Love. Ahhhhh… they say it makes the world go ‘round. But does it? Does it always make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Or does it sometimes cause us problems in our relationships?
Well, the answer is both.
We have all had our share of relationship problems – especially in romantic ones. And when people say to me, “Relationships are hard!” I always reply, “Not they’re not. They are not inherently hard. It’s the people that make them hard.”
What I mean by that is that humans are inherently selfish. We all want to “win” and to get other people to understand what we want. And unfortunately, that often results in two people who just don’t understand each other. And because of that, their relationship suffers.
One key to healthy relationships is understanding the different types of love. Everyone gives and receives love differently. And in addition to that, some people are much more capable of experiencing certain types of love than others.
8 Types of Love According to the Ancient Greeks
The ancient Greeks studied love and classified them into eight different types. They studied everything from public speaking to the starts in the universe. And love is something they were also fascinated with.
So, let’s take a look at the different types of love so you can better understand your own relationships.
1. Agape — Unconditional Love
First, we have agape love. This is an altruistic, selfless, unconditional love. The Greeks thought it was quite radical, perhaps because so few people seem capable of feeling it long-term.
Some people would describe agape as a type of spiritual love. For instance, Christians believe that Jesus exhibited this kind of love for all humans. He was selfless and sacrificed Himself so that others could be rid of their sins. He suffered for the happiness of others.
2. Eros — Romanic Love
Eros is named after the Greek god of love and fertility. Therefore, it is usually associated with romantic, passionate, and physical love. It is an expression of sexual passion and desire.
The Greeks were actually quite fearful of this love, strangely enough. They thought that because human beings have an instinctual impulse to procreate, that this love was so powerful and it would result in a loss of control.
Although the Greeks thought this kind of love was dangerous, it is still the kind of love that is associated with passionate, sexual love. Even in modern days, some people believe that this kind of love “burns hot and bright, but it burns out fast.”
3. Philia — Affectionate Love
The Greeks defined this kind of love as “affectionate love.” In other words, it is the kind of love that you feel for your friends.
Ironically, the ancient Greeks thought this kind of love was better than eros (sexual love), because it represented love between people who considered themselves equals.
While a lot of people associate the word “love” with romance, Plato always argued that physical attraction wasn’t necessary for love. Hence, why there are many different types of love. This type, in particular, is often referred to as “platonic” love – love without sexual acts.
4. Philautia — Self-love
Philautia is self-love. In our modern day society, most people associate self-love with being narcissistic, selfish, or stuck on themselves. However, this is not what the ancient Greeks meant by self-love.
Self-love is not negative or unhealthy in any way. In fact, it’s necessary to be able to give and receive love from other people. We cannot give to others what we don’t have. And if we don’t love ourselves, how can we truly love others?
Another way to look at self-love is by thinking about it as self-compassion. Just as you might show affection and love to another person, you must also show that same affection and love to yourself.
5. Storge — Familiar Love
Storge can be defined as “familiar love.” Although that’s a strange term, let me explain what it really means.
This type of love looks and feels a lot like philia – affectionate love felt between friends. However, this love is more like a parent-child love.
Just like philia, there is not physical or sexual attraction. But there is a strong bond, kinship, and familiarity between people.
6. Pragma — Enduring Love
The ancient Greeks define pragma as “enduring love.” In other words, it’s almost the opposite of eros (sexual love). Eros tends to burn out quickly because of its passion and intensity. However, pragma is a love that has matured and developed over a long period of time.
The kind of old married couples who have been together since their teenage years and still hold hands, well, that’s a great example of pragma. Unfortunately, this kind of love is somewhat rare to find – especially in society today. These days, people seem to think the grass is always greener on the other side. And therefore, they don’t have the patience or desire to watch love grow over time.
This type of love doesn’t require a lot of effort in a relationship. Both people are good at making compromises, and each of them puts in equal efforts to make the other person happy.
7. Ludus — Playful Love
Ludus is known as the “playful love.” However, a better way to describe it is the feeling of infatuation in the early days of romance. If you’ve been in love before, you know what I’m talking about.
It’s the butterflies in your stomach, the giddiness you feel when you see your love walk through the door, and the feeling of never wanting to be without them.
Studies show that when people are experiencing this type of love, their brain is acting much like it does if it was on cocaine. In other words, your brain is lit up and active just like someone who is literally high on a drug. It makes you feel alive and excited about life.
8. Mania — Obsessive Love
Mania is not necessarily a good type of love, because it is obsessive. It’s the type of love that can lead someone into madness, jealousy, or even anger. That is because the balance between eros (sexual) and ludus (playful) is terribly off.
Many people who experience this type of love suffer from low self-esteem. They fear losing the object of their love, and this fear compels them to say or do some “crazy” things in order to keep them.
If not kept under control, mania can be very destructive in some cases.
The 5 Love Languages
The ancient Greeks weren’t the only ones to study love. A modern relationship therapist, Dr. Gary Chapman, identified five languages of love through his work with couples over a long period of time. His book, The Five Love Languages, provides a lot more detail.
In a nutshell, Chapman argues that each of us give and receive love differently, but they all fall into five categories. And they are as follows:
1. Words of Affirmation
Some people want to hear “I love you” or other positive compliments from their partner. And if they don’t hear it, then they might feel unloved.
2. Acts of Service
Doing nice things for other people is called an “act of service.” Whether it’s changing someone’s oil, cleaning the house, or giving a back rub, doing things to help make the other person happy is what this one is about.
3. Receiving Gifts
Some people value giving and receiving gifts, and some do not. So, if you measure your partner’s love by how many gifts you are given, then your love language is “receiving gifts.”
4. Quality Time
Other people measure the quality of their love by how much time their significant other wants to spend with them. If they don’t get enough “together time,” then they might feel unloved.
5. Physical Touch
Finally, some individuals associate love with physical touch. Anything from hand-holding to cuddling, and even sex count as “physical touch.”
Why Do Love Languages Matter?
The point of learning the love languages is to identify both the way you give and want to receive love from your partner. If you both have very different love languages, it can cause problems in your relationship.
For example, let’s say that you give love by saying “I love you” all the time, but you want to receive gifts in order to feel loved. But your partner shows his/her love with acts of service, and he/she wants to feel it with quality time. See the problem? They don’t match up.
But don’t worry. You and your partner don’t need to speak the same love language to stay together. Here’s why.
All you need to do is discuss it with your partner. Once you understand how you both want to give and receive, then it’s not so difficult.
We’re all different – and that’s okay. The problems we have in relationships sometimes simply come from not understanding each other fully, especially in the area of love.
Now that you know the ancient Greek types of love, and the more modern love languages, hopefully you can take a good, hard, long look at your own relationships and make the necessary improvements.