Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.
The word "love" can have a variety of related but distinct meanings in different contexts.
Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and human behavior researcher, divides the experience of love into three partly overlapping stages: lust, attraction, and attachment.
Love encompasses a variety of different emotional and mental states, typically strongly and positively experienced, ranging from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection and to the simplest pleasure.
An example of this range of meanings is that the love of a mother differs from the love of a spouse differs from the love of food.
vulnerability and care theory of love), including oneself (cf. In addition to cross-cultural differences in understanding love, ideas about love have also changed greatly over time.
Some historians date modern conceptions of romantic love to courtly Europe during or after the Middle Ages, although the prior existence of romantic attachments is attested by ancient love poetry.
Most commonly, love refers to a feeling of strong attraction and emotional attachment.
Ancient Greek philosophers identified four forms of love: essentially, familial love (in Greek, storge), friendly love (philia), romantic love (eros), and divine love (agape).
Love has additional religious or spiritual meaning.
This diversity of uses and meanings combined with the complexity of the feelings involved makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, compared to other emotional states.
Research has indicated that this stage generally lasts from one and a half to three years.
Since the lust and attraction stages are both considered temporary, a third stage is needed to account for long-term relationships.
Modern authors have distinguished further varieties of love: unrequited love, infatuated love, self-love, and courtly love.