The concept of love is intricate and multifaceted. It manifests in diverse forms and relationships throughout our lives. Love can lead us to commit and build a life with a partner, cherishing them deeply. It can evoke an unconditional, wholehearted affection towards our children. Love can also be directed towards our parents or best friends, albeit in a distinct manner compared to the love we feel for our romantic partner. Furthermore, we can express love and compassion for others in general. However, before anything else, we must understand the meaning of self-love.
It is intriguing to note that the single word “love” is expected to encompass such a broad range of emotions and sentiments. Society, perhaps, has influenced us to discern the different types and intensities of love based on connotations, nuances, or personal experiences. In contrast, ancient Greek philosophers sought to elucidate this concept by categorizing it into seven distinct types, as outlined below:
Eros: Love of the Body
This type of love illustrates sexual attraction, physical desire toward others, and a lack of control. It is powerful, passionate, and can dissipate quickly. Relationships that are built solely on eros love tend to be short-lived.
Philia: Affectionate love
Philia love accounts for the type of love that you feel for parents, siblings, family members, and close friends. This type of love is linked with loyalty, companionship, and trust. Philia love is shared among those who have similar values and experiences. The Greek philosophers considered philia to be an equal love and valued it higher than eros love.
Storge: Love of the Child
This type of love describes the unconditional love that parents have for their children. It is defined by unconditional approval, acceptance, and sacrifice. This type of love helps a child to develop through attachment, encouragement, and security.
Agape: Selfless Love
Agape love is representative of universal love. Greek philosophers felt that this is the type of love that people feel for other humans, for nature and for a higher power. This love can be most easily expressed through meditation, nature, intuition, and spirituality. Agape love can be used interchangeably for charity and care for others.
Ludus: Playful Love
Playful love is defined by flirtatiousness, seduction, and sex without commitment. The focal point of this love is on the experience rather than attraction or feelings. Ludus is evident at the beginning of a relationship and is comprised of elements of play, teasing, and excitement.
Pragma: Long-Lasting Love
Long-lasting love is evident in couples who have been together for a long period. This type of love continues to develop throughout the years and portrays synchronization and balance. This type of love can only survive with constant maintenance and nurturance.
Philautia: Love of the Self
Self-love is linked with confidence and self-worth and is necessary for a sense of purpose and fitting in. Philautia can be unhealthy and linked to narcissistic behaviors and arrogance or can be healthy in the sense that we love ourselves before we learn how to love others. Greek philosophers believed that true happiness could only be achieved when one had unconditional love for themselves.
How the Different Types of Love Work Together
Perhaps we do not break down the concept of love like the ancient Greek philosophers once did. Admittedly, it would likely be very complicated to incorporate these Greek terms into our day-to-day conversations. However, there are bits and pieces and truths from each one that helps to comprise our notion of love today.
One of the things you’ve probably noticed is that these types of love are not mutually exclusive. We don’t love in pieces. We love as people, in all kinds of ways. For example, your romantic relationship might be full of eros (sexual attraction), but to truly achieve pragma (long-lasting love), you also need ludus (playful love), philautia (self-love), and philia (affectionate love). A healthy friendship relies on philia (affectionate or platonic love) but also needs philautia (self-love) and some degree of support from storge (familiar love).
Think about some of the relationships in your life. What do you see? Are there opportunities to strengthen the “loves” you have?
Learning about the types of love can help you to understand how you view love and how you experience love. And when you understand that, relationships begin to make so much more sense. You’ll begin to see the many facets of your relationships. How much love is in your life just might surprise you.
- Hendrick, C., & Hendrick, S. (1986, February). A theory and method of love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(2), 392–402. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.112
- Davis, K. E., & Latty-Mann, H. (1987, November). Love Styles and Relationship Quality: A Contribution to Validation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4(4), 409–428. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407587044002