types of love

Types of Love: A Simplified and Practical Approach

When it comes to the different types of love, the inquiry is simple and a bit complex all at the same time. Love itself is actually one of the most basic, and truly simple, experiences of life. Yet we have as a society turned it into something seemingly immensely intricate. Our tendency to complicate simple things often arises when those things cause us pain. And, we all know love can’t be separated from pain. So, no matter how basic something is, if we can deem it complicated and difficult, then that complexity can justify our hurts, and even our mistakes. 

Many who want to understand love, who want to make sense of why love can feel so good in one moment and so painful in another, turn to the Greeks and the Greek definitions of love. In Greek mythology you’ll often find 7 or more distinctions when it comes to types of love. Yet, for most, these attempts to differentiate love turns into a conceptual mismash that doesn’t make our hearts any happier or our relationships any more satisfying. 

On the other hand, our intellectual understanding can at times also offer a certain sense of comfort when we’re not feeling the love we desire. Yet, that comfort and intellectualization too often remove us from the situations where we have the greatest possibility and potential to know deeper, truer love. 

Our goal here is to eliminate the misunderstandings about the types of love and demystify the path of love in an attempt to be as practical and applicable as possible in all relationships. 


Types of love – the inherent misunderstanding 

The question at hand, “What types of love are there?” holds in itself an inherently false assumption. It assumes that there are in fact different kinds of love, when in reality only one type of love exists. Love is love is love. Period. End of story. With that, you’ll see below that we’ll identify 3 distinct experiences of love that when combined bring us to a Love that has the capacity to take our breath away and ignite a fire in our heart like no other. 

But first, let’s look deeper at the misunderstandings so we can simplify love, and the path to it, as much as possible. We have confused ourselves by defining different “types” of love because we have multiple paths to love. We think that if we love different types of people then the quality or essence of the love must be different. It’s not. 

If there are things we do with certain people we love that we would never do with another kind of person we love, then those must be different types of love, right? Wrong. That’s where love can feel confusing and complex but, at its essence, it’s all just Love. 

Another reason we sometimes want to distinguish different types of love is to make ourselves feel ok about the fact that we love someone. If all love is the same and we feel love for someone in a committed romantic relationship is our love wrong? If our sexual desire is for someone of the opposite gender, but we truly love someone of the same sex, is our love inappropriate? Absolutely not. 

Notice again that we want to define types of love so we can make sense of why we love different types of people, and so that we can reassure ourselves that we’re not doing something wrong by loving.

But let’s make one thing clear from the start. Loving someone is never wrong. Ever. Certain behaviors may be absolutely inappropriate in certain types of relationships or in specific situations, but love itself is never wrong. To feel love is the most blessed of human experiences. 

Now to get very practical and simple, we will describe 3 basic experiences or types of love and how they relate to each other. Remember these are all really just different ways to categorize, conceptualize, and understand the path to unconditional love.


What are the types of love?

While we will look at the 3 primary expressions of love, often referred to as types of love, let’s remain absolutely clear. There is only one true type of love. Unconditional love.

Unconditional love is the only type of love that exists. 

Yet even unconditional love is a misnomer. Love is, by definition, unconditional. If it’s true, it’s unconditional. 

With that, how many of us crave unconditional love, yet rarely feel it? How many of us want to be unconditional in our loving, but rarely are? This is another reason why we complicate love, but let’s get back to the path of love. 

The three primary types of love, if we want to call them that, are Self Love, Relational Love, and Divine Love. If you look closely, you’ll see these are really just different ways to access Love. Said even better, they are different types of loving relationships. These experiences of Love build upon each other

Our deepest capacity to experience Relational Love depends on our capacity for unconditional Self Love. Then our capacity for Relational Love, whether it be romantic, familial, or otherwise, opens our access to Divine Love where nothing is rejected and everything is welcomed. When we step into Divine Love we discover what true union actually means. 

