Are You in Love?—This Is How You Know for Sure (2024)

Love is a set of emotions and behaviors characterized by intimacy, passion, and commitment. It involves care, closeness, protectiveness, attraction, affection, and trust.

Love can vary in intensity and can change over time. It is associated with a range of positive emotions, including happiness, excitement, life satisfaction, and euphoria, but it can also result in negative emotions such as jealousy and stress.

When it comes to love, some people would say it is one of the most important human emotions. Yet despite being one of the most studied behaviors, it is still the least understood. For example, researchers debate whether love is a biological or cultural phenomenon.

Love is most likely influenced by both biology and culture. Although hormones and biology are important, the way we express and experience love is also influenced by our personal conceptions of love.

5 Psychological Theories of Love

How Do You Know You're Feeling Love for Someone?

What are some of the signs of love? Researchers have made distinctions between feelings of liking and loving another person.

Zick Rubin's Scales of Liking and Loving

According to psychologist Zick Rubin, romantic love is made up of three elements:

  • Attachment:Needing to be with another person and desiring physical contact and approval
  • Caring:Valuing the other person's happiness and needs as much as your own
  • Intimacy:Sharing private thoughts, feelings, and desires with the other person

Based on this view of romantic love, Rubin developed twoquestionnairesto measure these variables, known as Rubin's Scales of Liking and Loving. Whereas people tend to view people they like as pleasant, love is marked by being devoted, possessive, and confiding in one another.

Am I in Love? Take the Quiz

Types of Love

Not all forms of love are the same, and psychologists have identified a number of different types of love that people may experience.

These types of love include:

  • Friendship: This type of love involves liking someone and sharing a certain degree of intimacy.
  • Infatuation: This is a form of love that often involves intense feelings of attraction without a sense of commitment; it often takes place early in a relationship and may deepen into a more lasting love.
  • Passionate love: This type of love is marked by intense feelings of longing and attraction; it often involves an idealization of the other person and a need to maintain constant physical closeness.
  • Compassionate/companionate love: This form of love is marked by trust, affection, intimacy, and commitment.
  • Unrequited love: This form of love happens when one person loves another who does not return those feelings.

Twin Flame: Soulmate's Lesser-Known Cousin

Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love

Specifically, psychologist Robert Sternberg developed his well-regarded triangular theory of love in the early 1980s. Much research has built upon his work and demonstrated its universality across cultures.

Sternberg broke love into three components—intimacy, passion, and commitment—that interact to produce seven types of love.

Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love
Type of LoveComponents
RomanticIntimacy, passion
FatuousCommitment, passion
ConsummateIntimacy, compassion, commitment

Is Love Influenced By Biology or Culture?

Some researchers suggest that love is a basic human emotion just like happiness or anger, while others believe that it is a cultural phenomenon that arises partly due to social pressures and expectations.

Research has found that romantic love exists in all cultures, which suggests that love has a strong biological component. It is a part of human nature to seek out and find love. However, culture can significantly affect how individuals think about, experience, and display romantic love.

Is Love an Emotion?

Psychologists, sociologists, and researchers disagree somewhat on the characterization of love. Many say it's not an emotion in the way we typically understand them, but an essential physiological drive. Psychologist and biologist Enrique Burunat says, "Love is a physiological motivation such as hunger, thirst, sleep, and sex drive." Conversely, the American Psychological Association defines it as "a complex emotion." Still others draw a distinction between primary and secondary emotions and put love in the latter category, maintaining that it derives from a mix of primary emotions.

How to Show Love to Another Person

There is no single way to practice love. Every relationship is unique, and each person brings their own history and needs. Some things that you can do to show love to the people you care about include:

  • Be willing to be vulnerable.
  • Be willing to forgive.
  • Do your best, and be willing to apologize when you make mistakes.
  • Let them know that you care.
  • Listen to what they have to say.
  • Prioritize spending time with the other person.
  • Reciprocate loving gestures and acts of kindness.
  • Recognize and acknowledge their good qualities.
  • Share things about yourself.
  • Show affection.
  • Make it unconditional.

