The size of the triangle functions to represent the amount of love-the bigger the triangle, the greater the love. The shape of the triangle functions to represent the kind of love, which typically varies over the course of the relationship: passion-stage (right-shifted triangle), intimacy-stage (apex-triangle), commitment-stage (left-shifted triangle), typically.

Of the seven varieties of love, consummate love is theorized to be that love associated with the “perfect couple.” Typically, couples will continue to have great sex fifteen years or more into the relationship, they can not imagine themselves happy over the long term with anyone else, they weather their few storms gracefully, and each delight in the relationship with each other.24

Biological understandings

Mating of Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) with male on top, in Ciney, Belgium, configured in the shape of a heart, a common symbol of love.

Biological models of sexual love support the above psychological theories. Some biologists and anthropologists posit two major drives: Sexual attraction and attachment. Others divide the experience of love into three partly-overlapping stages: Lust, attraction, and attachment. Attraction can be stimulated by the action of pheromones, similar to that found in many species. Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the same principles that lead infants to become attached to their primary caregivers. It involves tolerating the spouse long enough to rear a child.

Studies in neuroscience have indicated that a consistent number of chemicals are present in the brain when people testify to feeling love. More specifically, higher levels of testosterone and estrogen are present during the lustful or sexual phase of a relationship. Dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are commonly found during the attraction phase of a relationship. Oxytocin and vasopressin seem to be closely linked to long term bonding and relationships characterized by strong attachments.

Lust is the initial passionate sexual desire that promotes mating, and involves the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen. These effects rarely last more than a few weeks or months. Attraction is the more individualized and romantic desire for a specific candidate for mating, which develops as commitment to an individual mate forms. As two people fall in love, their brains release chemicals, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain's pleasure center and leading to effects such as an increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement.25 The serotonin effects of being in love have a similar chemical appearance to obsessive-compulsive disorder; which could explain why a person in love cannot think of anyone else.26 Research has indicated that this stage generally lasts from one and a half to three years and studies have found that a protein molecule known as the nerve growth factor (NGF) has high levels when people first fall in love, but these levels return to as they were after one year.27

Since the lust and attraction stages are both considered temporary, a third stage is needed to account for long-term relationships. Attachment is the bonding which promotes relationships that last for many years, and even decades. Attachment is generally based on commitments such as marriage and children, or on mutual friendship based on things like shared interests. It has been linked to higher levels of the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin than short-term relationships have.

The biological perspective views love as an instinctual and physical drive, just like hunger or thirst. Psychological and philosophical perspectives emphasize the mental and spiritual aspects, including feelings and volition. There are elements of truth in all views-as the constitution of human physiology works in concert with the mind to make love a holistic and all-encompassing experience.

The myth of "falling in love"

One insidious fallacy pushed upon people from all sides is the myth of “falling in love:” Only an overwhelming, irresistible attraction springing up spontaneously between two people can lead to true and lasting love between them. The only challenge is to find the right person who arouses this feeling. If later on problems arise and the feeling should wane, this means this was the wrong person after all and the relationship should end.

This misunderstanding neglects the volitional aspect of loving. “While it sounds romantic to 'fall' in love, the truth is that we decide who we want to love,” asserts high school relationship educator Charlene Kamper.28 While it is true that the feeling aspect of love-as a strong state of liking-is beyond control, the intentional aspect-as a chosen attitude and behavior-is not. The latter can influence the former. In other words, the decision to love can encourage the feeling of love.29

A person of character in a committed relationship will make effort to love whether or not he or she feels loving at the time.30 This, of course, is the ordinary experience of parents who actively fulfill the duties of love even in the absence of warm feelings, and find their hearts renewed and affection restored. All religious exhortations to love one's neighbor and even one's adversary are based on the idea of love as a decision. Though everyone wants to be fond of their spouse without effort, just as one would with a friend, the reality is that in both marriage and friendship, love demands a large measure of doing what one does not feel like doing.

