The idea of love and the feelings it generates has been the subject of art, literature, philosophy, and psychological research for decades. True, some may argue that something as ambiguous and seemingly ethereal as love cannot be the subject of scientific inquiry. That said, however, love has been investigated and considered as a serious research subject in psychology, and the knowledge generated by this research has yielded interesting findings.
According to authors Christopher Sterling and Daniel Frings, “researchers have discovered that being in love seems to generate biological responses.” The authors note that neurotransmitters, chemicals within the brain—in particular dopamine and oxytocin—generate feelings of euphoria.
Elaine Hatfeld, a researcher, also noted by Sterling and Frings, has divided love into two main categories, which she calls “passionate love” and “companionate love.” Hatfeld notes that the former, passionate love, involves intense feelings of passion. This is usually the type of love one would find in a poem by Keats or Byron. The latter, companionate love, according to Hatfield, “ . . . involves feelings that are deep, but [are] less exciting, physically.”
So, which type of love appears to remain more stable over time?
Well, according to the authors, “. . . it is thought that companionate love can emerge from passionate love and, typically, is more stable.” Sterling and Fring note, however, that different cultures have different conceptions of love. More interestingly, too, other researchers—researchers such as John Alan Lee, Clyde Hendrick, and Susan Hendrick—in the 1980s argued that there remains more than just two categories of love than the previously mentioned two . . . there are six. Lee, Hendrick, and Hendrick breakdown the six types of love as follows:
• Eros: “Passion”
• Mania: “Intense love”
• Ludus: “It’s a game”
• Agape: “Generosity and unconditional love”
• Pragma: “”Pragmatic love”
• Stogre: “Companionate love”
This list is, of course, more comprehensive than the two categories put forth by Sterling and Fring. What’s more, the six categories of love appear to explain the different “types” of love that most of us tend to experience throughout our lives. For example, if you’ve ever felt an “ . . . all consuming feeling with sex as an important component,” (“eros”) but had a partner that saw the relationship as a practical exchange of feelings and behaviors (“pragma”), perhaps that relationship was doomed from the start.
At any rate, although the six types of love may not be an all-inclusive list, the work put forth by Lee, Hendrick, and Hendrick offer different ways to conceptualize, think about, and view love. As noted above, different cultures, too, may have different conceptions of love. But what the six types of love offer is a more complex, more in-depth way to think about love . . . namely, that romance can have different meanings for different individuals, and the six types of love illustrate that.
Sterling, C., and Frings, D., (2016). Psychology Squared. Metro Books, 174 – 175.