Love means so many different things to so many different people, and in the same way, applies totally differently in different contexts. We can usually distinguish between the love we have for friends, and the love we have family – if we are lucky, sometimes it is not easy to distinguish love of friends with love of family. However, these two are totally different to the love feelings involved in a romantic relationship. The Ancient Greeks had seven different words for love – each denoting and encapsulating different types of love. The aim of this post is to explore these types of love in some depth, while illustrating the importance of the presence of all seven in our lives.
This is the type of love we are probably most familiar with, and it describes love of a sexual nature. Passion is a key aspect involved in eros, and it is the one thing we usually associate with love – the sexual feelings we experience when in the presence of someone we find attractive.
‘Philia’ is the term used to indicate feelings of friendship that are usually platonic in nature. These feelings are often based on mutual interests and time spent together.
This love refers to the familial bond, one forged through dependency, proximity and familiarity. This type of love usually sways in favour of the younger members of the family, those who need care the most.
Agape love is something that can be likened to altruism – is it love that is truly without bounds and conditions. Agape love is not really within the capacity of humans, but rather can be attributed to the unconditional and perfect love of God.
This kind of love is one too many people in this day and age aspire to – it is a fun, uncommitted, ‘no strings attached’ kind of love.
Self love is encompassed within this particular type of love. While self-love is healthy and, in fact, necessary, it can be unhealthy when it ventures to the extreme of arrogance or narcissism.
As the root of the word denotes, pragma involves dutiful love, that is committed to a long term future. Once the eros has burned out, and the hard times have come and gone, pragma is the love that remains – a love that is determined to make it work, and that involves compromise and weathering storms together.
So, these are the seven Greek words for love, but what is their relevance in our every day lives? Well, the role of storge is rather important in terms of the type of love we receive from our parents, that we then translate into philia, philautia, and eventually pragma. This is a topic I will explore at a later stage, though. The ones I want to focus on for the remainder of this post are those of ludus, eros and pragma. In order for a relationship to flourish, all three need to be present; of course, philia also needs to be present, because it can lend a hand to the feelings of ludus not simply dwindling with time. Ok, so a relationship needs to develop on the basis of some mutual interest and desire to spend time together (philia), but is is coupled with feelings of sexual desire (eros). Here is where the decider comes in – should the interest from either party simply be based on the thrill of the chase (ludus), their future doesn’t hold too much hope of achieving the level of a committed, loving relationship that stands the test of time (pragma).
This said, the practical applications of these seemingly outdated words in our relationships serve as a reminder that romantic love needs many different aspects in order to function; there needs to be a fundamental friendship, with feelings of fun and sexual attraction attached, in order to contribute to our own self-love, as well as the love we will one day bestow on our children. However, when all the fun and excitement has ebbed, it comes down commitment, to the choice to stay and work on the relationship; the test of time.