Love isn’t loveWhy love is more complex and multifaceted than you might think.

Paradym is on a mission to help us build more meaningful relationships with ourselves and others. But what does that mean? With scientific studies showing there are over 200 different types of it, love is a minefield. We speak with Olivia Petter, Host of The Independent’s Millenial Love podcast and Sex & psychotherapist Kate Moyle to explore what it means to love



One of the main reasons for Paradym coming into existence was to help create more meaningful relationships with ourselves and with others. It had become increasingly apparent that long-standard singular definitions of loving relationships have become detrimental to our well-being and flourishing. Our founder was keen to understand what it means to love and how to build better relationships – from the professional to the romantic. 

While the Ancient Greeks had six distinct types of love, for most today, the word ‘love’ conjures up a very specific and singular emotional expression. Informed in large part by the prevalence of the romantic movement, for the past few centuries cultural narratives – film, art, music and literature – around love have been profoundly limited. However, in 2020 the landscape of love and relationships is changing. We are living in an age of increasing love and relationship freedom. From polyamory to self-partnership today, what it means to be in a relationship is transient and fluid. This increased freedom means it is more important than ever before to understand the terms of love, what it means for us personally and how to optimise our relationships so we can have happier, healthier and more fulfilling love lives. 

A 1991 study identified 216 different kinds of love 

From a psychological perspective, attempts to understand love began in the mid-20th century and there has been a great deal of debate about the very many different types of love, what they mean and the behaviours associated with each.

Indeed, linguists recognise that it is rare that any word has only one meaning; all human language is polysemous (has multiple meanings). As such, it is often lamented by love scholars that “love” is polysemous in the extreme. That is to say “love” as a single word must serve many different purposes and carry many different meanings. How many? A lot!. In a 1991 study where college students were asked to list as many types of love that came to mind as possible, 216 kinds of love were named and of those, 93 were mentioned by more than one person! 

216 love types suggests that love is far more fluid than we think. So, rather than thinking about love in terms of type or labels, we are more interested in thinking about the humanity of love and loving. That is, thinking about the meaning of love and understanding the very human emotions which it comprises. Love requires all kind of complex emotions – trust, courage, humility and vulnerability – are just some of the values that help to make successful loving relationships. Understanding what these are and how they manifest can have far greater benefit than searching for love labels in relationship-building.

A more fluid interpretation of love is good for our wellbeing

As such, at Paradym we think love is more complicated than the traditional views, and the evidence shows this is good for our health. Research illustrates that a more expansive understanding of love and relationships actually has a positive impact on our health and wellbeing. As cultural attitudes to sex, love and dating are shifting, we believe there is room for all kinds of love in our lives and at various stages in our lives. Sex and relationship psychotherapist Kate Moyle agrees. “Until recently our model of relationships has been much more limited, couple-focused, heteronormative and marriage focused.” Moyle explains “Now we are moving towards being a culture with much more range and diversity of relationship styles and sexuality.” 

Culture is enabling us to be more fluid in our definition of love

There are of course several reasons for this cultural shift, but one integral change, from a romantic perspective, is the way we are meeting partners and entering into relationships: online dating. “We live in a culture where love has been digitised. We now look for love on dating apps and on Instagram rather than in real life, which means fewer of us are approaching people in real life and forming authentic connections.” explains Olivia Petter, host of The Independent’s Millennial Love podcast. 

In fact, it is not just in passionate love relationships that our mode of communication is digital. Today, relationships are created and facilitated in an online world as much as they are offline. Just think about how you relate to your colleagues at work, your friends, your family. Chances are much of your communication with them is text-based or interacts with technology in some way. While technology has the incredible ability to enable to us connect with people around the world, it’s boundlessness has given us an unprecedented freedom around relationships. While in previous era’s how we love, who we love and where we love were decisions made by our culture – parents, geography and social class – in 2020 the onus of these decisions lies solely on the individual.

This is why at Paradym we think that the most fundamental first step in finding love is knowing yourself. “The reality is the relationships we have with ourselves are models for how we relate to others, and so love everything begins with self-love.” explains Moyle. Since the relationship we have with ourselves impacts how we relate to others, knowing yourself in love allows you to pick the right person for you whether you’re looking for something passionate or companionate, long-term or short-term. It allows you to understand your needs and desires, and eventually to be able to communicate those needs and desires to your partner. Self-love enables you to connect on deeper levels and find truly meaningful relationships whether they are passionate or compassionate. As Petter notes “Focus on getting yourself to a good place before you start looking for love.” And we believe the Paradym app is a great place to start!


Things to think about

  • What kinds of love do you feel for the different people in your life? Write them down. 
  • How do you show the different kinds of love? 
  • How do your loved ones show you love?