The Many Ways to Love

Love is hard to define. There’s two reasons something can be hard to define; on the one hand, it could be due to the concept being very complicated, so the difficulty is inherent to the thing itself. On the other hand, it could be due to deficiencies in the language. Words are how we categorize our internal ideas allowing us to communicate them to others. Every language does so in different ways, with both positive and negative results. All this is to say the English does a shit job with the concept of Love. I believe this has caused much difficulty with how we engage with this emotion and it’s certainly caused me difficulties in communicating my feelings. Love, as we call it in English, should really be a series of related words.

There’s the unconditional love you feel towards your blood relations (exceptions abound; Syadasti). This definitely varies in strength from family to family. For the majority of us though there is at least one family member we love. From an evolutionary point of view, it’s the most obviously advantageous.

The love one feels towards their progeny is a more potent version of this. It’s distinguished by an almost unreasonable amount of forgiveness and the urge to protect the object of love. Many people love their parents but few love them more than they are loved in return.

People love their pets. Those of us who haven’t had pets may not understand this but it’s love. On the other hand, no matter what we may say, non-human animals can’t love in the same way a human does. So this type of love is by definition one sided. This doesn’t mean it’s a lesser form, it’s just distinct in this fashion. Hell, I don’t see why you would even put these on a scale to compare them; they’re words, it would be absurd.

Platonic love is that friendly love you have for the people closest to you but whom you aren’t necessarily intimate with. For many of us it’s the best balance of long lasting while still being very potent. Intimate love is more complicated and can end much more quickly. Best friends in love can stick through a lot together.

And lastly the common definition of love, Intimate Love. This bond can be the most potent of human emotions. When you’re in love with someone and you really click with them, your mental feedback loops sync up. You get taken to the most magnificent highs when together. Life feels fundamentally different. And therefore the crash from the high is the most severe. This is not a soulmate. This is not necessarily monogamous.

I’ve intentionally only discussed the types I feel are common. One that I omitted, because I don’t know if anyone else feels it, is something I call proto-love. It’s this feeling I get when I know someone well enough to see that I could definitely fall in love with them, given more time. It’s dangerous because it can easily lead to falling in love with a fictional version of the person that only exists in your head. I’ve talked about this very pitfall as it relates to Intimate Love, but in this case it can be far more pronounced. The other problem is if you’re like me, you may have trouble differentiating it from Intimate Love. It leads to some awkward conversations.


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