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3 Types of Love

By Jay Shetty

When we broaden our concept of love, we realize there are many ways to find it, create it, and maintain it.

Love That “Looks Right”

Think back to your first love. Did you feel an obsessive desire to see and speak to this person as much as possible? Did you believe they were perfect? Or maybe you couldn’t eat, sleep, or focus on daily tasks. This is the kind of relationship that consumes you, and it’s more infatuation than it is real love. 

In a relationship like this, we try to mimic what we think real love is as depicted by popular media. We believe love is supposed to be an exciting rush with dramatic twists and turns. 

This type of love, also referred to as early stage love, mostly consists of mimicked behaviors and feelings based on a person’s external qualities. We do what we think we’re supposed to do, chasing what we believe love is supposed to feel like, when in reality what we’re experiencing isn’t fully love.

In a 2005 study by the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University, a team of researchers led by Helen Fisher studied the effect of different kinds of love on the human brain in two groups of people. One group described their feelings toward their partners as steady and long-lasting. The second group expressed feelings of obsession toward their partner. 

Researchers studied each subject’s brain activity as they looked at their partner’s photos. The brains of those who described feeling a more obsessive love lit up in the area of the brain that corresponds with addiction.

In many ways, we can become more than just metaphorically addicted to love (or our perception of what love is).

However, early stage love behavior is not an inherently negative thing. It only becomes a problem when it doesn’t mature from infatuation into a more sustainable, practical, and real kind of love. Obsession is not love— but it can turn into something solid over time if you allow the seeds of real love to grow. 

Hard Love

This kind of love comes from painful relationships that bring difficult lessons. It’s not so much love as it is trauma bonding. You find yourself in a toxic relationship, trying to keep things going because you want to create something that lasts. But the highs and lows here are extreme— the good times are excellent, and the bad times are unbearable. 

This kind of love isn’t love at all. Real love is calm, soothing, consistent, and might even feel boring to someone who is accustomed to experiencing hard love. Hard love is an emotional roller coaster consisting of two people that aren’t giving each other enough patience and grace.

Relationships based on hard love are difficult and often painful, but serve as a good example of what you don’t want to accept in life. 

After you’ve experienced such a relationship, you may better understand what you need in order to heal your wounds and find the kind of love you deserve. Hard love is best left behind.

Love That Lasts 

The kind of love we all dream of. Real, solid, authentic, and unbreakable. This love is forgiving, gentle, consistent, and secure. Your partner loves you just the way you are and wants you to be the best version of yourself, and you return the sentiment fully. 

This is the closest we can get to unconditional love, but it’s better described as universal love. It’s the same love you experience when you think of your family, nature, animals, soulmates, God, source, the world— all of this is encompassed by universal love. 

That being said, this kind of love is not necessarily perfect. Just because it’s present doesn’t mean you won’t experience pain and challenges. But with this love, you can overcome absolutely everything. 

You can find love in many different ways.

Part of the irony of love is that we think we can only access it in limited ways, but this isn’t true. You can find love everywhere, in anything, and whenever you want. Believing that only certain people, places, and things will bring you this love is an illusion. 

We imagine a door guarding love and that to experience it we must find the one key that opens the door, and that the key is another person— or in their pocket at least. But love is much bigger than that. Love is always within you, around you, and looking for you. All you have to do is notice it. 

More than anything, know that when you choose to live your life on purpose, you are never truly separated from love.

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1 Fisher, Helen, Arthur Aron, and Lucy L. Brown. “Romantic Love: An Fmri Study of a Neural Mechanism for Mate Choice.” The Journal of Comparative Neurology 493, no. 1 (2005): 58–62. 
2 RKD // AgencyND // University of Notre Dame. “Science of Generosity.” More About the Initiative // Science of Generosity // University of Notre Dame, December 17, 2009.

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