Understanding love as involving an act of will brings in the element of choice. This can be a source of freedom and security for youth, who often struggle with fears that certain flaws mean no one can love them or that married love will someday vanish. “If we fall out of love,” they wonder, “how can we bring it back?” They can learn it is possible to generate love even when it is not readily flowing. Indeed, if a man and woman have prepared themselves for lasting love-by the training they received in their own families, by cultivating self-control, and so on-a strong and affectionate connection builds or rebuilds between them that only deepens and strengthens over time.

Since it is not whom one loves that counts as much as how one loves, youth do not have to wait helplessly to bump into the “right person.” They can be getting practice and building confidence in becoming loving persons where they are right now. Furthermore, the notion of love as an active verb helps young people grasp the key difference between maturity and immaturity-the immature focus on being loved; the mature focus on giving love.

Religious teachings on Love as an ethical and spiritual ideal

Religions lift up those qualities that make for "true love"-love that helps those experiencing it live fuller lives. These include love for and from God; love within a family, including conjugal love; friendship; love for the community, and general altruism.

In Christianity

The Christian ideal of love is most famously described by Saint Paul:

Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV).

Christianity lifts up the Greek term Agapē to describe such love. Agapē love is charitable, selfless, altruistic, and unconditional. It is the essence of parental love, ever creating goodness in the world; it is the way God is seen to love humanity. It was because of God's agapē love for humanity he sacrificed his Son. John the Apostle wrote, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16 KJV).

Furthermore, agapē is the kind of love that Christians aspire to have for others. In the above quote from Saint Paul, he added as the most important virtue of all: "Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV). Jesus taught, "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27), in keeping with the character of agapē as unconditional love, given without any expectation of return. Loving in this way is incumbent on all Christians, as John the Apostle wrote:

If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4.20).

In Islam

Islam also lifts up the ideal that one should love even one's enemies. A well-known Hadith says, "A man is a true Muslim when no other Muslim has to fear anything from either his tongue or his hand." (Bukhari).

Among the 99 names of God (Allah) are "the Compassionate," "the Merciful," and "the Loving One" (Al-Wadud). God's love is seen as an incentive for sinners to aspire to be as worthy of God's love as they may. All who hold the faith have God's love, but to what degree or effort he has pleased God depends on the individual itself.

This Ishq, or divine love, is a chief emphasis of Sufism. Sufis believe that love is a projection of the essence of God to the universe. God desires to recognize beauty, and as if one looks at a mirror to see oneself, God "looks" at itself within the dynamics of nature. Since everything is a reflection of God, the school of Sufism practices to see the beauty inside the apparently ugly. Sufism is often referred to as the religion of Love. God in Sufism is referred to in three main terms which are the Lover, Loved, and Beloved, with the last of these terms being often seen in Sufi poetry. A common viewpoint of Sufism is that through love, humankind can get back to its inherent purity and grace.

In Judaism

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."
-Deuteronomy 6:5

Judaism employs a wide definition of love, both between people and between humans and the Deity. As for the former, the Torah states, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). As for the latter, one is commanded to love God "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5), taken by the Mishnah (a central text of the Jewish oral law) to refer to good deeds, willingness to sacrifice one's life rather than commit certain serious transgressions, willingness to sacrifice all one's possessions, and being grateful to the Lord despite adversity (Berachoth 9:5, Sanhedrin 74a).

The twentieth century rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler is frequently quoted as defining love from the Jewish point of view as "giving without expecting to take" (Michtav me-Eliyahu, vol. I), as can be seen from the Hebrew word for love ahava, as the root of the word is hav, to give.

As for love between marital partners, this is deemed an essential ingredient to life: "See life with the wife you love" (Ecclesiastes 9:9). The Biblical book Song of Songs is a considered a romantically-phrased metaphor of love between God and his people, but in its plain reading reads like a love song. However, romantic love per se has few echoes in Jewish literature.

