What is love?
There are 7 different types. At least...
There are 7 different types. At least...
Love… the heady whirlwind of passion. A cosy warm hug. A bowl of chicken soup when you’re sick. Love can come in various shapes and sizes.
Love varies in intensity and form: from low-arousal (relaxation, warmth, calm) to high-arousal (passion or the melting sensation of “making” love).
If we are in touch with our bodies, we can feel it.
It’s also a set of positive actions: listening, sharing, helping, cooperating. See our article on Learning to Love for more.
Whatever its form, the common dominator is that it is positive.
At its most intense it can be seen as all of the positive emotions and attitudes felt and demonstrated together – from respect and understanding to sexual excitement and euphoria.
It’s helpful to explore various types of love, for it’s key to our wellbeing.
And in romantic terms, so that when the honeymoon is over we know what else we can look forward to, what we can also aim for and enjoy if we’re thinking longer term.
The ancient Greeks had a helpful perspective; they categorised love into 7 types:
Playful Lust: Ludus. Teasing, dancing, seducing, flirting, sex. Detached emotionally. The focus is on fun, or conquest, not friendship or connection. Works best when both parties are mature and self-sufficient. Problems arise when one party mistakes Ludus for Eros…
Friendship: Philia, shared goodwill. Not just for mutual benefit (the stuff of many business relationships), but for companionship. Real friends relate authentically and teach each other about their limitations, beliefs and challenges. There’s dependability and trust. For these we need a degree of articulacy, insight and openness, both to change and to be changed.
Sexual love: Eros. The stuff of novels and Hollywood, the connection is on many levels and may run deep. It’s desire and passion as well as respect and appreciation for someone. It may be felt as, or believed to be brought about by, “fate” – one of Cupid’s arrows.
Familial love: Storge. The nearest to unconditional we get. Familial love is born out of familiarity and trust. May be unilateral or asymmetrical or inter-dependent. In the end, it does not necessarily hang on our personal qualities. People in the early stages of a romantic relationship may expect unconditional Familial love when there isn’t enough connection or things haven’t had the time to develop. They find the need and desire of Eros then, with work, perhaps the maturity of Friendship. With enough time and understanding, Familial love can develop.
Duty: Pragma. A practical union founded on reason and long-term interests. It may be the basis of arranged marriages and, although unfashionable, remains widespread in some cultures and amongst high-profile celebs and politicians. Romantic relationships may start as Eros or Ludus and end up as a mix of Storge / Pragma.
Universal love: Agape. The love for nature, a higher power, and for strangers. Also called altruism, charity and compassion. An unselfish concern for the welfare of others.
Self-love: Philautia. Crucial. Unhealthy self-love is hubris; seeking to be one-up, above others, above human experience, or above the greater good. Healthy self-love is self-esteem; our realistic and positive appraisal of our own worth as equal to any other human. With enough self-esteem we are able to invest ourselves in people and projects. Of course, we cry, get scared, feel angry, we suffer hurt and disappointment. But these don’t diminish us long term. We grow resilience.
Which have you experienced in your life? Could you tell the difference at the time? Which do you want to experience?
All the types of love are available to us if we want them… Being open and positive towards others can leave us vulnerable. It’s puts us out there, with emotional risk involved. But as we develop self-confidence and self-awareness, we start to be able to engage in and enjoy more of the types of love, and receive them in return.
Try it… We dare you.
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