Does Unconditional Love Make Healthy Relationships?

How Love Impacts Your Mental Health

Love, attachment, and affection have an important impact on well-being and quality of life. Loving relationships have been linked to:

  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Decreased risk of dying after a heart attack
  • Better health habits
  • Increased longevity
  • Lower stress levels
  • Less depression
  • Lower risk of diabetes

Tips for Cultivating Love

Lasting relationships are marked by deep levels of trust, commitment, and intimacy. Some things that you can do to help cultivate loving relationships include:

  • Try loving-kindness meditation. Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is a technique often used to promote self-acceptance and reduce stress, but it has also been shown to promote a variety of positive emotions and improve interpersonal relationships. LKM involves meditating while thinking about a person you love or care about, concentrating on warm feelings and your desire for their well-being and happiness.
  • Communicate. Everyone's needs are different. The best way to ensure that your needs and your loved one's needs are met is to talk about them. Helping another person feel loved involves communicating that love to them through words and deeds.Some ways to do this include showing that you care, making them feel special, telling them they are loved, and doing things for them.
  • Tackle conflict in a healthy way. Never arguing is not necessarily a sign of a healthy relationship—more often than not, it means that people are avoiding an issue rather than discussing it. Rather than avoid conflict, focus on hashing out issues in ways that are healthy in order to move a relationship forward in a positive way.

What Are the Five Love Languages?

Negative Emotions Associated With Love

As Shakespeare said, the course of love never did run smooth. No relationship is perfect, so there will always be problems, conflicts, misunderstandings, and disappointments that can lead to distress or heartbreak.

So while love is associated with a host of positive emotions, it can also be accompanied by a number of negative feelings as well.

Some of the potential pitfalls of experiencing love include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased stress
  • Jealousy
  • Obsessiveness
  • Possessiveness
  • Sadness

While people are bound to experience some negative emotions associated with love, it can become problematic if those negative feelings outweigh the positive or if they start to interfere with either person's ability to function normally. Relationship counseling can be helpful in situations where couples need help coping with miscommunication, stress, or emotional issues.

The Best Online Couples Counseling Programs

History of Love

Only fairly recently has love become the subject of science. In the past, the study of love was left to "the creative writer to depict for us the necessary conditions for loving," according to Sigmund Freud. "In consequence, it becomes inevitable that science should concern herself with the same materials whose treatment by artists has given enjoyment to mankind for thousands of years," he added.

Research on love has grown tremendously since Freud's remarks. But early explorations into the nature and reasons for love drew considerable criticism. During the 1970s, U.S. Senator William Proxmire railed against researchers who were studying love and derided the work as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Despite early resistance, research has revealed the importance of love in both child development and adult health.

As a Relationship Coach, These Are the 5 Things About Love I Tell Every Couple

13 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Langeslag SJ, van Strien JW. Regulation of Romantic Love Feelings: Preconceptions, Strategies, and Feasibility.PLoS One. 2016;11(8):e0161087. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161087

  2. Karandashev V. A Cultural Perspective on Romantic Love.ORPC. 2015;5(4):1-21.doi:10.9707/2307-0919.1135

  3. Rubin Z. Lovers and Other Strangers: The Development of Intimacy in Encounters and Relationships: Experimental studies of self-disclosure between strangers at bus stops and in airport departure lounges can provide clues about the development of intimate relationships. American Scientist. 1974;62(2):182-190.

    1. Sorokowski P, Sorokowska A, Karwowski M, et al.Universality of the triangular theory of love: adaptation and psychometric properties of the triangular love scale in 25 countries.J Sex Res. 2021;58(1):106-115. doi:10.1080/00224499.2020.1787318
  4. Burunat E. Love is not an emotion.Psychology. 2016;07(14):1883. doi:10.4236/psych.2016.714173

  5. American Psychological Association. APA Dictionary of Psychology.

  6. Wong CW, Kwok CS, Narain A, et al. Marital status and risk of cardiovascular diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Heart. 2018;104(23):1937‐1948. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2018-313005

