The ancient Greeks were equally smart when it came to discussing different Greek types of love and distinguishing between them. Our crudeness in using a single word to whisper “I love you” over a romantic lunch and to casually sign an email “much of love” would have startled them.
So, what were the Greek types of love that they were familiar with? And how might they motivate us to evolve beyond our current romantic love addiction, in which 94% of young people hope—but often fail—to find a one-of-a-kind soul mate who can meet all of their emotional needs?
Though they are all motivated by emotion and attachment, these Greek types of love are all distinct. While we are only now catching up, the ancient Greeks seemed to grasp the concept—in fact, Greek terminology for different types of love abound. Rather than applying one word to multiple circumstances, there are seven words in the language that depicts love in all of its subtle forms.
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It goes without saying that the love you have for a friend, family member, or romantic partner is not the same as the love you have for them. In fact, there are so many variations on “love” that the word nearly doesn’t do it justice. That is why the Greek coined many terms to describe the various types of love that we encounter throughout our lives. Here’s what they’re about, as well as how to figure out which one(s) you’re experiencing.
What does true love entail?
Research has classified two basic varieties of interpersonal love, according to clinical psychologist Kristina Hallett, Ph.D. passionate love (which is what we think of as romantic love, involving attraction and sexual desire) and attachment love (also known as compassionate love; which can be between caregivers and children, between long-term romantic partners, and other deeply bonded relationships).
Despite this, she continues, “We may, and frequently do, love others in a variety of ways. When we consider the various Greek words for different sorts of love, we can see how they relate to the larger categories of passionate and compassionate love.”
For a reason, the issue of what it means to love someone has been the subject of so many songs: it’s a complex emotion that we all experience differently. Take, for example, the five love languages. Everyone, especially with diverse people, has their unique manner of giving and receiving love.
Greek Types of Love
The nine Greek varieties of love are outlined in Greek below, along with how to traverse each one:
1. Eros (Passionate Love)
Romance, passion, and attraction are all aspects of Eros. It depicts the exhilarating and stimulating feelings that might arise during the early stages of a relationship. Marriage therapist Jason B. Whiting, Ph.D., LMFT, states, “Relationships generally begin with intensity, including infatuation and desire.” “As thrilling as it is, it is really a fusion element intended to bring people together.” “Sexual curiosity, lust, or passion don’t always evolve into permanent compassionate love,” Hallett continues.
Suggestion for Eros:
Enjoy each other’s company and the attraction you share while it’s still new and exciting. This form of love will frequently change into another type of love over time or simply fade away.
2. Pragma (Enduring Love)
The Pragma can be translated as “practical love,” referring to love that is based on responsibility, dedication, and practicality. While this may be true of the kind of love that grows in an arranged marriage, it also applies to the kind of love that you see in long-term relationships and life partnerships, such as when you encounter an elderly couple who has been together for decades. These are couples who find a way to make it work even when things aren’t going well.
Pragma necessitates a commitment to one another and can be viewed as a conscious decision or as the form of love that develops over time via bonding and shared experiences. “The brain’s response to a cherished long-term spouse appears to be contentment, loving, and nurturing,” writes Whiting.
Eros can evolve into Pragma, and many romantic relationships do: “Strong romantic partnerships involve a blend of passionate love and compassionate love, which supports an enduring and positive connection,” Hallett says.
Suggestion for Pragma:
According to Hallett, the initial rush of attraction when you first meet someone, “It is common for relationships to stabilize over time, leading people to believe that their partner ‘doesn’t love them as much.’ To counteract this, partners can collaborate to speak honestly and acknowledge deeper sentiments of connection and caring love.”
3. Ludus (Playful Love)
Ludus is incredibly flirty and enjoyable, without the ties that Eros or Pragma imply. It’s most noticeable in the early phases of a relationship when two individuals are flirting, courting, and crushing on each other. It usually entails giggling, teasing, and feeling excited around someone. Furthermore, it has a youthful quality to it, yet it may absolutely mature.
Suggestion for Ludus:
Keep in mind that your crushes don’t have to “become serious” or develop into full-fledged relationships. Simply enjoying the flirtation and the will-we-or-won’t-we game can bring a lot of joy and pleasure.
