However, it can turn unhealthy if the relationship becomes “codependent and enabling,” Williams says.

Deep friendship and familial love also connect a bit because they both have a deep-rooted connection that they bring to a relationship, which “fosters trust, respect, and support,” she adds.

If you feel like there’s a lack of love in your life, try to remember that you can always count on your familial loves and deep friendships to support you even when and if those other forms aren’t present. And, at your lowest moments, it never hurts to practice some self-love, too.

From womenshealthmagazine

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