3 Reflections on Love by Erich Fromm

3 Reflections on Love by Erich Fromm

Last update: 15 November, 2016

In his book The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm left us with a great source of inspiration to reflect on love. The author was able to see love as an art, a feeling that we all have the potential to experience, but that requires care to be maintained.

Erich Fromm’s reflections on love are relatively well-known, and they give rise to important questions, such as: what does it mean to love?, how can love be maintained?, is love fleeting?

The observations on love made by this humanist, psychologist, and philosopher stand out for their immense maturity. He observed love as an art, which is the fruit of previous learning. He understood that it must be cared for and cultivated, so that the process of learning in love is not interrupted.

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.”

-Erich Fromm-

Mature love according to Erich Fromm

In this reflection, the author differentiates between mature love and childish love. He describes love as a need, and he talks of needing the other person as a consequence of love:

“Infantile love follows the principle: ‘I love because I am loved.’
Mature love follows the principle: ‘I am loved because I love.’
Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’
Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you.'”

-Erich Fromm-

This principle calls into question the way we relate to others in our society and states that we do it more out of necessity than to share our love with another person. Remember that sharing your feelings requires you to be connected with them, understand them, and take care of them, in such a way that you don’t end up looking for external ways to fulfill the needs that you don’t know how to fulfill yourself.

woman leaning on heart

Using love to escape loneliness

When you use love to escape your own discomfort, you’re doomed to destroy it. If you use this feeling as a refuge to hide from things you can’t handle in your life, you’re just running away from yourself.

“Love as mutual sexual satisfaction, and love as “teamwork” and as a haven from aloneness, are the two “normal” forms of the disintegration of love in modern Western society, the socially patterned pathology of love.”

-Erich Fromm-

This form of love becomes pathological because you’re not taking care of your own personal development. Instead of listening to yourself, you expect others to be responsible for things that you’re not capable of, but that really fall under your realm of responsibility.

woman among branches

This turns into projection, as you start to see in others what you can’t tolerate in yourself. It’s a childish way to avoid responsibility for your own existence. When you use love as a tool, as an escape from yourself, you lose your ability to love and to be honest in your relationships.

The active energy of love

Love is the excess energy that you have left once you cover your basic needs. Erich Fromm understood that this energy must be mobilized. It’s not enough to just feel it, you also have to live it, and this is only possible if you take care of it and nourish it.


Some relationship difficulties are inevitable, and even necessary. Some obstacles provoke negative emotions that we have to deal with. It’s important to accommodate these emotions and understand that disruptions arise normally when things aren’t taken care of. Emotions are our most intimate and personal language, and they serve to help us relate to people more honestly.

“Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together; even whether there is harmony or conflict; joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are only one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than by fleeing from themselves.”

-Erich Fromm-

From this reflection, you can gather how important it is for two people to relate to each other from their own essence. Only by having a deep knowledge of each other will the couple be able to build a solid foundation from which love can evolve. Remember that it’s a mistake to love just to run away from yourself, because then it won’t be possible for a healthy and reciprocal encounter to develop.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.