Four Levels of Love
Love 1: The Feeling of Love
This level of love is limited to the physical and sexual aspect of attraction. "How attractive am I?" "Does he only desire me for my body?" "Does she only like me for my money?" It’s healthy to be desirable and to desire another person. A relationship runs into trouble when love is based only on the level of desirability the couple arouses in each other. The feeling of love doesn’t last long when it’s based on desirability because this is a superficial level of intimacy.
Love 2: Love as Being Loved
This level of love needs a continuous ego-boost and is mostly a self-love. Our sense of being wanted is so important we will grasp at anyone or anything feeding our self-esteem and need for attention. With a Love 2 attitude, "I love you," may really mean, "I love that you make me more popular or powerful."
In a sexual relationship this may translate into seeing the beloved as a trophy—a prize enhancing our own desirability and ego. This attitude makes it very easy to justify control and manipulation of the beloved, and even easier not to commit "in case something better comes along."
Love 1 and Love 2 are immediately gratifying, intense, and superficial kinds of love, focusing on infatuation and affection alone. The feeling of love doesn’t last long. After a while, Love 1 and Love 2 may actually get boring if they’re the only levels of love we are living for.
Love 3: Love as making a Positive Difference
This level of love is about service. Love 3 desires to contribute. We give ourselves away in love. Every time you give someone else preference at the store or in traffic, hold the door for another, fold the laundry, wipe a dish, or lend a hand in any way—it matters not to whom—the kindness extended is Love 3.
In a sexual relationship this translates into giving the "gift of self" to the beloved—giving and receiving love, never taking. This increase in interdependence and care will normally result in an increase in intimacy, affection, attraction, and the desire for commitment (marriage).
Left to itself, Love 3 is open to a fatal flaw, namely thinking another person will bring absolute fulfillment of our heart’s desire. We cannot ultimately fulfill one another even though our love is true, intimate, and exclusively committed. This task is too great to expect another person to achieve for us, or for us to achieve for another person. The only thing that can fulfill us is the unconditional love of God.
Love 4: Love as the Imitiation of Christ
This level of love is agape love. Agape is unconditional love. It is to love as God loves. Agape is empathetic, "feeling with" and "being with" the beloved. Agape is the source of compassion, forgiveness, and empathy. Agape sees the natural dignity in each person. Agape would care for the any person, even when a person cannot repay our love.
In a sexual relationship this translates into desiring God to be apart of the exclusive commitment with our beloved, maximizing the pleasure and intimacy of each sexual encounter. God wants this for us because, after all, He created sex. The sexual act becomes agape, a self-sacrificial love intended to always create, never destroy.