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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Drawing Conclusions | Internet Relationships | Different Types of Love

Quick Access:
Drawing Conclusion with Little Information
Do Internet Relationships Really Work?
Are There Different Types of Love?

To me, online dating is a lesson in critical thinking and the tricks our minds play on us. I think the big lesson is to accept “randomness” – not to draw conclusions on too little data, as we're all prone to do. Can you comment about the need to “accept randomness” – unless you disagree?

Actually, I completely agree. One of my main pieces of advice is “in matters of the heart, use your head.” People are hardwired to shun ambiguity and to attempt to make sense of limited amounts of data. Generally speaking, these tendencies are adaptive and help us make quick decisions. However, sometimes we miss crucial details in trying to see the big picture. People definitely need to accept a degree of randomness and show flexibility and openness as they search for a partner, date and get to know others. Dating is as much about self-discovery and acceptance as it is about discovering and accepting the personal qualities of others .

Do Internet Relationships Really Work?

That depends on what you mean by “relationships.” Obviously people use online dating sites for different reasons – some want to find friends, some want to indulge in the fantasy of cyber-interactions, some want casual sex partners and others want to find a soul mate.

People can and do form genuine and lasting relationships of all kinds via the web (see my article here), but long-term, serious romantic relationships are an illusion if the connection is purely digital. Couples contemplating a deeper, intimate bond must at some point meet offline and continue to nurture the relationship in the real world. Otherwise, the relationship is the computer equivalent of a pen pal (even couples where one is being incarcerated can often have in-person meetings and even conjugal visits).

Romantic relationships that are started and kept going exclusively on the Internet work only as long as the two people understand that the relationship is really nothing more than a fantasy or superficial diversion.

Are there different types of love?

Yes there are, and this gets rather academic so bear with me. There are at least different varieties to describe and some are healthier than others:

Eros: This is an intense, fleeting love of an ideal beauty and attraction, fueled by one’s biochemistry, and that which is tactile and immediate. Eros love is based on physical appearance (e.g., notions of “my type”), sensuality and perfection. It is a passionate type of love, which involves a powerful attraction to the desired partner, physically, sexually and emotionally(1). An erotic lover gets caught up in a partner’s every detail, especially that person’s feel and touch and wants to know this person on every level. The individual has a craving for total union with the other, one that’s exclusive and enduring. The erotic lover is open and honest about his/her love and seeks a profound, harmony with the partner in every sense, including self-disclosure(2). This lover is confident about the relationship and willing to become committed. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud considered this love to be fundamentally libido/pleasure driven, rooted in the sexual and erotic, which then manifests itself from an instinctual desire into more socially accepted forms of creativity and higher expressions of love.

Philia: This is a non-sexual love between friends.

Agape or Altrustic: This is a spiritual, gentle, “brotherly” love – the love of saints and martyrs - that is more abstract and ideal that real. Ideals of traditional Christian love is a good example of this love type, with one making efforts to be chaste, patient, supportive, giving, forgiving and undemanding. An agape lover feels alive and unselfishly devoted to the relationship, and is concerned for the beloved’s welfare and needs first and foremost. Loving sentiments are seen by these individuals as a duty, including giving up the relationship if it is in a partner’s best interest. These lovers are rare, because they routinely put partners’ needs and desires above their own.

Storge: This is a genuine attachment and companionate love, full of peaceful, enchanting affection and trust. Of a caring, stable, enduring nature, it usually begins slowly with friendship and then gradually deepens, offering an enduring space of patience and tolerance. If this love does end, then it tends to do so gradually.

Mania: This is an intense, possessive love, where one is obsessed, preoccupied, dependent upon and excited with the experience of love and the beloved. This love type is rooted in pathology, deprivation, deficiency and frustration of needs. Fixated, illogical and delusional, often to the point of madness or imbecility, the manic lover suffers from preoccupation with the beloved, sleepless nights, and days of pain, jealousy and anxiety. It’s difficult to focus on daily tasks because of fascination with the love object. Characterized by a sense of desperation and insecurity, this lover is in need of regular reassurance. The slightest indication of affection from the object of one’s affections sends this lover into ecstasy. Neuroticism is more highly correlated with this love style than with others(3).

Ludus: This is a playful, casual, carefree and often careless love where love is a game, contest or conquest. Does this sound familiar? A ludus lover doesn’t get too deeply involved, is not committed to a single individual and prefers not to see a partner too often. Intimate bonds may involve sexual sharing, though this love often involves exploitation, manipulation and playing one lover against the other, with the ludus lover detached, distant and aloof.

Pragma: This is a practical love, often with a sensible, careful and business-like approach. These lovers are looking for a partner to fit their needs and use logic in identifying them, e.g., having similar education levels or interests. Desired partners are to reflect on this lover’s career or family.

Devotional: This is the love for God, country and institutions.


(1) Montgomery, M.J., & Sorell, G.T. (1997). Differences in love attitudes across family life stages. Family Relations, 46, 55-61.

(2) Hendrick, S.S., & Hendrick, C. (1987). Love and sexual attitudes, self-disclosure and sensation seeking. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4, 281-297.

(3) Lester, D., & Philbrick, J. (1987). Correlates of styles of love. Personality Individual Differences, 9, 689-690.

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