4. Agape (Universal Love)
Agape is a form of selfless love that you would connect with saints like Mother Teresa or campaigners like Malala Yousafzai. This love, according to Hallett, is a compassionate love for all people, also called universal loving-kindness. It’s the unconditional love you have for all living beings, which you freely give without expecting anything in return. It’s a really mindful and genuine affection. Furthermore, it’s also akin to what we call “unconditional love” from time to time.
Suggestion for Agape:
Do you have agape coursing in your veins? Lean into a job that allows you to give back and help others by practicing loving-kindness meditation.
5. Philia (Deep Friendship)
Philia is a close, long-lasting friendship that blossoms into love. Although it is Platonic, you feel very close to persons with whom you have philia and may confide in, trust, and appreciate them on a very personal level. These friendships, according to Hallett, can have just as much impact as romantic relationships. “The degree of sadness and loss associated with a long-standing connection may startle people,” she says. “Losing or ‘breaking up with a friend maybe just as traumatic and difficult as losing a romantic connection.”
Suggestion for Philia:
Spend quality time with your closest friends, and be vulnerable in a manner you wouldn’t normally by telling them how much you care about them.
6. Philautia (Self-love)
Philautia has been having a bit of a moment lately, and with good reason. This love is all about self-compassion and self-loving. Although it may seem self-evident, our relationship with ourselves is critical, and it must be cultivated. Philautia has implications for our personal self-esteem and confidence, as well as how we interact with others. More self-love equals more love to give. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Suggestion for Philautia:
Pamper yourself with your favorite self-care activities, establish a self-love ritual—do anything you can for yourself that makes you happy!
7. Storge (Familial Love)
Storge refers to the love that exists between family members (usually immediate family), as well as close family friends or childhood buddies. It differs from philia in the manner that blood, early experiences, and familiarity promote it. “Friends are the family you select,” as the saying goes. You don’t get to choose your family, and whether they like them, many people have an instinctive affinity for them. Storge is caring, protective, and has a strong sense of recollection.
Suggestion for Storge:
Work on improving your relationship with your family members and forgiving any previous wrongdoings.
8. Mania (Obsessive Love)
While some may argue that this isn’t “love,” the Greeks did have a name for “obsessive” love: mania. This is what we call a toxic or codependent relationship, in which there is an imbalance of affection that causes one person to become unduly attached to the other. It can be difficult to recover from mania, but if you do, a healthier balance of affection will be required.
Suggestion for Mania:
Ask yourself what’s causing these feelings of insecurity and clinging, if you notice any patterns of possessive or codependent behavior. Tell your partner you’re having trouble and try to figure out what needs to change.
How can I tell which Greek type of love I have?
Knowing what kind of love you’re having usually necessitates some kind of self-awareness regarding the nature of your feelings for someone. Ask yourself whether it’s romantic, selfless, friendly, or playful. Consider how long you’ve known each other to figure out what kind of love you’re experiencing.
“When we have a deep, positive connection to someone and find ourselves caring about their well-being and supporting them via our actions, this is compassionate love,” Hallett adds, “and likely involving elements the Greeks called Philia, Ludus, and Agape.”
Importantly, you can definitely sense a blend of many Greek sorts of love for various people. The following are some examples of common combinations:
- Pragma and Eros
- Eros and Ludus
- Agape and Philia
- Agape and Philautia
- Eros and Mania
Everyone has their own mix of Greek types of love with all of their loved ones, thus there’s no shortage of definitions and versions of love. “There are numerous types of attraction that drive individuals together, especially in intimate relationships,” Whiting explained, “but it is crucial to have both passion and friendship in a long-term relationship.” “These two states light up in different but overlapping areas of the brain.”
Giving and receiving love is one of life’s greatest joys, regardless of who or how you’re loving, and understanding what we’re feeling for the people in our lives may help us nurture our relationships to be the most rewarding they can be.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of love is philia?
Affectionate Love is Philia. Philia is a type of love that arises between friends or family members without a romantic interest. It happens when two people have similar principles and respect one other; it’s known as “brotherly love.”
How many types of Greek love are there?
The Greeks established a Western tradition that identifies four sorts of love, each with its own Greek word. There are several sources that define a variety of other types of love, but four is a reasonable number. We should probably get that out of the way first. Eros is a term that refers to erotic, sexual, or passionate love.