What Is Love?

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Love can be a complex and multifaceted emotion that is often difficult to define and understand. We all tend to feel different types, from romantic to companionate love, brotherly love, or platonic love between family members, close friends, and even pets.

When looking at the differences between infatuation and true love, infatuation tends to have more to do with attraction and an idealized perception of who a person could be. Meanwhile, true love is usually deeper and more enduring, and it is often based on more than physical appearance. For more guidance on the complexities of love and romantic relationship-related matters, it can be helpful to speak to a therapist in person or online.

Delve into the concept of love with a licensed professional

The meaning of romantic love

Learning more about love can be a rewarding and enlightening process that is one way to help you better understand and cultivate this complex emotion. There are many different theories on the meaning of love, and each person may have a unique understanding of what love is.

One theory on the meaning of love is that it is an emotion essential for human connection and well-being. It is thought that love helps people feel connected and supported and can provide a sense of belonging and purpose. According to this perspective, love may be a fundamental human need that can play a part in feeling happiness and fulfillment. People tend to address and fulfill their love and belonging needs in order to achieve a higher sense of themselves.

Another theory suggests that love can be a transformative force that may inspire you to grow and become your best self. Therefore, it is proposed that love may have the power to encourage people to change and improve.

In addition to exploring the meaning of love in relationships with others, it can also be helpful to consider the role of self-love. Self-love generally refers to spending time caring for and valuing yourself and treating yourself with loving kindness. When you have a healthy sense of self-love, you are generally more able to show passionate love and care for other human beings.

Passionate love

Understanding and identifying true feelings of love is a process that may be an important aspect of finding meaningful and fulfilling romantic relationships. According to research reported in the Oxford University Press, true love is not highly prototypical, and people can pick out love that is real. Love can take many forms and be experienced in various relationships. It can be ideal to recognize the true nature of love to cultivate healthy, lasting, and loving connections.

One way to recognize true love may be by looking for specific characteristics. True love is typically selfless, patient, and kind. True love can also be characterized by honesty, trust, and commitment. When you experience true love, you often feel a strong connection and a desire to support and care for another human being.

It is often helpful to be aware of common misconceptions about how to practice love. Some people may believe that the form of love should always be intense and passionate or that these positive emotions should last forever without any challenges or conflicts. However, love is often a complex emotion that can take many forms. You might try to remember that love and sexual desire may evolve and change after the early stages of the relationship and that it can be natural for loving relationships to experience ups and downs.

To differentiate between infatuation and true love, it may be helpful to assess the depth and durability of the feelings. Infatuation is often based on physical attraction, and the intense longing you feel may not be as enduring as true love. You may also evaluate the level of mutual respect and consideration in the relationship, as well as the presence of trust and commitment.


Infatuation vs. true love

Does true love exist? What does it mean to love people or to love a particular person? Differentiating between infatuation and true love is sometimes challenging, but knowing and understanding the nature of your feelings may give you the ability to form more meaningful and fulfilling long-term relationships.

Here are some tips that may help you differentiate between what infatuation and love look like:

  1. Assess the depth and durability of the feelings: Infatuation is often characterized by intense but shallow feelings that may not be as enduring as true love. Conversely, true love is typically characterized by more profound, enduring, and intense feelings based on a solid connection and commitment.
  2. Evaluate the level of mutual respect and consideration: True love is typically characterized by mutual respect, consideration, and care for the other person. 
  3. Examine the presence of trust and commitment: Trust and commitment are often ideal components of true love. When you are in a relationship based on true love, you are normally able to trust your partner and are committed to the relationship.

Online therapy for navigating the complexities of love

Online therapy can offer several advantages for you as you navigate the complexities of love. An online therapy platform typically makes it simple to match with a licensed therapist within 48 hours, and you can specify that you’re interested in working with a professional who has experience with relationship- and love-related challenges. 

Online therapy is one method that can be highly effective in helping people understand and navigate love's complexities. In fact, studies have shown that it is generally just as effective as in-person therapy, meaning that both online and in-person therapy can be valid options for those seeking help with various mental health and relationship challenges. 

Delve into the concept of love with a licensed professional


Love is generally a complex and multifaceted emotion that may be difficult to define and understand. While it can be hard to define love, understanding the true nature of romantic love and the various stages of love can help you form more meaningful and fulfilling relationships. Online therapy may be an effective way to explore your feelings and learn strategies for identifying true love in yourself and others.

Receive compassionate guidance in love

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