In Buddhism

Buddhism clearly teaches the rejection of Kāma, sensuous, sexual love. Since it is self-centered, it is an obstacle on the path to enlightenment. Rather, Buddhism advocates these higher forms of love:

  • Karunā is compassion and mercy, which reduces the suffering of others. It is complementary to wisdom, and is necessary for enlightenment.
  • Advesa and maitrī are benevolent love. This love is unconditional and requires considerable self-acceptance. This is quite different from the ordinary love, which is usually about attachment and sex, which rarely occur without self-interest. This ideal of Buddhist love is given from a place of detachment and unselfish interest in others' welfare. The Metta Sutta describes divine love as universal, flowing impartially to all beings:

May all beings be happy and secure, may their hearts be wholesome! Whatever living beings there be: feeble or strong, tall, stout or medium, short, small or large, without exception; seen or unseen, those dwelling far or near, those who are born or those yet unborn-may all beings be happy!
Let none deceive another, nor despise any person whatsoever in any place. Let him not wish any harm to another out of anger or ill-will. Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let his thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world: above, below, and across without any obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity. Whether he stands, walks, sits or lies down, as long as he is awake, he should develop this mindfulness. This, they say, is the noblest living here. (Sutta Nipata 143-151)31

  • In Tibetan Buddhism, the Bodhisattva ideal involves the complete renunciation of oneself in order to take on the burden of a suffering world. Since even the aspiration for personal salvation can involve a sense of self, the bodhisattva rejects it as an unwholesome state, and instead puts the salvation of others ahead of his own salvation. The strongest motivation to take the path of the Bodhisattva is the limitless sacrificial love of a parent towards her only child, now cultivated to the extent that one can love all beings universally in this way.

In Confucianism

The traditional Chinese character for love (愛) consists of a heart (心, in the middle) inside of "accept," "feel," or "perceive," which shows a graceful emotion.

In Confucianism, true love begins with the heart's foundation of benevolence (ren, 仁). The philosopher Zhu Xi regarded ren as a universal principle and the basis for love and harmony among all beings:

Benevolence (仁) is simple undifferentiated gentleness. Its energy is the springtime of the universe, and its principle is the mind of living things in the universe (Zhu Xi).

However, benevolence must be cultivated in actual human relationships. This is lian (戀), the virtuous benevolent love that is cultivated in the family and society. The practice of loving relationships is the sum of the moral life. More than that, it is through participating in these relationships that a person's identity and worth are formed.

The Chinese philosopher Mo-tzu developed a second concept of love, ai (愛), which is universal love towards all beings, not just towards friends or family, and without regard to reciprocation. It is close to the Christian concept of agape love. Confucianism also calls for love for all beings, but sees such social love as an extension of the elements of love learned in the family.


In Hinduism bhakti is a Sanskrit term meaning "loving devotion to the supreme God." Hindu writers, theologians, and philosophers have distinguished nine forms of devotion that they call bhakti. As regards human love, Hinduism distinguishes between kāma, or sensual, sexual love, with prema, which refers to elevated love. It also speaks of Karuna, compassion and mercy which reduces the suffering of others.

Prema has the ability to melt karma which is also known as the moving force of past actions, intentions, and reactions to experience in life. When people love all things, the force of karma that is in relation to those things, events, or circumstances slowly starts going towards peacefulness, relaxation, and freedom and people find themselves in a "state of love."

Thus, all the major religions agree that the essential characteristic by which true love can be identified is that it focuses not on the needs of the self, but is concerned with those of others. Each adds its unique perspective to this essential truth.

Platonic love

In the fourth century B.C.E., the Greek philosopher Plato posited the view that one would never love a person in that person's totality, because no person represents goodness or beauty in totality. At a certain level, one does not even love the person at all. Rather, one loves an abstraction or image of the person's best qualities. Plato never considered that one would love a person for his or her unique qualities, because the ideas are abstractions that do not vary. In love, humanity thus looks for the best embodiment of a universal truth in a person rather than that of an idiosyncratic truth.

