We ask ourselves this question many times and have actually come up with many many online tests to find the answer: Harry Potter houses, star signs, love languages, and so on. In this article we’ll talk about love styles, how what we mean by love can vary from person to person, and from relationship to relationship.
When we say the word love, everyone instantly has an idea of what we’re talking about. Most often we think of romantic love, but there is a whole range of emotions that we describe with that word. For example, we have many different movies that depict love in some form, but it is clear that When Harry Met Sally and Dangerous Liaisons depict a very different range of emotions. The ancient Greeks had 6 different words to describe different forms of love.
Based on this tradition Canadian psychologist John Alan Lee developed the idea of the color wheel theory of love in the 1970s which describes styles or attitudes of love that different people have in different situations. Building on this theory, Clyde Hendrick and Susan Hendrick developed a measuring tool, called the Love Attitudes Scale, to help you pinpoint your love style for yourself. You can take this test here! Note that when you take the test, you’ll receive a score on each type of love, so it’s not so much an either-or situation (we are talking about attitudes, rather than personalities), but you will have one or more dominant styles of love and score low on others. People with the same love styles tend to form long-lasting relationships but those with different styles also may benefit from each other’s different points of view as long as they are aware of their differences and know how to work around them. For more details on match-ups see this video.
These love attitudes are as follows:
- EROS (passionate love): think about the type of love depicted in romance novels. Highly intense! People who have a high eros scale intensely focus on their partner are specific about the type of partner they are looking for and go all out to “win them”.
- LUDUS (game-playing love): Think about the characters in movies who are called players. They view love as a game, enjoy flirting with multiple people. People who score high on Ludus are often judged harshly, but the truth is that they do not intend to intentionally hurt anyone. And all types of connections are valid as long as everyone knows what they are getting into and consent to it.
- STORGE (friendship love): Someone who is mostly a Storge-type lover, priorotizes friendship, commitment, and relationship security over heated romance and physical attraction. They look for partners who share similar goals and have a similar outlook on life. Their relationships usually begin as friendships which slowly develop into a deeper feeling of love.
- PRAGMA (practical love): a Prama-style lover looks for mates with a “shopping list” approach, looking for specific qualities such as type of occupation, family background, and personality. They have a clear image of what kind of life they want and look for a partner who will help them attain it. From the outside, they might seem calculating but to them, this strategy is just realistic.
- MANIA (possessive, dependent love): Those with this kind of dominant love style yearn for love and yet their experience of it is often painful. They’re a bit unstable emotionally, jealous, and full of doubts about their partner’s commitment and thus tend to be possessive of them.
- AGAPE (altruistic love): People with a dominant Agape love style are the ones who truly put their partner’s needs before their own. They ask little of their partner and are very focused on giving. This might result in going overboard though, giving too much and then feeling unappreciated by their partner.
The components of love
Our experience of love in a relationship also depends on the quality of the relationship (meaning what sort of relationship is it). Robert Sternberg came up with Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love where he proposes that our experience of love depends on how strongly we experience the following three components: passion (A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement, or anger that causes you to act in the heat of the moment or sexual or romantic feeling for someone), intimacy (feelings of closeness and attachment to one another) and commitment (a conscious decision to stick with one another). It’s called a triangular theory because he gave us this neat triangle to illustrate how these three components interact. [insert image from link]
When all three components are present Sternberg calls this type of love consummate love. If non are present, that’s non love. If only intimacy is present, that’s what Sternberg calls liking (Much of this happens on the internet for example. We share details about ourselves in our various online profiles, but there is no commitment or passion.). If only commitment is present the theory calls this empty love (people deciding to stay together but they have no further connection.). Lastly, with only passion present, you get to infatuation (think of one-night stands and intense crushes). Now, if only two of the 3 elements are in play in a relationship, those are also named by Sternberg as companionate love (intimacy + commitment – for example the love you have for family members); romantic love (intimacy + passion – most of which is depicted in romantic movies, since we rarely get to the commitment part); and lastly fatuous love (passion + commitment – think of people who are crazy about each other and are ready to move in but haven’t really gotten to know each other yet).
Keep in mind that how your relationship “scores” on this triangle may change over time, even from day to day. All three elements may vary due to changes in the relationship or as outside factors put stress on the relationship (like if your workplace isn’t the happiest place to work). You can get an idea of the current state of your relationship by completing Sternberg’s Triangular Love Scale here.
There are many different kinds of love that fulfill our many different types of needs. None are better than the other. I hope you find the one that suits you!