5 Theories of Love Explained

Love is a fundamental human emotion. It’s not always simple to comprehend how and why this occurs. Love was long thought to be a spiritual, primal and ethereal phenomenon that science would never be able to fully explain.

As a result, a number of individuals have endeavored to gain a deeper understanding of this optimistic mindset. The following are the five most prominent hypotheses proposed to explain romantic love and other forms of emotional attachment.

Compassionate vs. Passionate Love

In 1988, psychologist Elaine Hatfield proposed that there are two fundamental forms of love:

Passionate Love

Most individuals can identify with the theory of passionate love. It is the most intense and the most exciting and if the love is reciprocated, individuals would feel ecstatic.

Compassionate Love

This type of love between two individuals is characterized by respect, attachment, affection and trust. It is less intense than passionate love but more comfortable. There is a peace of mind knowing that a partner or spouse can be trusted. The honeymoon phase has drifted off, but the familiar feelings of tolerance and constancy have stayed.

Filter Theory

Using Kerckhoff and Davis’ filter theory, it is argued that we choose romantic partners by using a series of filters to narrow down the best candidates. The first filter is based on social demographics, the second on similarity of attitudes and the third on needs that are complementary.

Social Demographics

The first stage refers to variables such as age, gender and location that determine the likelihood of meeting someone in the first place; people are more likely to initiate a relationship with people who share similarities with one another.

Similarity of Attitudes

Kerckhoff and Davis contend that having a similar attitude towards life is essential to the development of a healthy, long-term relationship. These attitudes can affect how a person sees the world, how to see other people and how to see each other.

Complementary Needs

Relationships are more likely to be successful when the partners have complementary needs and goals. Opposites do not necessarily attract, but rather characteristics that harmonize and enhance one another.

The Color Wheel Model of Love

Love can be likened to a color wheel in John Lee’s groundbreaking 1973 book, The Colors of Love. Similarly to the three primary colors, Lee suggested that there are three primary types of love.


The Greek word for “passionate” or “erotic” is the root of the term “Eros.” This type of love, according to Lee, entails both physical and emotional passion. It symbolizes love for a perfect individual.


The name Ludus is derived from the Greek word for “game.” Affection in this form is viewed as lighthearted and amusing, but it is not considered to be serious. Such lovers are reluctant to commit and wary of overly intimate relationships.


Natural attachment is the Greek word for storge. Parent-child, sibling and extended family love all fall under this umbrella. When two individuals have the same interests and values, people are more likely to develop feelings for one another over time. 

Relationships based on storge and eros are viewed as ideal pairings. Compatibility is contingent upon the presence of romantic passion, shared interests and the healthy development of feelings for one another.

Social Exchange Theory

Paul Nakonezy and Wayne Denton suggest that the social exchange theory is when people take the relationship’s benefits and subtract its costs in order to figure out how much it’s worth. Benefits and costs are all thought of when deciding whether or not to pursue a relationship with a person. 


What a person derives from a romantic partnership, be it in the form of physical or emotional affection. 


What one invests in a relationship, whether that be in terms of time or money. 

If one partner is considered to be “the one,” then the benefits of having this partner far outweigh any costs. Being in a relationship with the right person may require effort and time, but it won’t feel like that in the long run.

Attachment Theory of Love

According to University of Denver researchers Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver in 1987, love is a biosocial process like how children form attachments to their parents.

The attachment theory of love, developed by Hazan and Shaver, describes how early life influences attachment style. The same fundamental style persists into adulthood, where it influences one’s romantic relationships.


A person who struggles with avoidant attachment has a tendency to discourage others from developing emotional closeness with one another. 


It is common for people with an anxious attachment style to be fearful that romantic partners do not love the other person. The desire for intimacy is so intense that it terrifies the other individual.


The secure attachment style is characterized by a feeling of safety in relationships. A person who is secure has few concerns about abandonment and few concerns about others getting too close.

Understanding which attachment theory a partner adheres to while in a relationship can aid in comprehending an individual’s perspective. Individuals with avoidant or anxious styles tend to be those with traumatic childhoods. 

Developing a healthy relationship requires being patient, understanding and continually learning how to deal with the attachment style a partner possesses.

Relationship-Ready Rehash

How love forms and evolves is the subject of numerous hypotheses. A love-based relationship can begin, grow and change according to a variety of different theories, and each contributes to this understanding in its own way. 

Understanding these theories can help couples better comprehend different feelings of love and how the filter theory unites couples. 

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