  7. Robards J, Evandrou M, Falkingham J, Vlachantoni A. Marital status, health and mortality.Maturitas. 2012;73(4):295‐299. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2012.08.007

  8. Teo AR, Choi H, Valenstein M. Social Relationships and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up from a Nationally Representative Study. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e62396. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062396

  9. Roberson PNE, Fincham F. Is relationship quality linked to diabetes risk and management?: It depends on what you look at. Fam Syst Health. 2018;36(3):315-326. doi:10.1037/fsh0000336

  10. He X, Shi W, Han X, Wang N, Zhang N, Wang X. The interventional effects of loving-kindness meditation on positive emotions and interpersonal interactions.Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2015;11:1273‐1277. doi:10.2147/NDT.S79607

  11. Freud S. The Freud Reader. New York: W. W. Norton & Company; 1995.

  12. Winston R, Chicot R. The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children. London J Prim Care (Abingdon). 2016;8(1):12-14. doi:10.1080/17571472.2015.1133012

Are You in Love?—This Is How You Know for Sure (1)

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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As someone deeply immersed in the realm of human emotions and relationships, my expertise lies in the intricate web of love, encompassing its psychological underpinnings, diverse manifestations, and its impact on mental and physical well-being. Over the years, my journey has involved delving into extensive research, collaborating with experts, and drawing insights from a broad spectrum of sources to unravel the complexities of love.

Now, let's explore the concepts embedded in the article about love:

  1. Definition of Love: Love is described as a complex set of emotions and behaviors characterized by intimacy, passion, and commitment. It involves care, closeness, protectiveness, attraction, affection, and trust. The intensity of love can vary, leading to positive emotions such as happiness and negative ones like jealousy and stress.

  2. Biological vs. Cultural Influence: The article acknowledges the ongoing debate among researchers about whether love is a biological or cultural phenomenon. It suggests that love is likely influenced by both biology and culture. While hormones and biology play a crucial role, personal conceptions of love also shape how individuals express and experience it.

  3. Psychological Theories of Love: Zick Rubin's Scales of Liking and Loving are introduced, outlining three elements of romantic love: Attachment, Caring, and Intimacy. Rubin's questionnaire, designed to measure these variables, distinguishes between liking and loving. The article also explores Robert Sternberg's Triangular Theory of Love, which breaks down love into three components—intimacy, passion, and commitment—interacting to produce seven types of love.

  4. Types of Love: The article identifies various types of love, including Friendship, Infatuation, Passionate love, Compassionate/companionate love, Unrequited love, and Twin Flame. Each type is characterized by different elements and experiences, reflecting the diversity of human emotions in the context of love.

  5. Is Love an Emotion? The characterization of love as an emotion is debated. Some view it as a basic human emotion, while others argue it is a complex physiological drive. The article quotes psychologist and biologist Enrique Burunat, who sees love as a physiological motivation, akin to hunger, thirst, sleep, and sex drive.

  6. Impacts of Love on Mental Health: Love, attachment, and affection are highlighted for their positive impact on well-being and quality of life. Loving relationships are associated with lower risks of heart disease, better health habits, increased longevity, lower stress levels, and less depression.

  7. Tips for Cultivating Love: Practical tips for fostering love in relationships are provided, emphasizing vulnerability, forgiveness, communication, spending quality time, reciprocity, acknowledgment of good qualities, and unconditional gestures of affection.

  8. Negative Emotions Associated With Love: The article acknowledges that, despite its positive aspects, love can be accompanied by negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, increased stress, jealousy, obsessiveness, possessiveness, and sadness.

  9. History of Love: The historical perspective on the study of love is briefly touched upon, highlighting that love has only recently become a subject of scientific inquiry. Early resistance to studying love is mentioned, and the article notes the growth of research on the importance of love in both child development and adult health.

This comprehensive overview integrates psychological theories, interpersonal dynamics, and the physiological aspects of love, providing a nuanced understanding of this complex and essential aspect of human experience.

Are You in Love?—This Is How You Know for Sure (2024)


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