Platonic love in its modern popular sense is an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element does not enter, especially in cases where one might easily assume otherwise. A simple example of platonic relationships is a deep, non-sexual friendship between two heterosexual people of the opposite sex.

Plato and his companions.

Ironically, the very eponym of this love, Plato, as well as Socrates and others, belonged to the community of men who engaged in erotic pedagogic friendships with boys. The concept of platonic love thus arose within the context of the debate pitting mundane sexually expressed pederasty against the philosophic-or chaste-pederasty elaborated in Plato's writings. Hence, the modern meaning of Platonic love misunderstands the nature of the Platonic ideal of love, which from its origin was that of a chaste but passionate love, based not on lack of interest but virtuous restraint of sexual desire. This love was meant to bring the lovers closer to wisdom and the Platonic Form of Beauty. It is described in depth in Plato's Phaedrus and Symposium. In the Phaedrus, it is said to be a form of divine madness that is a gift from the gods, and that its proper expression is rewarded by the gods in the afterlife; in the Symposium, the method by which love takes one to the form of beauty and wisdom is detailed.

Plato and his peers did not teach that a man's relationship with a youth should lack an erotic dimension, but rather that the longing for the beauty of the boy is a foundation of the friendship and love between those two. However, having acknowledged that the man's erotic desire for the youth magnetizes and energizes the relationship, they countered that it is wiser for this eros to not be sexually expressed, but instead be redirected into the intellectual and emotional spheres.

Because of its common, modern definition, Platonic love can be seen as paradoxical in light of these philosophers' life experiences and teachings. To resolve this confusion, French scholars found it helpful to distinguish between amour platonique (the concept of non-sexual love) and amour platonicien (love according to Plato). When the term "Platonic love" is used today, it generally does not describe this aspect of Plato's views of love.

Love in culture

Dante looked longingly at Beatrice Portinari as she passed by him with Lady Vanna (in red) in Dante and Beatrice, by Henry Holiday

Love is one of the most featured themes in all of culture, more than knowledge, money, power, or even life itself. Love is the absolute, eternal desire of all human beings, and as such it is the most popular topic in all the arts. For as long as there have been songs and the written word, there have been works dedicated to love.

The type of love often featured is unrequited love. The first century B.C.E. Roman poet Catullus wrote about his unrequited love for Lesbia (Clodia) in several of his Carmina. Perhaps the most famous example in Western culture of unrequited love is Dante Alighieri for Beatrice. Dante apparently spoke to Beatrice only twice in his life, the first time when he was nine years old and she was eight. Although both went on to marry other people, Dante nevertheless regarded Beatrice as the great love of his life and his "muse." He made her the guide to Heaven in his work, The Divine Comedy. Additionally, all of the examples in Dante's manual for poets, La Vita Nuova, are about his love for Beatrice. The prose which surrounds the examples further tells the story of his lifelong devotion to her.

Shakespeare tackled the topic in his plays, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Twelfth Night. A more threatening unrequited lover, Roderigo, is shown in Othello.

Unrequited love has been a topic used repeatedly by musicians for decades. Blues artists incorporated it heavily; it is the topic of B.B. King's "Lucille" and "The Thrill is Gone," Ray Charles's "What'd I Say." Eric Clapton's band, Derek and the Dominos devoted a whole album to the topic, Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs. From The Eagles all the way to Led Zeppelin, almost every classic rock band has at least one song on the topic of love.

A theme in much popular music is that of new love, "falling in love:"

Take my hand, take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you ("Can't Help Falling in Love" sung by Elvis Presley)

The singers may be anticipating the joy of "endless love" together:

Two hearts,
Two hearts that beat as one
Our lives have just begun. ("Endless Love" by Lionel Ritchie)

These songs reflect the celebration of adolescence in American culture, with its rather shallow and unrealistic view of romantic love. Compared to the tradition of unrequited love, there is little here that speaks to love as a life-long bond, persevering and enduring despite disappointments and hardships.


