In 1973 J.A. Lee wrote a book called the Colours of Love. It highlighted the seven types of love discussed below and is loosely based on classical readings, especially of Plato and Aristotle founded on Greek teachings. While researching this subject, I found 4, 5, 6, and 8 types of love. The Greeks generally are a wise source on this and many other subjects so I decided to overview their definition as a reminder to us all about the many different faces of love in our lives.
Eros is sexual or passionate love, and is the type most akin to our modern construct of romantic love. In Greek myth, it is a form of madness brought about by one of Cupid’s arrows. The arrow hits us and we ‘fall’ in love. In modern times, Cupid has been depicted as a blindfolded child to illustrate how blind love can be.
Eros is a fire that tends to burn out quickly and becomes one of the other types of love. This is normal.
Question: Do I currently have eros love alive in my life? Do I want it?
The hallmark of philia or friendship is shared goodwill. Aristotle believed that a person can bear goodwill to another for one of three reasons: that he is useful; that he is pleasant; and, above all, that he is good. Friendships founded on goodness are associated not only with mutual benefit but also with companionship, dependability, and trust.
Real friends seek together to live truer, fuller lives by relating to each other authentically and teaching each other. The Greeks described Philia as a love of equals.
Question: Where would I be without my friends? How can I spend more time appreciating them?
Storge (‘store-gae’), or familial love, is the love between parents and their children. Storge is why parents love their children without qualification. More broadly, storge is the fondness born out of familiarity or dependency and, unlike eros or philia, does not hang on our personal qualities. Given enough time, eros tends to mutate into storge. Think of a long happily married couple.
Question: How are my family relationships? What can I do to nurture them? How do they nurture me?
Agape is universal love, such as the love for strangers, nature, God or Spirit. Unlike storge, it does not depend on family or familiarity and displays an unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Agape leaves us with a euphoric feeling—the so-called ‘helper’s high’. In the longer term, it is associated with better mental and physical health, as well as longevity.
Agape helps to build and maintain the psychological and social fabric that shields, sustains, and enriches us. Given the increasing anger and division in our society, and the state of our planet, we could all do with quite a bit more agape. I know I could. This explains why I love to give to animal charities, as a personal example. I get that ‘helper’s high’ from doing that.
Question: How do you see Agape love manifesting in your life? How could you incorporate more of it?
Ludus is playful or uncommitted love. It can involve activities such as teasing and dancing, or more overt flirting or seducing. The focus is on fun, and sometimes also on conquest, with no strings attached. Ludus relationships are casual, undemanding, and uncomplicated but, for all that, can be very long lasting. Ludus works best when both parties are mature and self-sufficient.
A friend of mine named his dog Ludo after this type of love because she was playful and fun.
Question: Do you have an example of a ludus love in your life either in the past or present?
Pragma is a kind of practical love founded on reason or duty and longer-term interests. It’s pragmatic! Sexual attraction takes a back seat in favor of personal qualities and compatibilities, shared goals, and making it work. In the days of arranged marriages, pragma would have been very common. Although unfashionable, it remains widespread, most visibly in certain high-profile celebrity and political pairings as well as various cultures.
Question: Do you know anyone in a pragma marriage? Would you ever do something of that nature?
Philautia is self-love wearing its’ best clothes. It’s the healthy affection and caring that we should give ourselves. We can’t love others without loving ourselves.
Healthy self-love is akin to self-esteem, which is our cognitive and emotional appraisal of our own worth relative to that of others. It’s what we think, feel, and act, and reflects and determines our relation to ourselves, to others, and to the world.
The famous Greek philosopher Plato said this about love: “He whom love touches not walks in darkness.”
I wish you light, love and happiness on this Valentine’s Day.