Let’s look deeper into each… 

Self-Love

Although simple in concept, this in practicality is the most challenging of the various experiences of love for us to understand, embody, and practice. Yet, as we said, all other experiences of love, as well as the quality of any of our relationships, depend directly on our ability to love ourselves. Most importantly here, when it comes to knowing how to love yourself, you want to find a very practical approach that strengthens and deepens your relationship with you. In the same way you would create and deepen a relationship with another, loving yourself rests on the practices of self-awareness, self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self honor. 


Relational Love

In the presence of another, no matter who it is, if we want to know and experience genuine love then we must move in the direction of unconditional acceptance of that person (as well as of ourselves in the presence of that person). It truly doesn’t matter if we’re talking about your beloved, your want-to-be-beloved, your parents, your children, your siblings, or anyone. Love doesn’t try to change someone. It says, “I honor and accept you as you are.” It says, “I have compassion for your struggles and I won’t try to fix them nor will I attempt to get you to be different than you are.” Keep in mind, accepting and loving someone relationally doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship with them.

Loving and being loved relationally Invites us out of our struggles with one another, out of our attempts to justify and blame. This kind of relational love says, “I see you. I accept you. I honor you. I care for you.” And, it can’t be said enough times, if you don’t have this love with you, it’s nearly impossible to maintain it with another.

Going further, we can love, truly love, anyone – our colleagues, neighbors, and even strangers. When our heart is truly open to the fullness of love, relational love loves our enemies too. That is the path to Divine love and peace on earth. So… 

Relational Love includes…

  • Friendships
  • Romance
  • Family
  • Community
  • Colleagues 
  • Strangers
  • And, even enemies.

Before moving on to divine love, let’s explore one more way to know that all of these types of relational love are simply one Love. If we have a relationship with someone, no matter the kind of relationship, and we genuinely love them, if that person passes on we experience the same grief regardless of who it is. Yes, the grief may be deeper or last longer the closer or more intimate you were to that person. But, grief is grief and love is love. Love doesn’t change form or type from person to person. 


Divine Love

Often referred to as Agape Love, this divine expression of love is as close to true unconditional love that we can get to while in human form. This deepest and most complete expression of love offers an energetic embrace to anyone and everything. Infants offer us our greatest teaching here. They love without question. They love unconditionally. They know only love. They know only love until they have an experience that hurts. 

Then things begin to change. Their hearts, our hearts, often immediately respond to a hurt we feel by closing off. We close down in an attempt to protect ourselves from the perceived loss of love. Yet, we must realize that love doesn’t begin or end. We may close ourselves off from it, but we can’t make it go away. It. Does. Not. Disappear. Ever. 


The path of love 

These experiences or types of love described above lead one to another. They build upon each other. As they each develop, one form of love strengthens the other. 

The experience of Love unfolds. We notice it. We realize it. It’s not something we do. It’s not something we choose.  It’s something we become available for and open too. 

How do we become available? How do we open to this profound love? We relate. 

Relationships provide the proving ground, the sandbox, and the playground for relational love. If we’re willing to go all in, relationships give us the opportunity to discover, embrace, and dissolve the barriers we’ve built against love.

Souls who together walk the path of Soul Love come to know the breathtaking nature of True Love

Yet, few hearts know these sacred depths of love.

The love you seek begins within.  

True love is union. True love is embrace. True love is unconditioned. 

And, we’ll leave you with this invitation to ecstasy… 


The ecstasy

of hearts

united in

the breathtaking dance

of Love.


*At Ecstatic Intimacy, an all-inclusive website for singles and couples, we welcome all sexual orientation(s), gender(s) and relationship expressions. In this article we utilize the pronouns he/she/him/her.

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1 Comments

  1. Nancy on May 19, 2024 at 11:04 pm

    This was an amazing a d beautiful article. so pure and simplistic. it made me realize how wonderful it truly is to love deeply from your soul. I found peace and joy in this article.

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