Throughout history, philosophers and writers have been debating the nature of love. While most people agree that love implies strong feelings of affection and protection, there are a wide range of views as to exactly what it is. Some people use the word to describe their relationship with a human partner, while others use it to refer to non-human animals, principles or religious beliefs. Whatever form it takes, however, love is often considered to be a deeply positive and life-enhancing experience.
Many different definitions of love are based on emotional, spiritual, or psychological factors. For example, some people define love as a feeling of attachment and companionship that transcends physical attraction. Other people think of love as a feeling of compassion and loyalty that can help us to endure difficult circumstances. Some people even believe that love is a universal force that unites all living things and connects them with one another.
Psychological research has shown that there are some distinct differences between liking someone, loving them, and being in love. Liking someone is a less intense form of love that can be compared to the way in which you might like a friend. Loving someone requires more commitment and is characterized by a greater sense of attachment, intimacy, and responsibility. It is also accompanied by physiological changes such as an increased heart rate and arousal. Intimate or romantic love is sometimes referred to as “in-love” and is a state of being that may be experienced by both men and women.
Philosophers and religious figures have frequently argued about the meaning of love. Some have categorized love into four types: love as union, love as robust concern, love as an emotion, and a type of love that is self-sacrificing. In some cases, these theories are overlapping and therefore, classifying them in this manner may result in excessive pigeonholing.
A common way to distinguish between these different types of love is to contrast them with each other and to other personal attitudes. Passionate love is a feeling of intense longing, often accompanied by physical sensations such as shortness of breath and an increased heart rate; companionate love is affection and a sense of closeness that does not involve sexual arousal; and self-sacrificing love is a form of love that is usually characterized by a sense of obligation and service to others.
In addition to these different forms of love, some people have a combination of these styles. For example, some people experience a mixture of the three main love styles described by Lee: mania, pragma, and agape. In Hinduism, kama is a passionate love that can be dangerous; prema refers to elevated or divine love; and karuna is a self-sacrificing love that is motivated by a desire to reduce the suffering of others.
In the western world, some people prefer to categorize love as a mix of altruism and narcissism. Scott Peck, a renowned psychologist, has developed a model of loving behavior that he defines as a mixture of concern for the well-being of another person and simple narcissism.