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To me, you are perfect…”—Love Actually

How many of us have felt that way about someone (or something)? Of all the quotes that I looked at for this post, that was my favorite because it could be applied to so many different relationships—our spouses, partners, or significant others; our kids, parents, or other family members; our friends; and our pets—who we know love us unconditionally. It also can—and should—be directed at ourselves.

Let me count the ways…

According to Psychology Today[i], there are seven kinds of love:

  1. Eros—a sexual or passionate love, the type that is closest to the modern construct of romantic love
  2. Philia—friendship, or shared good will
  3. Storge (‘store-gae’)—familial love, such as the love between parents and their children. This kind of love can be unilateral or asymmetrical, particularly in the case of young children.
  4. Agape—universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, or God
  5. Ludus—playful or uncommitted love. Its focus is on fun (and sometimes conquest) with no strings attached.
  6. Pragma—a kind of practical love, founded on reason or duty and longer-term interests
  7. Philautia—self love, which can be healthy (self esteem) or unhealthy (excessive pride or self confidence).

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” –Victor Hugo

We all need and benefit from love. According to University of Utah Healthcare MD, Kirtly Parker Jones,[i] people in loving, philia-based relationships have fewer trips to the doctor, shorter hospital visits, experience less pain, and have more positive emotions. Dr. Parker also found that loving friendships help us to feel more resilient when we encounter hard times.

Various studies have also shown a link between positive relationships and greater longevity. One study, published in The American Journal of Epidemiology,[ii] assessed the relationships of nearly 5,000 adults, ages 30-69, and found that those with strong, happy marriages lived longer than their unmarried counterparts. Most research shows that men benefit more than women from being married.[iii]

C’mon ladies—we need to even that out—

Your heart’s desire and your heart’s desire—staying healthy

We all think about the emotional high that comes from having that special someone nearby—but having butterflies in your stomach actually gives your heart a physical boost. Those emotions trigger the brain’s release of dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, making our hearts beat faster and stronger—similar to what happens when we work out.[i]

One theory suggests that the healthier hearts found in married people or people who are in love are likely due to an improved autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system works without onnervous system, which directs the body’s rapid involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations—ie, “fight-or-flight”—is also believed to play a part, as it reduces stress, and in turn, lowers blood pressure.

Good marriages have helped those who have had heart attacks. A 2015 study found that married people had a 14% lower risk of dying in the hospital after a heart attack, and their hospital stays were on average two days shorter than their unmarried counterparts.[ii] Research has also shown that healthy social relationships have a greater impact on avoiding an early death than taking blood pressure medication or being exposed to air pollution.[iii]

Oh, how a quiet love can drown out every fear.” Jessica Katoff

Heart attack victims aren’t the only ones who benefit from strong, happy relationships. Benjamin A. Steinberg, MD, at the University of Utah Healthcare, stated that in general, patients with strong social support—from friends, family, or a pet—have better recoveries due to lower levels of stress hormones.[i]

Love also appears to mitigate pain—in fact, all you may need to help you withstand pain is a mental image of your heart’s desire. One behavioral study[ii] found that presenting pictures of the subjects’ romantic partners lowered the level of those subjects’ experimentally-induced pain, whereas showing them random photos of attractive people did not reduce their pain reaction. 

The importance of strong, healthy relationships and feeling connected, particularly through physical touch—and specifically, hugs—is another way to help give your immune system a lift. A study of more than 400 adults found that the more people hugged, the more their chances of getting sick decreased. The same study also found that adults who said they had a strong social support system had fewer cold symptoms than those who said their support system was lacking.[iii]

“Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.” Oscar Wilde

The opposite is also true. Poor-quality relationships and social isolation have been found to produce negative health effects, including a higher risk of illness and death. One study even suggested that a lack of social relationships has the same effect on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[i] And yes, there is such a thing as a broken heart. According to Dr. Steinberg, sudden negative emotions can lead to sensations that mimic a heart attack, a condition also known as “broken heart syndrome.”

When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” –Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist” 

How do we know if we’re in a healthy relationship? People may have their own ways to determine whether or not a relationship is healthy for them, but Northwestern Medicine defines a positive relationship as one that is shared between any two people who love, support, encourage, and help each other practically, as well as emotionally. The other qualities that they associate with positive relationships include:

  • Listening to each other
  • Communicating openly and without judgement
  • Trusting and respecting each other
  • Consistently making time for each other
  • Remembering details about each other’s lives
  • Engaging in healthy activities together

I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” –Robert Munsch

Every kind of relationship requires work—but the benefits that they provide are wide ranging. Whether our hearts are healthier, our blood pressure is lower, or our sense of well-being and purpose is heightened, it is natural—and good—for people to feel connected and loved.

And with that thought, Happy Valentine’s Day! Please remember that as a person, you are valuable and beautifully created, worthy of all of the love that life has to offer—and you mean the world to more people than you think. In the words of those more eloquent than I:


  • “All you need is love.” –The Beatles
  • “Love yourself first and everything falls into line.” –Lucille Ball
  • “You had me at hello.” –Jerry Maguire
  • “We are most alive when we’re in love.” –John Updike
  • “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because the reality is finally better than your dreams.” –Dr. Seuss
  • “Love is a friendship that has caught fire.” –Ann Landers
  • “You can’t blame gravity for falling in love.” –Albert Einstein
  • “In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.” –Maya Angelou
  • When you love someone, you love the person as they are, and not as you’d like them to be.” –Leo Tolstoy
  • “Some love stories aren’t epic novels. Some are short stories, but that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.” –Sex and the City
  • “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” –Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • “The smile is the beginning of love.” Mother Teresa
  • “You don’t marry someone you can live with—you marry someone you can’t live without.” –Unknown
  • “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” –When Harry Met Sally
  • “True love stories never have endings.” –Richard Bach

And finally—

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” –Charles M. Schulz

Until next time,

[i] Northwestern Medicine, 5 Benefits of Healthy Relationships, Why Healthy Relationships Are So Important, https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/5-benefits-of-healthy-relationships


[i] Seven Reasons Why Loving Relationships Are Good For You; University of Utah, Office of Public Affairs; February 14, 2017

[ii] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013309

[iii] Love, Relationships, and Health: the Surprising Benefits of Being in Love; Living Healthier Together, Anne Arundel Medical Center, February 11, 2019


[i] Seven Reasons Why Loving Relationships Are Good For You; University of Utah, Office of Public Affairs; February 14, 2017

[ii] Love, Relationships, and Health: the Surprising Benefits of Being in Love; Living Healthier Together, Anne Arundel Medical Center, February 11, 2019

[iii] Northwestern Medicine, 5 Benefits of Healthy Relationships, Why Healthy Relationships Are So Important, https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/5-benefits-of-healthy-relationships


[i] Seven Reasons Why Loving Relationships Are Good For You; University of Utah, Office of Public Affairs; February 14, 2017

[ii] Love, Relationships, and Health: the Surprising Benefits of Being in Love; Living Healthier Together, Anne Arundel Medical Center, February 11, 2019

[iii] Ibid


[i] Psychology Today, Relationships, These Are the 7 Types of Love, Posted June 25, 2016, Updated June 19, 2019