What is love?

Is love that fuzzy feeling you get when you see your partner smile? Is it the really intense physical attraction you feel for your date? Or is it a really strong emotional connection that you have with someone?

Love is one of the most misunderstood topics in the world; with every movie, book and relationship coach giving a different definition of the word. But if you dig deep, you will discover that the experts who have studied it the most all agree on a few basic principles that define what true love really is.

NEWSFLASH! There actually isn’t just one type of love. Love comes in many forms, but it is essentially made up of any combination of 3 main ingredients: Passion, intimacy, and commitment.

In a dating or romantic relationship, you may experience any one of these 7 combinations which may feel like love at one point or another. ALL of these can feel like true love, but according to experts, there is only one type of love that is true love; the kind of love that lasts a lifetime, and which most believe to be rare… but it is attainable for anyone who wants it. So, let’s explore the different kinds of love, figure out which kind of love you are experiencing in your relationship, and how you can create that true and lasting love with your partner.

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The different types of ‘love’

There are essentially 7 different types of love, according to experts:

  1. Infatuated love (passion/lust alone)
  2. Friendship love (companionship/intimacy alone)
  3. Empty love (commitment alone)
  4. Romantic love (passion/lust + companionship/intimacy)
  5. Fatuous love (passion/lust + commitment)
  6. Companionate love (commitment + intimacy/companionship)
  7. Consummate love (commitment + passion + intimacy)

love chart updated

To find out what kind of relationship you have, continue reading or take the quiz. 

1. Infatuated Love

Passion alone.

What is infatuated love?

Infatuated love is also known as¬†‘lust’. It is essentially a physical or sexual attraction. It means that you love someone’s appearance or attitude, and you want to get physical.

What does passion feel like?

Passion feels like physical attraction, fuzzy feelings, and excitement. However, these feelings are usually fickle and don’t last a long time.

Example:¬†Ben and Anna in He’s Just Not That Into You,¬†or Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey.

How long does passion last?

Passion on its own has a relatively short shelf life. It is usually very prominent when you first meet someone attractive, but it dies down over time. It could last a few minutes or a few years, but it eventually fizzles out if not paired with intimacy or commitment. Often, people find themselves ‘blinded’ with passion; they are so physically attracted to someone that their primal instincts take over and they’re unable to think clearly, see the person for who they really are, and often make decisions against their better judgment.

What you can do if you’re in a relationship that only has passion:¬†

Recognise it for what it is: it’s lust, not love. You’re infatuated with someone, but it won’t last unless you learn how to create intimacy and pursue a committed relationship with them.


2. Friendship Love

Intimacy alone.

What is friendship love?

It’s the kind love relationship where you share intimate details of your life with another person. You care deeply about them, trust them and enjoy their company.

What does intimacy feel like?

Intimacy feels like a deep emotional connection with someone. It feels comfortable – like you can truly be yourself around that person, and you really care about them.

Example: Joey and Phoebe in Friends. 

How long does intimacy last?

Intimacy becomes more prominent over time. Intimacy can last a lifetime, but if it’s not paired with passion or commitment, it will only be considered ‘friendship’ and nothing more. This is a zone many people unwillingly get stuck in and refer to it as ‘the friend-zone’.

What you can do if you’re in a relationship that only has intimacy:

If this is you, you’re probably in the friend-zone. Read¬†From Friend-zone to Date-zone in 3 Simple Steps

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3. Empty love

Commitment alone.

What is empty love?

Commitment is when you decide to devote yourself to one person and stay by their side through thick and thin. If commitment is not paired with passion or intimacy, it remains commitment for the sake of commitment, and no real value is found in the relationship. We often see this kind of relationship in arranged marriages, when couples ‘stay together for the kids’, or when people marry for convenience. Many couples find themselves experiencing ’empty love’ when they focus entirely on kids or other factors (such as work) instead of making their marriage a priority – thus losing all passion and friendship.

What does commitment feel like?

Commitment is a decision that you make. For some people commitment can feel scary, but for others it feels like security. Both of those feelings are normal, and there’s no need to feel freaked out by either of them. When commitment is paired with intimacy or passion it can be very rewarding. However, commitment without intimacy or passion can feel very lonely and ’empty’.

Example: Charlotte and Mr. Collins from Jane Austin’s¬†Pride and Prejudice

How long does commitment last?

Commitment, like intimacy, can last a lifetime. However, if it is not paired with intimacy or passion, then there is no real ‘relationship’ in the relationship – thus the name ’empty love’.

What you can do if you’re in a relationship that only has commitment:

If you find yourself in a dating relationship purely for the sake of being in a relationship and you don’t actually care about the person you’re with, then you probably shouldn’t be in that relationship. Be brave enough to recognise that your relationship is not going anywhere and assess whether or you should work on the relationship or leave.
If you’re in a married relationship¬†and you’re balancing on the sole pillar of commitment, then it’s time to work on building intimacy by pursuing emotional connection with your partner, and creating passion by bringing romance into the relationship.


4. Romantic love

Romantic love is a combination of passion and intimacy.

What is romantic love?

