Flickr Photo by moonjazz
Flickr Photo by moonjazz

When was the last time you asked yourself: what is love?

With all the time we spend searching for it, how much do we spend actually defining it? Specifically, how do we define it for ourselves?

With that dreaded Singles Awareness Day (S.A.D.) just nine days away, what better topic to post about than those warm, fuzzy feelings we get towards others.

Obviously, love has never been easy to define. attempts to with the following:

  1. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  2. A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child or friend.
  3. Sexual passion or desire.

What we see is a general explanation paired with a sketch of what we understand to be romantic love and we take it at face value.

But is there more to it than that?  Are familial and romantic love all that humans are capable of conceiving, feeling or expressing?

Turns out, love’s got more flavors than your local ice cream shop.

Love Styles

In 1973, Professor John Alan Lee of the University of Toronto published a book called “Colours of Love: An Exploration of the Ways of Loving” where he identifies six styles of love that people use in their relationships with one another:

Eros – everyone’s favorite!  This is the passionate, sexual love based on pleasing the senses.  What we all understand to be romantic love

Ludus – this is love as a sport or a game.  Ludus lovers tend to have multiple partners and view them as conquests

Storge – an affectionate love that slowly grows from friendship, based on similarity.  Often described as the type of love many arranged marriages develop

Pragma – the heart has no role in this type of love.  Think Sherlock Holmes.  It’s all about cost/benefit analysis and achieving a common goal.  A business partnership, if you will

Mania – Obsessive love filled with great highs and lows.  Manic lovers tend to be possessive and jealous.

Agape – A selfless, altruistic love.  Agapic lovers give more than they receive and prefer it that way.  They view their partners as blessings and wish to take care of them

In the 1980s, Hendrick and Hendrick expanded upon Lee’s theory with further research.  What they discovered was that men tend to be more ludic (surprise surprise!) while women tend to be more storgic and pragmatic.  The first love style displayed by teenagers is often mania and relationships that are based on similar love styles tend to last longer.  In fact, people often look for others with the same love style as themselves in a relationship.

So it seems there’s more to love than just romance and we can at least understand it conceptually.  But what about feelings and actions?  What role do they play in love?

Are any love styles greater or more superior than others?  How would we measure it?

More importantly, what does love mean to you?  What kind of love do you want to give and receive in a relationship?  These are two important questions you want to answer before you enter a relationship.


Forget what your mama told you!  Romantic love is just one of many flavors of love that humans can experience.  Don’t let it box you in.  Figure out what love means to you and make sure you find that in your next relationship.

Do you think Professor Lee’s list is comprehensive?  Let us know if you think anything is missing.

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