Forms of Love

As a general definition of what we mean by the phrase ‘love-life,’ I’ll offer you the following: A love-life is what you think, feel, and do in your life involving the emotion of love including romance, family, how you feel about yourself, and beyond. This definition of love-life is probably a bit broader than you had in mind, and what did I mean by beyond?

Romance is usually how people think of the meaning of love-life. Although our broader definition has its advantages. One important one is that many of the problems in a person’s romantic love-life can be more easily understood, worked on, and solved when this broader definition of love is adopted. A good example of this would be the way in which romantic love benefits from an understanding of and integration with friendship love. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We first need to determine and understand the different forms of love that exist.

The different forms of love are: romantic love, family love (includes parent-child, sibling-sibling and any other combination in a family of origin and immediate family), friendship love, how you feel about yourself, love of humanity, and spiritual love. My list has grown over time. At this point, I think that just about covers it. Romantic love usually involves some kind of sexual activity or desire. The point is it’s a love that is charged with sexual energy. As I said earlier, it’s the most common way of defining the phrase ‘love-life.’

Family love is also included in our definition but not in the same way as romantic love. Love in family relationships is steeped in emotional needs for nurture and procreation. In this culture, the family is usually associated with the needs of childhood and adolescence, which may or may not be satisfied by the time an offspring makes it to adulthood. In fact it is very common for early love-life disappointments to remain very influence in shaping an adult’s later love-life experiences.

Then there is friendship love. This form of love doesn’t usually make it into the definition of a person’s love-life. Friendship love can be quite deep and enduring when the friendship values of trust, honesty, freedom, and equality are practiced. Our view is that friendship love can be a stabilizing force in other love relationships. The most common example of this is the way in which friendship when blended with romance adds stability and endurance to a love relationship. If you’ve made your lover or spouse into a true friend you’ve accomplished quite a bit toward ensuring the health of your love relationship.

Now consider the feelings you have for your self. A lot of people get around the uncomfortable phrase ‘self-love’ by substituting the phrase ‘self-esteem.’ Regardless of labeling, the idea is that a person’s love for himself or herself can be measured from high to low on an appropriate continuum. By the way, for those of us with low self-esteem or minimal self-love, expect to find a diminished love-life. This little formula has a lot of practical value when it comes to figuring out how to improve your love-life. Improving how you feel about yourself is a quick way of improving your love-life.

The next two forms of love are newly added to my list. They expand the application of love as a human emotion beyond the confines of relationship. The love of humanity is a form of love whose object is all human beings. I happen to believe there’s a lot to love about people. But in the interest of trying to narrow it down to a personal preference I would say that what is most lovable about human beings is their unique individuality. Each and every one is unique, as unique as a thumbprint. That in and of itself is beyond conception. The closely related issue of ‘value’ drives the point home. Each and every human being is unique and therefore priceless if such a value judgment were ever justified. If we could only realize and sustain this truism I suspect a wonderful change in our interpersonal experience would emerge.

The last form of love is spiritual love. This is the love a person has for the fact of personal and universal creation. However this is conceptualized would be determined by belief. The point is, the phrase ‘love-life’ has come full circle. It’s now possible to envision another meaning. To have a love-life is to be in a state of loving life. To love life is a demonstration of spiritual living both in oneself and in others. My guess is that these different forms of love are connected in some way. First and foremost, they are all love, that force in the world that seeks to join together what is separate and apart. And beyond that, developing your capacity and sensitivity in one form enables you to more fully experience the other forms of love.  Dr. T. Jordan









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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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