  1. ↑ Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006). ISBN 0061129739
  2. ↑ Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (Simon & Schuster, 1978). ISBN 0-671-25067-1
  3. ↑ Institute of Human Thermodynamics, '04 Poll of 250 Chicagoans. Retrieved August 14, 2007.
  4. ↑ Eric H. Erikson, Joan M. Erikson, and Hellen Kivnick, Vital Involvement in Old Age: the Experience of Old Age in Our Time (New York: Norton, 1986), p. 53.
  5. ↑ Williard W. Hartup, “Having Friends, Making Friends and Keeping Friends: Relationships as Educational Contexts,” ERIC Digest, (The Educational Resources Information Center, University of Minnesota's Center for Early Education and Development, 1992), p. 1.
  6. ↑ Samuel P. and Pearl M. Oliner, The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe (New York: Free Press, 1988), p. 171.
  7. ↑ Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
  8. ↑ William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence,” from Poems (1863).
  9. ↑ “Catherine Sneed,” Giraffe Project Hero, Giraffe Heroes Project Retrieved September 9, 2007.
  10. ↑ Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” delivered at New Covenant Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois, April 9, 1967. Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  11. ↑ Selma H. Fraiberg, The Magic Years (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1959), p. 293.
  12. ↑ Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (New York: Benziger Bros., 1948).
  13. ↑ Vladimir Solovyov, The Meaning of Love (Lindisfarne Books, 1995). ISBN 0940262185
  14. ↑ Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006). ISBN 0061129739
  15. ↑ Gabriel Moran, Religious Education Development: Images for the Future (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1983), p. 169.
  16. ↑ Uichi Shoda, Walter Mischel, and Philip K. Peake, “Predicting Adolescent Cognitive and Self-Regulatory Competencies from Preschool Delay of Gratification,” Developmental Psychology 26/6 (1990), pp. 978-986.
  17. ↑ R. Travers Herford, ed., The Ethics of the Talmud: Sayings of the Fathers (New York: Schocken Books, 1925, 1962).
  18. ↑ Rollo May, Love and Will (New York: Norton, 1969).
  19. ↑ Lin Yutang, trans., The Wisdom of Confucius (New York: Random House, 1938).
  20. ↑ Lewis B. Smedes, Sex for Christians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans), p. 19.
  21. ↑ Christopher West, The Pope's Theology of the Body, Part II. Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  22. ↑ Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, The Role of the Emotions in Religion. Retrieved October 8, 2007.
  23. ↑ Mike Long, “Everyone is NOT Doing It!: Emotional Roller Coaster,” Abstinence Education Video Series, M.L. Productions, 2002.
  24. ↑ Robert Sternberg, Cupid's Arrow: The Course of Love through Time (Cambridge University Press, 1998). ISBN 0-521-47893-6
  25. ↑ Robert Winston, Human (Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd., 2004). ISBN 140530233X
  26. ↑ Lauren Slater, "Love: The Chemical Reaction," National Geographic (2006).
  27. ↑ E. Polliti Emanuele, Bianchi P., M. Minoretti, M. P. Bertona & Geroldi, D. “Raised plasma nerve growth factor levels associated with early-stage romantic love", Psychoneuroendocrinology, (2005). Retrieved August 14, 2007.
  28. ↑ Charlene Kamper, Connections: Relationships and Marriage, Teachers Manual (Berkeley, California: The Dibble Fund for Marital Enhancement, 1996), p. 35.
  29. ↑ Lori H. Gordon, Passage to Intimacy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 28.
  30. ↑ M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), pp. 119-120.
  31. ↑ World Scripture, True Love. Retrieved October 8, 2007.


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External links

All links retrieved August 2, 2018.

  • God and Love Beautiful Islam.
  • Love: An Anthology Compiled by Yanki Tauber
  • Thermodynamics, Psychology, Chemistry, and Love
  • Unrequited love can be a 'killer' BBC News.