Love is more remembered than practiced in The Handmaid's Tale. Even when the characters have feelings for each other, they try to fight them off because strong emotions are dangerous. There's nothing from the past to hold onto, and many people's connections and relationships have been completely severed. Love exists only as a memory (a child's scent at bath time, a rendezvous with a lover at a hotel) or in secret (the touch of two fingers through a bathroom wall, a filched cigarette, or the gift of being called by one's own real name).
Through her experiences in Gilead, the narrator realizes the nature of the love she had for her husband and child only in retrospect.
The greatest bond in the novel is that of friendship between two women, the narrator and Moira.