Love in Human Relationships

Over the years, numerous experts have tried to come up with theories about love and human relationships to explain the mechanisms and the unpredictable nature of love. Why and how do we fall in love? Are there different kinds of love? And why do some last, while others don’t?

We’ve all sometimes wondered if there are answers to these questions. But even though love is a fundamental human experience, comprehending why and how it happens isn’t an easy task, and it certainly caused a lot of headaches over the centuries of human existence.

What’s more, for the longest time, love was thought to be too enigmatic, primal, and spiritual to be grasped by science. However, it looks like psychologists are now a step closer to the explanation of love. Thus, let’s take a look at two prominent theories that aim to define emotional connections and love.

The Difference between Loving and Liking

Zick Rubin, an American social psychologist, proposed a theory that love is a combination of three elements: intimacy, attachment, and caring. According to his theory, different combinations of these elements make for a different connection between people.

Attachment can be described as a desire to get approval, physical contact, and support from another person. Care, on the other hand, can be described as having equal respect toward other person’s satisfaction and needs as for one’s own. And lastly, intimacy can be defined as a connection between two people that share feelings, beliefs, and desires.

With this in mind, Rubin posits that sometimes we can feel the utmost admiration and appreciation for a person. We can love being around them and spending time with them. However, what we are feeling doesn’t necessarily have to be love. Rather, it’s more probable that we merely like that person, as Rubin proposes.

On the other hand, he states that love is a connection that’s far more intense and deep, which entails a desire to experience physical contact and intimacy with another person. Thus, if you like another person, it means you like spending time with them, while loving a person means you value their needs and happiness as much as you do your own.

Two Types of Love

A different theory, penned by psychologist Elaine Hatfield, recognizes two fundamental types of love: passionate and compassionate love. According to Hatfield, the compassionate type describes a relationship in which there’s affection, mutual respect, trust, and attachment between two people. It usually arises when two people share similar beliefs and ideas, and develop understanding and respect for each other.

Passionate love, on the other hand, is the kind of love that includes sexual attraction, affection, and intense emotions, which can also be negative at times, such as anxiety. The passionate type of love develops between two people when these feelings and attractions are mutual.

Otherwise, if it’s unreciprocated, it can cause feelings of despair and grief. Moreover, Hatfield states that this type of love is a transitional phase, which usually lasts from 6 to 30 months. Ideally, passionate love will grow into compassionate love, which is much more lasting and stable.

Essentially, even though love is a highly complex and subjective human experience, the truth of the matter is that there are many types of love, which are determined according to the nature of the relationship between people. Some define romantic love in contrast to platonic love, while others recognize two different types that vary in intensity and duration.

[1] “5 Ways That Theories of Psychology Explain Love.” Verywell Mind [Online] Available at: [Accessed on: 6 May 2020]

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