Understanding Love

From Ancient Greek texts, 18thcentury literature and now to our modern day film romcoms — we have been guided to believe there is one ultimate type of love. We can categorise love and put into a box but interestingly it isn’t something we can define as it feels different to different people and is sometimes thrown around too often in different contexts. This makes the term ‘love’ one of the most indescribable things one can experience throughout their lifetime. Whether you think you can only be hit by cupid’s arrow once or you think you may have used your three chances, this blog will delve into the different types of ‘love' and how we can understand it to be better in our relationships.

The most important thing is there are different types of love, there aren’t specific stages to which one can fall into “classic romantic love”, but rather it can be a type. There are 7 styles of love, as described byNeel Burton, M.D.in his blogfor Psychology Today. He notes that the types of love are in our lives in different ways and vary from person to person and are based on our interactions. The types can act interdependently therefore do not come in stages, nor phases and mostly do not have any continuation at all.

1) Eros

As such the first is ‘Eros’, or better known as the “Greek God of Love”. As Ashley Uzer, the sex and dating writer, describes this is the lustful and infatuated kind of love; the love that strikes us like Cupid’s arrow in a short-sharp second and coincidentally, Cupid is the Roman counterpart to Eros. It is the most undaunting of the loves as it is associated with passion and intimacy for the body. Erosvoids all voice of reasoning and it is a love that lives for the moment. 

2) Philia

Beyond the momentary madness, we have the friendship type of love, ’Philia’ the love for another’s soul. The word is a derivative from the Greek term “phílos”, a noun meaning "beloved, dear, a friend; someone who is dearly loved in a personal or intimate way; a trusted confidant who is held dear in a close bond of personal affection." This type of love is described as necessary by Aristotle, as it is said it is “For no one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods”. It is the love shared with the characterisation and motive of goodwill, kindness and appreciation for another person and their well-being. Neel Burton M.D.describes it as the type of love that relies on mutual benefit and consists of companionship, dependability, and trust. 

3) Storge

‘Storge’ is the familiar, innate kind of love that we are born with and to some extent into. It is a "natural, carnal type of love" — a love for the ones who have been in our lives for some time, as such our parental figures, our sense of community, family and long term partners. It is underpinned in a reciprocal investment in another individual, a mutual committed level of love and understanding for someone else’s needs, goals and desires.

4) Agape

Caring for a stranger is considered to be altruistic,in that meaning being mindful of someone else or something else’s well-being over our own. A blogger from ‘From Eros to Agape’ writes, “Agape puts the beloved first and sacrifices pride, self interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved.”The self-less love we deny ourselves to help others, is the following of the types called ‘Agape’. It is a universal type of love that allows us to live in peace and unity, and if we are to generalise ‘agape’, in the context of our everyday relationships, it "helps us to build and maintain the psychological, social, and, indeed, environmental fabric that shields, sustains, and enriches us".

5) Ludus

Ludus’ is the fifth type of love we come across in our lives. ‘Ludus’derives from Ancient Roman Tradition and in Latin to mean ‘playfulness’. In the context of love, and to some extent even Latin poetry to be provocative and somewhat erotic. So, to put it bluntly, ‘Ludus’ is type of love which we characterise through the actions of which make us flirtatious, seducing and perhaps even promiscuous, in an uncommitted way. As the most playful of the loves, she doesn’t hold any attachment but rather serves for unadulterated, mutual fun, as such the term “friends with benefits” was coined.

6) Pragma

The practical kind of love is ‘Pragma’ short for pragmatic. One where we focus our efforts into our long term interests and sensible attributes to receive a mutually beneficial and “shopping list kind of love”; a love that is seen as realistic to where you are in your life. ‘Pragma’ love is described by Love-Zas an everlasting and enduring love. Our physical needs tend to take a back seat in this kind of love as we focus our attention to the “important traits for their relationship and their partner, and bases their view of whether love is desirable or not on whether there are sufficient reasons for it to be useful and valuable to them.

7) Philautia

Finally, whilst we give and show love toward others in many styles, we must also have love for ourselves. This is the type of love we call ‘Philautia’ and where we must be selfish to some extent. ‘Philautia’ has two distinct identities and is considered as a double-edged sword in Greek literature. It is negative state; we are overconfident and our selfishness leads to seeking social capital and pleasure beyond our needs. It was after all“Narcissus, who falls in love with his own reflection, exemplifies this kind of self-love.”. On the other hand, ‘Philautia’in its positive state exhibits itself as pride and self-compassion. Of course, this love must be carefully evaluated as we must not become too selfish as it can be detrimental for others, ourselves and the world around us. This type of love, if maintained at a healthy level, stabilises all the loves mentioned above and also allows us to flow freely and in and out of the loves with different people.

So, with that being said all the loves can co-exist but with different people, one type can develop into another, but will never be at the same time with the same person. Love as exhibited comes in all shapes and forms, but we all have the same reaction to romantic love. It makes us happy and yes in the “lovey-dovey” “ooey-goeey” kind of way. It touches our inner core, pulls on those actual heart-strings and makes even the toughest of us melt. When faced with these different feelings of love, some of us grasp it with both hands and pull inwards, whilst some of us may push away and avoid the situation to become withdrawn, especially if we have been hurt before.

Most importantly, being able to give and take the essences from all the styles of love, especially ‘pragma’ will make your love last. The incorporating of the other types will also allow you to value compassion, gratitude and understanding for someone else and their feelings in and amongst physical and emotional needs and desires. Beyond the types, also remembering we are often told we will only have one great love after a few unsuitable pairings. However past relationships should be thought of as essential lessons, put in place to teach us our needs and wants for the future. Reciprocity learnt over the course of our lives can reveal a true enduring love that encompasses similar levels (in both partners) for gratitude, compromise, commitment, communication, trust and respect — the substances of love. This love allows us to be free and authentic with ourselves (as suggested in ‘philautia’and with others we encounter. It also makes us more resilient and prepared to face the challenges ahead, as whilst we may doubt ourselves and our abilities in one situation, our self-worth relative to that of others will help us to counterbalance this.

From the passionate and tender moments, to writing your thoughts and expressions of your love in your vows; love can be very intricate, unique and individual but the most pure and treasured form. It is something the whole world shares in common we are all able to love, even if it is just ourselves for a while. Love is a collective experience and it is always better when shared, no matter how many times we share it!