There is perhaps no word in any language that is used as much as the word, love. It is viewed by most cultures as the thing that gives life meaning, as in “Love is the answer.” Good parents, we say, love their children. Good husbands love their wives. Good wives love their husbands. Good people love their country.
And yet defining what love is often escapes people. If you ask 10 people what love is, you will most likely get 10 different definitions. In truth, there are many kinds of love, but only one is totally healthy.
Let’s begin by defining real love. Healthy love requires two people who are able to engage in healthy love. They must be able to be committed; they must be able to be spontaneous and passionate; they must be able to trust; they must be able to give and take; and they must be able to be honest and achieve authenticity and intimacy. They are two independent, healthy people who are together because they choose to be, and they are able to have a deep empathetic love for one another. Below are some varieties of fake love.
Dependent Love: Sometimes this kind of love is called codependency. The two people involved do not love each and cherish each other in a voluntary manner, they are emotionally dependent on each other due to fixations in their early childhood. They were not able to depend on their parents, or they were too dependent on them and didn’t grow up learning how to be independent. Hence they need another person on whom to depend. They claim they are in love, but it is really fake love.
Romantic Love: The model for this kind of love is the play, Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare. The play is about lovers who are wildly passionate about each other but really don’t know very much about each other. In the heat of sexual love people feel passionate about each other and everything seems right. But this is not real love. Most of the time, when the passion wears down and reality sets in, the relationship cools and often falls apart. When confronted with the other person’s bad habits, attitudes, and various personality factors, as well as with the dark side, things look very different.
Dominant/Submissive Love: One person controls the relationship and the other person submits to the first person’s control. The person who controls the relationship may be a bully, a religious or political nut who thinks his or her way is the only way, or an insecure person who always needs to be right. When this relationship works, the dominant person derives satisfaction out of dominating, and the submissive person finds satisfaction in following the idealized mate. But since there is no real intimacy, give and take or spontaneity in this relationship, and since the roles are so rigid, such a relationship can tend to break down quite easily.
Committed Love: Often you hear people boast of how long they have been married. Simply sustaining a marriage for forty years is seen as a spectacular feat. However, upon closer inspection of the marriage, one sees that although the couple is committed to the marriage, they are committed for the wrong reasons. There is no real intimacy or honest sharing, there is no passion, and hence there is no real love. They are married because they want to maintain an image, sometimes to the detriment of their children and each other.
Allied Love: People sometimes think they are in love because they are both devoted to the same thing or hate the same person or thing. Two people who are both devoted to Christianity will form a Christian alliance. Two people who are both active in liberal politics will form a liberal alliance. Two people who both hate black people or white people or Asian people will form an alliance of haters. This is not real love. Their commitment to one another is based on an alliance, not on real affection and loyalty and acceptance of one another. Hence, if the alliance breaks down, they break apart.
Infatuated Love: This is always one-sided love and usually happens at a distance. People fall in love with a celebrity. They imagine that the celebrity feels the same way. They go to all the celebrity’s concerts and develop a crush on him. They don’t really know the celebrity and have developed no real intimacy or trust. They have built an idealized image of the celebrity in their mind, and have an obsessive notion that there could be no other love that could compare with the one they have for the celebrity. This is entirely fake love.
Companionate Love: Sometimes people stay in a relationship because they don’t want to be alone. They want to have a companion. They want to be seen with a companion. They want to have somebody to accompany them through life. It doesn’t matter so much what that person is like, just so he or she is loyal and is there. The couple has no real intimacy or passion; they just have another body to belong to. However, if it is a good body that doesn’t make a fuss about things, it can nevertheless be a partially beneficial relationship