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What’s the strongest form of love?

Love comes in many forms. There is the fleeting love of a new crush or romance. There is the steady love of a long-term partnership. And then there is the profound love felt between parent and child. Of all the types of love, the bond between parent and child may be the strongest and most resilient form.

Parental Love

The love a parent feels for their child is unlike any other. From the moment a child is born, most parents feel an innate, fierce sense of love and protection. This only grows as the child gets older. A parent’s love is unconditional. It persists in good times and bad, when the child succeeds and struggles. This bond continues even when the child becomes an independent adult and makes choices the parent may not agree with.

Much of this has to do with biology. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy prime a woman’s brain for motherhood. Oxytocin, the “love hormone,” surges during childbirth and breastfeeding, forging a strong connection between mother and baby right from the start. This hormonal imprinting consolidates into a lifelong parent-child bond.

Fathers experience hormonal changes too. Testosterone drops and estrogen and prolactin rise when a man becomes a dad. This makes him more nurturing, attentive, and sensitive to his baby’s needs. Fatherhood also triggers structural brain changes that facilitate caregiving behaviors.

Unconditional Commitment

While romantic love can fade over time, a parent’s love remains constant. Parents make an unconditional commitment to care for their child no matter what. This lifelong dedication is what makes the parent-child relationship so unique and enduring.

Most parents will sacrifice anything for the wellbeing and happiness of their child. The depth of this commitment is evident when parents care for chronically ill or disabled children. The daily sacrifices they make – emotionally, physically, financially – with little regard for their own needs, demonstrates a love like no other.

Instinct to Protect

Parents also feel a primal instinct to protect and defend their offspring. From an evolutionary standpoint, the survival of one’s genes depends upon the survival of one’s children. Parents will put themselves in harm’s way to keep their child from danger. The maternal instinct to safeguard one’s child is especially strong.

The protective parental impulse persists well into a child’s adulthood. Most parents worry about their kids long after they’ve grown up. Concerns over health, safety, happiness, and success remain, even when the child has their own family. This lifelong desire to shield one’s child from harm reflects the depth and endurance of parental love.

Romantic Love

Romantic love unleashes an intoxicating rush of emotion unlike anything else. The obsessive preoccupation and craving for emotional union characteristic of new love can be overwhelming. But this type of passionate, romantic attachment is inherently unstable. What goes up must come down. Over time, that initial high fades.

Based on Idealization

The obsessive phase of romantic love fixates on an idealized version of one’s partner. People see their newfound love interest as practically perfect. But when the haze of infatuation clears, imperfections inevitably appear. Some couples mature into deeper, more stable love informed by genuine intimacy. For others, the disillusionment is too much. Without the idealization, interest wanes along with the intense passion.

Requires Reciprocity

Romantic love also requires reciprocity to thrive. Feelings must be mutual for the relationship to progress. Unrequited love tends to lead to heartbreak and disorder. It is dependent on having one’s affection returned in equal measure. But when two people are truly reciprocally in love, the passion and excitement that results can seem unparalleled.

Fades over Time

Couples move out of the early romantic phase after 12-24 months. Neurochemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, responsible for giddy feelings of infatuation, return to normal levels. Attachment hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin that promote bonding take over. This helps transition the relationship into calmer, more stable long-term love. But some relationships don’t make it past the initial hormone-fueled rush of romance. Once that fades, so does the interest.

Companionate Love

While less flashy than romantic love, companionate love’s quiet, steady nature gives it staying power. This type of affection arises between close friends or partners over months and years. It is characterized more by intimacy, commitment, and affection than all-consuming passion.

Based on Friendship

Companionate love forms on a foundation of friendship. Rather than intense infatuation, it involves a warm fondness and deep knowledge of the other person. Emotional closeness comes through sharing interests, laughs, and life experiences over time. Companionate partners are not just lovers but best friends.

Secure Attachment

This type of love depends on secure attachment between partners. While romance may waver, the emotional bond remains stable. There is a comforting reliability and trust that accompanies companionate love. Both partners feel safe and cared for. The commitment runs deep despite life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Lasting Contentment

While less thrilling than new romance, companionate love brings lasting contentment. Partners feel satisfied and at peace. They may no longer have stars in their eyes, but they take comfort in the intimacy and security of their relationship. Companionate love is built to go the distance.


When comparing the strength of different types of love, the deep parent-child bond emerges as the clear winner. While romantic and companionate love both have their merits, neither comes close to unconditional parental love. A parent’s all-consuming, lifelong love and commitment to their child’s wellbeing eclipses all other relationships. This primal drive to nurture, protect, and sacrifice for one’s offspring is unrivaled in its ferocity and resilience. At the end of the day, the depth and fortitude of parental love stands alone.