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Confusion around "Love": definitions

Hello everyone,

here is something that I noticed: many people have different definitions around "Love" in romantic relationship/dating. This creates misunderstanding and conflicts.

Here is my definition for Love: Love is wanting the good of someone else. That means Love means caring for me. That is why you can love a mother, a lover, a dog, a friend, a patient, a colleague, etc. You want their good.

Here is Rick's (Rick and Morty, the writer's view of Rick's view actually) definition: Love is the expression of familiarity over time. This is more of a materialistic/cynical view of love. However, it still holds. As we can only love what we know and the more we know someone the more we appreciate this person.

Here is what I think what people mean and what could be meant, for some people Love actually represents:

  • Lust/Desire: self-explanatory
  • Being in Love: this is also called "Limerence", the strong feelings we feel at the beginning of a romantic relationship (thinking about the loved one with strong feelings, etc.). It's also about forming the attachment (see wikipedia in the link above).
  • Commitment: you can commit to someone/something without loving it. You can commit to a relationship without being in love. You can commit to a job without liking it. Example: when the marriage becomes a partnership when children are involved but the love between the partners is not there anymore. The parents commit to their relationship but without love  being involved.
  • Attachment: you can be attached to someone without loving them. This is quite similar to Rick's definition. You get attached through time spent together so you get rewarded neurobiologically when you are with the person and "punished" when you are away. Their presence gives you pleasure. We could say "bonding" as well.

Of course the idea above were already explored by the greek philosophers: greek definitions of love (Wikipedia):

  • Agápe (ἀγάπη, agápē) means "love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for person and of person for God". Agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one's children and the feelings for a spouse, and it was also used to refer to a love feast. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for His children. This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as "to will the good of another".
  • Éros (ἔρως, érōs) means "love, mostly of the sexual passion". The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "intimate love". Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean "without physical attraction". In the Symposium, an ancient work on the subject, Plato has Socrates argue that eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, the ideal form of youthful beauty that leads us humans to feel erotic desire – thus suggesting that even that sensually based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence. Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth through the means of eros.
  • Philia (φιλία, philía) means "affectionate regard, friendship", usually "between equals". It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. In his best-known work on ethics, Nicomachean Ethics, philia is expressed variously as loyalty to friends (specifically, "brotherly love"), family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Furthermore, in the same text philos is also the root of philautia denoting self-love and arising from it, a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.
  • Storge (στοργή, storgē) means "love, affection" and "especially of parents and children". It is the common or natural empathy, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in "loving" the tyrant. This is also used when referencing the love for one's country or a favorite sports team.
    Philautia (φιλαυτία, philautía) means "self-love". To love oneself or "regard for one's own happiness or advantage"[12][full citation needed] has been conceptualized both as a basic human necessity and as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness, synonymous with amour-propre or egotism. The Greeks further divided this love into positive and negative: one, the unhealthy version, is the self-obsessed love, and the other is the concept of self-compassion.
  • Xenia (ξενία, xenía) is an ancient Greek concept of hospitality. It is sometimes translated as "guest-friendship" or "ritualized friendship". It is an institutionalized relationship rooted in generosity, gift exchange, and reciprocity. Historically, hospitality towards foreigners and guests (Hellenes not of your polis) was understood as a moral obligation. Hospitality towards foreign Hellenes honored Zeus Xenios (and Athene Xenia) patrons of foreigners.

This might stir some debate, there is overlap and contradictions. My goal is not to have clean, "true" definitions". My main point is that "love" is an umbrella term and that creates confusion, misunderstandings and conflict. As you can see there are several terms that are used to talk about love.


  • Her: I thought you loved me (were committed to me)
  • Him: Yes I love you (I like to have sex and spend time with you)

Comments welcome!

Hi John,

Love  means different things to different people,and you are trying to come up with a definition that covers most meanings, I think it might not be the most appropriate approach, Love is an emotion and is very nebulous and abstract and how people experience emotion is varied, what I think  you are doing is trying to view love in a logical frame and define it, this will be  woefully inadequate. It's an experience to be lived, not something that can be analyzed, dissected, and understood.

This creates misunderstanding and conflicts.

How so?

English is a very inefficient language, the problem you suggest might be common  to the English language and its ilk , maybe most modern languages too share this problem.Since English does not have a term for that, it solves it by calling all of the umbrella definitions "love".

My main point is that "love" is an umbrella term and that creates confusion, misunderstandings and conflict. As you can see there are several terms that are used to talk about love.

I agree that "love" is an umbrella term, but I don't  wholly agree with the part that it creates confusion, misunderstandings and conflicts.




Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Hello Maverick,

thanks for your answer! To answer your question, below with a slight addition:

This can creates misunderstanding and conflict (if not clarified).


  • Her: I thought you loved me (were committed to me)
  • Him: Yes I love you (I like to have sex and spend time with you)

I'm not sure it's a language issue: it's also the same in French: "amour" is not "attachement" is not "engagement.

Hi John,

The More I dwell on this, more it feels to me that, misunderstanding and conflict, arise because of the limitations of most languages, I'm not a language expert, but I think most languages do a rudimentary job in their ability to communicate what a person feels or thinks, at best they are ambiguous, implying something else when some other thing was meant, now throw in tonality, intonation to the mix, and the whole message becomes confusing and messy.

Thank you


Yeah it seems we have different opinions on this topic.

Thank you for sharing yours.

Maverick has reacted to this post.