Is love an emotion? Let’s put aside loving your job or a piece of clothing, in which the use of the word “love” is as a superlative. That still leaves things like romantic love and parental love. Are either of these emotions? I think not and here’s why: the time frame for emotions and love are radically different. Emotions come and go, sometimes lasting as little as a few seconds, and rarely more than an hour. If we recollect that we were mad for an hour or afraid for an hour close examination reveals that actually we felt that emotion a number of times within the hour. It wasn’t one continuous emotional episode. For more information, you can read more about the characteristics of emotions as well as the differences between mood vs emotion.
Types of Love
Both parental love and romantic love involve long-term commitments and intense attachments to a specific person. Neither commitment nor attachment is itself an emotion. Emotions can be very brief, but love endures. However, while romantic love can endure throughout a lifetime, it often does not. Parental love, more typically, is a lifelong commitment. Although, there are of course exceptions in which parents disown their children (or vice versa). Loving your child doesn’t mean that you might not be afraid of the risks that they take, angry when they lie, sad when they are disappointed, or happy when they succeed.
While romantic love does not usually endure as long as parental love, sometimes it does. Even when it doesn’t, it’s not a momentary state but, again, a committed attachment during which many different emotions are felt. In parental love and romantic love, you care, you’re involved, and you’re more susceptible to experiencing a variety of emotions. And those emotions don’t endure, they come and go, lasting only seconds or at most minutes, not a lifetime as is found in parental love and hoped for in romantic love.
If this blog has raised questions for you in relation to the concept of love as an emotion, check out Dr. Ekman’s book, Emotions Revealed to learn more.