There are many types of love. Letting someone know they matter is an act of love. This act of love is the unconditional variety, the unlimited variety.
Love comes in many varieties. Relationships come in many varieties.
My notion of love is a universal kind, but it is a kind of love that comes in many varieties. Love in any form is about how a relationship is expressed, what it looks like, and is always mutual.
Love is rooted in caring behaviors expressed for the benefit of another person. Self-love is tricky as will be explained later in this article.
Types of love include:
- Romantic love or romantic relationships
- Emotional love or emotional relationships
- Sexual love or sexual relationships
- Platonic relationships
- Familial love
Each of these types of love are types of relationships. This is because love is a relationship.
When we define different types of love, we avoid many of the misunderstandings people often have in their relationships.
To understand love, we must not focus on the end points doing acts but at the dynamic between the actors.
Thus, romantic love is a type of love between mutually consenting partners (or more) rooted in romance as a particular expression of a relationship. It is an emotion and an act.
If person A and person B are in a romantic relationship, we would not understand romantic love as buying roses. If person A buys roses and gives them to person B, the act of buying roses was not a romantic act nor was the act of giving the roses. In this scenario, person B is an object receiving a gift and all the action is done by person A. Moreover, no emotion exists in this act unless we assume it to exist in this act and to do this would be a flaw, inaccurate, and problematic.
Some people think buying roses for a partner is romantic, but this is not a relationship so cannot be considered romantic love.
Something else underlies the act of buying roses. We should never assume what they reason is because context matters.
Romantic love requires consideration of the relationship between the parties involved. Romantic love is how a relationship is expressed.
Continuing our example of person A and person B, person A has to know that person B would appreciate the roses and that they have some sort of affinity for roses. They have to know if person B has ethical issues with the flower industry, be those issues related to pesticides, plantations, or the treatment of workers (or something else).
Understanding between person A and person B is key to the romantic relationship. Knowing how to be affectionate with that specific person and being able to relate to them in a caring ways are important to love.
Romantic love requires an intimate knowledge of the other person and in that intimacy romance is born and expressed.
Emotional love is another type of love. In this type of love we are again focused on the relationship between parties.
An emotional connection with someone also requires intimate knowledge of the other person. However, that intimate knowledge is slightly different because it is not necessarily rooted in romance.
Emotional love is a form of intimacy rooted in sentiment. Emotional love expresses sensitivity, empathy, and awareness of one we care for deeply. Emotional love is given and received, in that relationship it attains meaning.
We must be careful when considering emotional love because it can easily be confused with cathexis. Cathexis is investing emotion into a person, object, or act. A common form of cathexis is assuming that the act of sexual intercourse is love.
Cathexis is a type of fixation, it is singular. Importantly, it is not about a relationship except an imagined one (when between people). Energy is invested in thinking about the other person and imagining feelings toward them. Attaching meaning and expending energy toward a person is one-sided. Two people can cathect toward each other at the same time, imbuing meaning in their relationship without ever getting to know the other person.
Sexual love is about sex. It is about sexual intercourse and sex acts. It is not however limited to these moments.
Sex can happen without sexual love. Erotic attraction can lead to sexual love, but it can also lead to regular sex.
Love is more than love making (here meaning sex). Sexual love concerns intimacy.
Physicality and sexual interaction are two dimensions of sexual love. Desire in sex depends on how you want to be interacted with and cared for socially on the one hand and physically what types of touch and where on the other hand.
Some people are in to rough sex. Other people enjoy dressing up in costumes and/or role play. Yet others are in to sweet soft sensual sex. Some people have fetishes, which come in a variety of forms.
Sex with one person cannot deliver on all of these fronts.
Monogamy cannot help you figure out your desires.
Masturbation is not going to help you know what possibilities exist in the field of sex. Masturbation can help you understand yourself better and how you like to be touched or if you do not like to be touched at all.
Sexual love is more than the simple act of sex though. It includes foreplay and aftercare. Foreplay and aftercare concern the short term immediate period before and after sex, but they also include the longer term (if there is one).
Foreplay and aftercare are equally important to the act of sexual intercourse.
To experience sexual love is to have someone that can provide for you socially and physically in at least one aspect of your sexual desires. This is a critical component of good sex.
Good sex means you have a connection that is more than having two bodies come together for the act of sex. To have good sex you must be able to connect with the other person in a social way.
Sexual love is about good sex as defined in this way. It is a combination of the social and the physical.
Platonic love can be romantic or emotional in form. It does not involve sex.
Asexuality is not platonic love. Asexuality is a sexuality, so if someone is asexual it means they do not derive pleasure or enjoyment from sex and have no desire for sex in their lives.
Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols is notable for saying sex is boring and claiming he and his long term partner rarely had sex. For this people have claimed he and his partner are likely asexual. This of course was before asexuality was considered a thing. Now, it has a name.
Suffice it to say, asexuality and platonic love are distinct.
Platonic love is a type of love infused with care and commitment. It is an affectionate relationship that does not include sex. It is characterized by a deep level of trust.
