While love can be a meaningful and enjoyable experience, it can also feel confusing for some. Understanding your feelings, wants, and needs regarding love and relationships can be challenging. However, by studying love, understanding how it feels like, and communicating clearly, you may receive clarity surrounding the topic of love.
Identifying varying types of love
When you have strong positive feelings for someone, it may seem challenging to categorize them immediately. You could be unsure if you consider someone a close friend or romantic interest, or you may wonder what the boundaries are between friends and chosen family.
Romantic love is often defined as a strong positive feeling for another person involving romantic attraction. Romantic love might also follow sexual attraction. Romantic love might lead to urges to do the following:
Go on dates
Converse and get to know someone on a more profound level
Be physically intimate
Hug, cuddle, or kiss
Put labels on the relationship
Get engaged or married
Romantic love can take many forms and might look different for everyone. Some individuals may not experience romantic attraction and might identify as aromantic.
Platonic love often refers to love between friends or individuals that does not involve romance or sexual love. While some might think of romantic love as the most potent form, platonic love can be as intense and complicated. If you're feeling platonic love for another person, you might want to become closer friends, spend time together, become roommates, or express feelings of closeness.
Some people have many strong platonic friendships, while others may have a few close friends. Platonic love may differ in intensity depending on the people who produce it in you.
Familial love is often a sense of platonic love toward someone in your biological or chosen family. While familial love and platonic love can sometimes overlap, familial may transcend personal differences and be shaped by family experiences and traditions.
Is your relationship healthy?
Healthy relationships are often supportive and encouraging, even during challenging experiences. Supportive loved ones may encourage you even when they don't fully understand your hobbies or passions. A healthy relationship could make you feel valued, safe, or cared for.
In a healthy relationship, you and others may avoid keeping secrets and try communicating thoughts and feelings as openly as possible. In addition, you may be open about your relationship with the world and potentially not sense the need to hide your connection with the person.
Healthy relationships can be built on a foundation of respect and love, and healthy individuals may offer you space and respect for your desire for alone time and independence. They could respect your decisions and support you, even if they do not always agree. They might also respect your desire for closeness and connection.
How to know your relationship is unhealthy
A relationship may be unhealthy if you feel unsafe, disrespected, or disregarded. In some cases, relationships can be abusive. Any relationship may involve abuse, including friendships and familial connections. Abuse can include the following types of behaviors:
- Gaslighting or manipulation
- Attempts to have physical, emotional, mental, or sexual power over someone
- Aggressive actions
- Physical aggression
- Sexual coercion
If you are facing or witnessing abuse of any kind, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7 for support. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788. You can also use the online chat.
Developing a relationship
When you feel strong emotions toward another person, you might feel confused about the type of relationship you desire with them. When forming a relationship, consider your motivations and the type of feelings you have.
Developing romantic love
To develop a romantic connection with another person, think about your motivations. While the first rush of romantic love can feel intense and overwhelming, you might want to spend some time dating and analyzing the connection before committing to a relationship. Consider what you like about the person's personality and how you envision your future with them. Spending time dating and getting to know someone can help determine their "green and red flags."
Although rejection can be challenging, prepare for the possibility that this person might not be interested in a romantic relationship with you. If you decide to express your feelings of love, try to do so in a way that is respectful and allows the other person the option of saying no.
Deepening a friendship
Platonic love may feel as intense as romantic love in the early stages of a friendship. If you feel overwhelmed by positive platonic feelings for another person, you may want to deepen your relationship with your friend.
As with romantic relationships, deepening a relationship quickly may cause struggles if intense emotions are involved. If you're looking to develop your friendship further, ask your friend if they feel the same. Try hanging out together, spending time partaking in hobbies and activities, and learning more about them. Respect any boundaries your friend sets on their time and abilities.
Strengthening relationships with family
You may already feel close to your family. However, many individuals might find that at certain times in life, they drift apart or want to strengthen their relationships with family. Some ways you might reconnect with someone from your family can include:
- Getting dinner together
- Having a family reunion
- Partaking in hobbies or activities together
- Talking about memories and looking at photos
- Making a family photo album
How to express love
If you're feeling strong positive emotions for another person, you may not be sure how to express them comfortably. You can express your love for others in various ways, from minor gestures to lasting commitments. Many people feel most comfortable expressing and receiving love that connects to their love language.
Spend time together
Spending time with those you love can be a way to have quality time together. You may show love by reducing distractions like your phone or computer while you're with someone about whom you care. Consider partaking in activities that the person you care about enjoys as well.
Tell them your feelings
Confessing your feelings verbally can be a healthy way to let someone know you love them. If you feel embarrassed or concerned about the response, you can consider writing a letter or a message. If the person does not feel the same, they may respectfully let you know. Although rejection sensitivity may occur, experiencing rejection may help you feel more confident trying again with someone else.
Acts of service
Some individuals feel most loved through acts of service. Whether that means sending a friend a care package, taking a loved one out to dinner, or taking out the trash, small acts of kindness can go a long way toward expressing your love.
How to support yourself through confusion
Love may feel confusing if you're entering into a new relationship, aren't sure if your relationship is healthy, or are trying to deepen and strengthen your love for another person. At the same time, love can be an enriching experience and may be central to your health and well-being.
If you're experiencing uncertainty regarding love and romance, try to reflect on your feelings, wants, and desires. Practice spending uninterrupted time in reflective thought, investigating what you think about other people and how you want your relationships to look. While introspection can sometimes feel scary or unpleasant, it may reap the rewards of self-knowledge and the ability to understand yourself and others better.
Many individuals use journaling or mindfulness practices to practice introspection. You may be able to find guided meditations on Spotify or another platform to lead you through these thoughts and practices. Studies also indicate that journaling can be highly beneficial in expressing emotion and understanding yourself more profoundly.
Whether you're struggling with relationships or want to explore your feelings, therapy can be a great way to learn more about relationships and the self. A therapist might help you express your emotions when feeling confused and uncertain. It's been proven that not being able to express your feelings can result in adverse health symptoms, and expressing your feelings well might allow you to feel better. Working with a therapist through these issues may increase your overall health in the long run.
Many people who struggle with communication or want to ease into therapy consider online counseling options. Through online counseling, you can first meet with a therapist over live chat if you're not comfortable with a phone or video format. Additionally, you can attend therapy from a location that feels safe to you, like your home. Online therapy is as effective as traditional therapy for many conditions and symptoms.
Here are some reviews by recent BetterHelp users about their counselors:
“I came to Heather and BetterHelp during a time of crisis in love and work, even tho I presented well to the public. Heather helped me identify my core wounds and find strategies to shift away from codependent enabling of others and authentically find a sense of empowerment and autonomy – and recognize my self worth in the process. I thought I had done this work but I saw I was repeating patterns and fearful of true expression. I love working with Heather and often recommend BetterHelp as a safe and trusted service with strong experts in this field. Thank you!” Read more on Heather Abreu.
“I’m happy I had counseling with Glenn. I used to struggle with anger and trust issues towards my husband when I first talked to Glenn. He listened to me attentively and asked questions delicately and politely. I felt that he cared about my case and really wanted to help me. And he did help me solve my relationship problems. Glenn taught me to forgive, manage conflicts, and express and receive love. Now I enjoy my close and intimate relationship with my loved one, and there’s no place for anger and hate in me anymore. Finally I feel understood, supported, happy and calm. And I’m so thankful to Glenn for guiding me there.” Read more on Glenn House.