The Psychology of Love

Just in time for Valentine's Day, a Mount Saint Mary College professor explains the psychology of love..

NEWBURGH, N.Y. – February 2015 – As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is in the air – but not all love is created equal, says Mount Saint Mary College psychology professor Rae Fallon.

As part of her class on the psychology of stress, Fallon teaches students about six different kinds of love.

Each type has its own traits, from supportive to destructive, and relationships are not limited to just one kind of love: they can have characteristics of two or more types, said Fallon.

The first is Eros, named after the Greek god of sexual, passionate love (Roman counterpart: Cupid). Fallon describes Eros as “all enveloping,” which could include feelings of love at first sight.

The downside?

“It’s not really long-lasting for the most part. But it is kind of fun,” said Fallon.

Storgic love centers around friendship. Storgic lovers are friends first, and love develops gradually out of friendship. Sometimes, storgic lovers remain friends long after the relationship has ended.

Manic love is “almost always destructive,” explained Fallon. In manic love, an individual wants to possess his or her partner, “and not give that person their own personhood.” To achieve this goal, manic lovers sometimes isolate their partners from friends and family. Manic lovers can suffer from low self-esteem and thus put a great amount of importance on their relationship.

Fallon added that manic love can – and often does – lead to mental and physical abuse.

Ludic (sharing the Latin root of the word ludicrous) lovers are playful, flirtatious, and generally more interested in quantity than quality of relationships. Fallon refers to Ludic lovers as “game players.”

A player “tells you just want you want to hear,” said Fallon. “If you’re very beautiful, they tell you how smart you are. If you’re very smart, they tell you how beautiful you are.”

But there’s one set of mates ludic lovers prefer not to start games with, says Fallon: other players.

Pragmatic lovers are, as the name implies, highly practical when selecting a mate. In this kind of love, an individual thinks rationally and realistically about expectations of a partner, and makes a decision based on similar life goals. This kind of lover wants to work with his or her partner to achieve a common good.

“That’s where, very often, long-lasting love happens,” Fallon explained.

The final kind of love is Agape, the selfless love.

“It’s the Christian love: ‘I love you at least as much as I love myself,’” said Fallon. “It’s very rare in our world, but beautiful when it happens.”

With so many complicated aspects of forming and maintaining a relationship, why love at all?

Fallon says that love is “part of who we are. It’s a basic drive, it’s a basic need for us. Love – to feel that we are part of something besides ourselves; that’s something we need to feel.”

For more information, visit


CAPTION: Rae Fallon, a longtime psychology professor at Mount Saint Mary College.