Romantic love is what most couples find themselves in today. It is essentially:

  • New relationships
  • A dating relationship that never becomes serious
  • ‘friends with benefits’
  • Most teenage relationships

What does romantic love feel like?

Romantic love is exciting and usually full of fun in the beginning. However, many people (usually the woman in the relationship) start to feel frustrated about being in this place after a few months because there is no real commitment or talk about the future. Because of this, the relationship remains immature and can be confusing and turbulent.

Example: Jess and Nick in New Girl

How long does romantic love last?

Romantic love can last for a few years, but it’s usually very immature and often ends in a devastating and heartbreaking break-up, leaving both parties feeling confused and deeply hurt.

What you can do if you’re in a romantic relationship and you want commitment:

If you are in a romantic relationship and you want your partner to commit to you, then you need to make your desire for commitment clear. It’s important to set up clear boundaries in your relationship and not invest too much emotionally or physically until you know that you and your partner are on the same page.


5. Fatuous Love

Fatuous love is a combination of passion and commitment.

What is fatuous love?

Fatuous love is what most relationship coaches help couples achieve. The idea is ‘do this and say that, and then he will put a ring on your finger’. The relationship is usually very hot and heavy, and commitment is quick.¬†The commitment side of the relationship is often achieved through sexual manipulation or lust.

What does fatuous love feel like?

Fatuous love can feel very exciting, hot and ‘crazy’… as in ‘it’s so crazy that we got engaged/ married so quickly’.¬† It usually starts with two people who can’t get enough of each other physically in the beginning, and then make a commitment very early on in the relationship. It’s often difficult to think logically and you find yourself making impulsive decisions such as¬† ‘let’s move in together’ or ‘let’s get married’ after a short period of time.

Example: Lydia and Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, or Barney and Quinn in How I Met Your Mother 

How long does fatuous love last?

It can last a fair amount of time… usually a few months to a few years. However, when the passion dies (which, it will) things usually become ugly very quickly. Couples may find that they have ‘nothing in common anymore’¬†or find themselves in an ugly divorce where one party takes everything, leaving the other with very little.

What you can do if you’re in a ‘fatuous love’ relationship:

To move out of the dangerous ‘fatuous love’ zone, you need to work on building intimacy (emotional connection) with your partner. You can start by focusing on common interests, and doing things together other than sex.¬† The focus of your relationship needs to be to create and maintain an emotional connection.


6. Companionate Love

This is a combination of commitment and intimacy.

What is companionate love?

This is the kind of love many older couples find themselves in. This is when the relationship has a good foundation of friendship and commitment, but it’s lacking that passion. This can happen when:

  • individuals in a couple stop pursuing or romancing each other
  • a couple ‘ lets the sex go out of the marriage’
  • when a couple focuses entirely on their kids, and forgets to make their relationship a priority
  • one or both partners stop caring about their physical or emotional health, or stop ‘trying’
  • one or both partners stop pursuing their passions and dreams outside the marriage
  • a couple got married for convenient reasons (like an arranged marriage or for money) but then a friendship grew
  • two friends were convinced by others (like a religious or friendship group) that they should be together, and so they got married on the basis of friendship without ever experiencing passion or physical attraction for each other

What does companionate love feel like?

It feels like being married to your best friend, but you don’t want to sleep with them.

Example: Walter and Annie in Sleepless in Seattle

How long does companionate love last?

Companionate love can last a lifetime, especially for those couples who remain faithful to one another. However, many individuals who are in sexless relationships will seek that passion elsewhere – often resulting in infidelity.

What you can do if you are in a companionate relationship:

As a couple, you need to discover or rediscover your passion for each other. You need to turn up the romance and spice things up a little. If romance is something you’ve got down but you’re still lacking sexual connection, consider going to see a marriage counselor or a sex therapist together.


7. Consummate love

Consummate love is a combination of passion, intimacy and commitment.

What is consummate love?

Relationship experts from around the world have agreed that consummate love is the ideal kind of love for a romantic relationship. This is what TRUE LOVE really is. It’s the perfect combination and balance of physical attraction, companionship, and commitment.

Example: Think; Jim Halpert and Pam Beesley from the American version of The Office, or Lily and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother.

What does consummate love feel like?

This is the kind of love that feels very natural, well-rounded and fulfilling. Couples who experience consummate love are generally happy and content with their relationships and are able to resolve issues in a way that enhances the relationship instead of destroying it. Individuals in this kind of relationship usually feel respected, loved, satisfied and secure. If you have this kind of relationship, you have a strong emotional connection, physical connection, and a sense of security with your partner.

Want to get that consummate love?

To get this kind of love requires that both individuals work on themselves and their relationship. All relationships take work, and this one is no exception. However, it shouldn’t feel like a struggle to get there, it should feel more like a privilege to be able to work towards something so amazing because the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices.


Still unsure what type of love your relationship is? Take the quiz

Related: 15 early signs you’re dating an abusive man

Also read: 16 Surprising Signs She’s Trouble (Get Out!)

NEXT: 8 Dating Safety Hacks Every Woman Needs To Know

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