How do you define love? Is it the first dance at your parents’ wedding? The comfortable silence between best friends? The magic of holding your newborn child?
There are many different kinds of love, and within each lies an entire landscape of complex feelings and rewarding moments.
The ancient Greeks identified seven different types of love. Each is valuable in its own way, and each is necessary to experience in a happy and healthy life.
Which ones are strong in your life? Which need more attention?
Here are the seven types of love, according to the ancient Greeks:
is the love we have for ourselves. Truly, this is where all other love begins. When our relationship with ourselves is strong, all other love in our lives seems to fall into place. Philautia comes in two forms. One is a sort of fake self-love, similar to arrogance or narcissism. It involves a taste for money, fame, and power. This kind of self-love is defined by an inclination to put oneself before the greater good. By contrast, a healthy Philautia is characterized by self-esteem, confidence, and a commitment to care for ourselves and for others. It allows us to direct the love we have for ourselves out into the world around us.
is a love based on dedication to the greater good. In a pragmatic love, romance and attraction are often set aside in favor of shared goals and compatibilities. This kind of love is often seen in couples who have formed out of an arranged marriage or political alliance. It is also this type of love that inspires couples to make their relationship work for the sake of their children. Pragma is the kind of deep love and commitment that pushes us to do the right thing. Many relationships start as Eros or Ludos, and later evolve into Pragma when these simpler forms of love are not enough to sustain them.
is the opposite of Pragma – although one can often grow into the other as time and circumstances change. Ludus is a flirtatious and fun form of love. It is defined by playfulness, joy, and a lack of commitment. This is the kind of love we might feel when we dance with a stranger or flirt with a classmate. In contrast to the deep dedication that characterizes pragmatic love, the only shared goal of Ludus is pleasure. Ludus is fun, but it cannot last on it’s own. With time, it either fades away or grows into Eros or Philia.
is the type of relationship that we most often associate with the word “love.” This type of love is characterized by romance, infatuation, and sexual desire. Eros is the Greek name for Cupid, who shoots people with his arrows and causes this kind of attraction. He is often depicted as a blindfolded child, implying that Eros often strikes without reason. This kind of love is the most dangerous, but it’s also the thing we chase with our whole hearts. It consumes us completely, and defies any kind of logic.
describes the shared sense of warmth we have with our siblings or close friends. It’s sincere, platonic, and mutually beneficial. It far outlasts Eros and Ludos, so we would be wise to prioritize this type of love over those more fleeting ones. Often, lovers can grow to share this connection. They may tell you that their spouse is their best friend. This is something to strive for, since Philia is one of the most powerful connections two people can share. These relationships are intimate, authentic, and secure.
is the very special kind of love that a parent holds for their child. Like Philia, this type of love is powerful and eternal. However, unlike Philia, it is not a sense of love between equals. Rather, it describes a relationship in which a parent cares for a child. It also differs from Philia in that it is unconditional. The child carries no responsibility to the parent. Rather, the parent loves them exactly how they are. Storge is what inspires a parent to forgive their child unconditionally. A parent with a strong sense of Storge will sacrifice everything for their child, and will ask nothing in return.
is the universal sense of love that we all aspire to feel. Agape is an unconditional love for all living things. This is the type of love that gives us the desire to do good. These feelings may inspire us to volunteer, save the planet, or carry out a simple act of kindness. They help us to act with compassion and selflessness. True agape is characterized by a strong connection to nature, humanity, and the universe. This is where good karma is born from. When we feel Agape, we are at our closest to God.
“There is never a time or place for true love. It happens accidentally, in a heartbeat, in a single flashing, throbbing moment,” wrote Sarah Dessen.