‘Ohh, I love it when you do that’.
‘Girl, I love that colour on you’.
‘I just looove pizza’.
‘Don’t you love it when…’.
Love, love, love… love
That little four letter word with a whole lot of oomph.
Sometimes we can feel extremely loved out, especially when we or others use the word over and over again to describe very different emotions and feelings towards each other, things and experiences. For some of us it can be a difficult word to say and it does need to be said, but perhaps only when alleviated from overlapping connotations that can confuse us all.
Not understanding the different types of love can dull the enormity of some feelings that you experience when they are compared with much more subtle emotions that you describe with the same word. It is important to avoid desensitisation, a detrimental impact to your wellbeing that can be likened to a coping mechanism by those who are consistently subjected to highly impactful scenarios.
So, here today, for your sanity and to the health of your many, differing relationships that you can have in your life, we are here to inform you that there are actually four legitimately different types of love that we all feel and experience. Yep, I’ll say it again. FOUR. Some are healthy and some not so much. One can and should lead to another whilst others don’t.
Love is complex and by recognising this and understanding the differences between each type of love, humans are able to differentiate and relate accordingly.
The 4 different types of love:
Eros. Roughly translated from the Ancient Greeks, worshippers of words, beliefs and rituals, Eros can be thought of as an erotic, passionate, intimate and sexual kind of love. It is addictive, manic and can be the source of great highs and equally great lows.
Eros is a very real and raw feeling that is generally stemmed from a physical attraction. It cannot survive on its own, but is a fleeting experience that paves the path towards other forms of attraction that need to be fostered by time.
Philia. The platonic, brotherly love found between friends and equals. Don’t mistake those feelings of philia however, as they can be powerful. They can be felt within a whole community, between lovers who have been together for a long time and with very close friends and family members.
To best describe these feelings of philia we can relate them to how you feel when playing a sport you love, when you have a rush of gratitude towards your equals or that feeling of serenity and bliss you can have when taking a walk in the park and are simply enjoying every minute of it. Freely chosen, it is perhaps one of the higher forms of love we can experience.
It is the least natural of feelings of love and is difficult for modern science to explain the biological necessity of it. Necessary it is, however, as it has a positive impact on your health and wellbeing. It can lower blood pressure, reduce pain, shorten hospital visits and is generally a kind of emotion that you should foster in your own life and attempt to provide to others who you care for deeply.
Storge. Family love. The feelings of love parents have for their children and is given in return. It exists within an immediate family and can often extend beyond to grandparents, close aunts, uncles and cousins. An unearned and extremely natural love that is ever-present, without corrosion and without question to whether the love is deserved or not.
In its everlasting and common form, storge can be seen as quite fragile as well. This is because the expectation for a parent to love a child does remove all responsibility on one to act appropriately for the right to this love.
In comparison, philia needs to be earned, respected and fostered, whereas children demand love and are expected to show this type of love.
Don’t view storge as nothing but innate emotions though. It is immensely important for the formation of all other types of love and provides a foundation for our understanding between conditional and unconditional feelings that we can have towards one another.
Agape. An all-consuming, unconditional love that is generally described as God’s love for mankind. A feeling we strive for, Christianity models God on this feeling as well as the action Jesus took when he sacrificed his life for all of mankind, Buddhists centralise this feeling to all living things.
To forgive takes agape and this has a beneficial impact on health. A mother’s love for her child can be taken further than storge to this form of unconditional love that has no boundaries, asks nothing in return and is completely selfless.
But agape is more for the enlightened individual, one who regardless of context or feelings express without hesitation this love for oneself and for all of mankind. The Greeks found this to be quite a radical emotion that few could experience.
Perhaps we can place certain loves we have on a scale as all emotions that we feel are fluid and evolving. We can also use these definitions of different types of love and combine them to accurately explain the different kinds of love we have for the people, objects and experiences in our lives.
This can help our wellbeing by encouraging us to see the different ways we love each other. Consider the love for your children compared to how you love the father of them. Should you be separated from the father and have a new partner for example, differentiating and acknowledging the love you feel for both of these men can be healthily evaluated.
And then, loving our friends. Perhaps that love is so strong you feel it ought to belong in a more intimate and sexual place. But because love can be strong but remain completely on its own, you can feel at peace with your bond to one another without confusing the situation.
I think the take home message here is this: it is healthy to experience love in all of its shapes and forms. To allow one to lead into another can provide you with lasting connections and experiences that shape you into the individual you are here and now.