The 7 kinds of love explained
Love is one of the most beautiful feelings there are. Yet, it is so hard to define. How could you boil down what you feel for your partner, parents, best friend, pet, yourself, etc. to a single definition? The ancient Greeks dedicated much time to figure out exactly that and, instead of coming up with a single definition, they created different categories. Discover the 7 kinds of love according to them and how they can be combined into your unique way of loving:
Ludus – Playful Love
You might have never heard of it, but this could be one of the 7 kinds of love you have the most experience with. It is what most people on online dating platforms are after: playful, uncommitted love.
The focus of ludus is fun. It makes you want to dance, flirt, seduce, tease someone else. It is casual, undemanding, uncomplicated. Therefore, it can work really well if both people feel self-sufficient and don’t expect much from each other.
Eros – Sexual Love
“Eros is dangerous!” That’s what the ancient Greeks would have told you if you asked them back then. Why, you ask? Because in Greek mythology, it was a kind of madness caused by the Cupid’s arrow. Anyone who has fallen in love knows the feeling of being madly in love. And if you were extremely concerned with only taking rational decisions and being objective all the time, you’d want to stay away from it too!
Eros refers to sexual, passionate love. It is that burning desire that marks the beginning of most relationships. It is common knowledge that it doesn’t last long – experts say two to three years at most –, so what can come after the euphoria of eros is over?
Pragma – The Long-standing, Practical Love
Pragma comes around when eros, the sexual attraction, becomes of secondary importance. Basically, it is what you feel after the phase where you were blinded by love is over. Now, you can reassess with a cool head if the two of you are truly a match: you know the other person well enough to recognize their flaws and choose to commit to them nevertheless because you know it’s worth it.
The couple is then bound by their shared goals, long-term interests, compatibility, fondness for each other’s qualities and maybe more worldly things, such as rent, a mortgage or even kids.
It is the love you feel in everyday life when you look at your long-term partner and feel satisfied for having made the right choice. It can evolve from both eros and ludus. Unlike them, pragma involves some degree of effort, since the couple has to make sure the fire keeps burning.
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Storge – Familial Love
Storge is the kind of love typically found between parents and their children. It’s usually unilateral and asymmetrical (think of how many of us might be unaware of being loved by our parents). It is the fondness that comes from familiarity and dependency – you love them simply because they are family. Therefore, it is effortless love – forgiving, accepting and sacrificing for someone you feel storge for comes to you naturally.
With time, eros can mutate into storge: your partner starts to feel like an inseparable part of you, like family.
Philia – The Deepest Type of Friendship
The feeling behind philia is captured very well by the word friendship. It happens when two or more people share the same values, interests and dispositions. They share a deep sense of mutual understanding and openness that gives them a sense of security and belonging.
Philia is also known as “platonic love”, as it usually doesn’t involve sexual intent. However, it does not exclude physical attraction, as philia can evolve from eros. In this case, the attraction stays and a sense of understanding and dedication to helping each other become a better version of themselves flourishes.
Philautia – One of the 7 Kinds of Love all of us can have
Philautia is self-love. It might sound simple, but many people seem to lack it nowadays. However, it is absolutely necessary, as we can only truly love others to the same extent we love ourselves.
A further problem is that even good things can be overdone. For this reason, the Greeks differentiated between two kinds of philautia: healthy and unhealthy. Healthy self-love is akin to self-esteem, self-compassion, self-worth. Unhealthy self-love, on the other hand, means excessive pride and self-confidence that can lead to arrogance or even narcissism.
Whenever you aren’t sure if you are being self-loving, I suggest posing the following question: what would a person who loves themselves do in this situation?
Agape – Universal Love
Agape is the love for everybody – strangers or not – and everything – nature, the planet, God. It motivates altruism, the unselfish concern for someone else’s well-being, and is unconditional, for it is given without expecting anything in return.
Last but not Least: Your Unique Way of Loving
As we said in the beginning, love is hard to define and there are no clear-cut boundaries between the 7 kinds of love. It just goes to show that love is a very complex component of even more complex relationships.
Besides, love is clearly a basic component to happiness and happiness is, according to the Greek philosopher Plato, an end in itself. I believe that we are here on this planet to love and be happy, and it is important to know that we aren’t limited to loving one way only.