Platonic love is intimate. Those involved in a relationship characterized by platonic love have deep knowledge of one another, they care for the other person deeply, and they are committed to maintaining the relationship.
The label of platonic love has been applied to friendships, but these types of friendships are slightly different, something a little bit more than a friendship. They are something more than familial love as well.
Platonic love is an intense intimacy fostered by care, respect, understanding, and trust. It is a strong relationship because of these qualities.
Love of self. This is a subject about which people have great difficulties. Many of us are taught to be humble.
We reduce ourselves. In the process, we lose ourselves.
Women in particular are socialized to be deferential, to put others needs above their own, to not trust themselves.
Self-love is about knowing what makes you you. It is about knowing what makes you feel good, feel alive, about how you express yourself.
Knowing the difference between love, affection, and manipulation can be difficult. Especially when we are raised in abusive (in one way or another) households or find ourselves dependent on abusive partners.
Actually, we live in an abusive society. The people around us constantly manipulate us through fear and shame. Again, women are particularly impacted.
On the whole we are not taught to be self-aware of our bodies or our emotions. “How are you?” is replied to with “I am doing well” regardless of whether it is true or not. This is a lie we perform everyday and it makes us less self-aware.
Self-love is about exploring what gives you pleasure and recognizing your desires.
Get out there and explore your body. Be aware of it. Be proud of your body and your self as a whole person.
The things we are shamed for and made to fear are often the things that will lead to our greatest pleasures and passions. Being able to explore in your own private space is a way of liberating yourself from those imposed anxieties and then being able to better communicate your needs to others.
Familial love might be a joke for some people, but in one way or another we all have a family that in the very least loves us out of obligation. Maybe that is too cynical of an expression.
Our families love us, but they often struggle with expressing that love. They want the best for us but give us advice that in their experience helped them avoid pain and disappointment.
Families are tricky. We are obligated to conform to their expectations because we are told unconditional love is found within families.
Did you see what I just did? I pulled a fast one. Unconditional love is found within families. However, unconditional love is not something we find with blood relatives or in adoptive families.
Some people make their own families and build familial love rooted in unconditional love because they have solid connections they want to remain committed to. This happens with partners, but also with groups of people who share common traumas for example. the LGBTQAI+ community is just one (very diverse) example. These chosen families allow space for personal expression and mistakes. They have conflict, but not the type of conflict that leads to a break in the unconditional bond of love.
Personally, I think we should all express unconditional love all the time so that we are building one big human family characterized by trust and respect and care. Is it too much to ask for? Maybe not.
What is cheating when we consider multiple types of love?
In these varieties of love, it is easy for a partnership based on an abstract love to fall into abusive behaviors.
Controlling behaviors, feeling of jealousy, and accusations of cheating are just three non-physical types of abusive behaviors that might manifest when you are unable to distinguish variations of love.
Cheating in Relationships
Cheating is an idea that there are rules to relationships. But cheating is based on the collapse of several variants if not all the varieties of love explained above.
Games have rules. You cheat at games. But how can you cheat at love? You cannot.
Love is infinite. You can love two children just as much as you can love parents and grandparents. Love is not restricted, or at least I am arguing that love ought to be unrestricted.
When we say someone cheated in a relationship we are referring to other qualities such as losing trust in someone or not having confidence in their commitment to the relationship. The responsibility lies with one party or the other.
The emphasis is not on the relationship. Instead the emphasis is on the emotions and feelings of one party to the relationship.
Because cheating is thought of in this way, it highlights relationship problems.
Cheating leads to blame. Typically the cheater is the one blamed, even if the person who did not “cheat” is at fault for being emotionally withholding or physically abusive.
Relationship problems could be an emotionally withholding partner, a partner who has expectations that are not clearly communicated, a partner who treats the other one poorly, an insecure partner, a disrespectful partner, a dishonest partner, or any number of things.
The problem ultimately lies in the behaviors of both partners in relation to one another. One partner cannot be trying more than the other(s).
Cheating is an idea we have rooted in our own anxieties and a lack of trust in others. When we distinguish types of love, cheating takes on a different meaning entirely.
Cheating is most associated with the act of sex. Having feeling toward someone else, or whatever other types of love you may be experiencing could be conceived as cheating.
However, when we look at each type of love we start to see the possibilities that exist in the field of love. They are many and diverse. That can lead to relationships that grow unbounded by socially constructed rules surrounding partnerships.
In a relationship, you should trust the other person. You should trust them more than almost anyone.
If you love someone and you get the idea in your head that they are cheating, ask yourself:
- Do I trust my partner?
- Are my suspicions rooted in my insecurities?
Interpersonal trust and personal insecurities are two challenges we face as thinking, emotional human beings. They define our personhood.
More than anything else, you must trust yourself. Trust your decisions. Always remember that when you are wrong, admit it and mend any damage that came from your error. Be humble.
In order to feel safe and secure in a relationship, all parties must be able to communicate their needs, desires, and expectations. They must be accepting without losing a sense of self.