Who do you love? What do you love? Do you love your cat, your kids, freedom, nachos with cheese, Fiji, your partner? According to the Good Therapy website, love is a complex set of emotions, behaviours and beliefs associated with strong feelings of affection, protectiveness, warmth and respect for another person.
The Greeks identified seven different types of love:
Storge: natural affection or family love.
This flows between parents and children, Storge is a familiar fondness most often associated with kinship or blood ties. It often involves an unbalanced relationship, where the flow of love is uneven. Born out of familiarity and dependency, Storge is unconditional. It is a very powerful force, and can also be generated between friends, bosses and colleagues, and owners and pets.
Philia is the love between equals who share goodwill toward each other. Ancient Greeks valued Philia over all other types of love. It is a deep friendship defined by loyalty, the sharing of feelings (good and bad), and a sense of shared sacrifice. Philia is a virtuous, intimate companionship that has the power to transform eros from lust to spiritual understanding.
Eros: sexual and erotica.
Taking its name from the Greek god of fertility, Eros is akin to our concept of romantic love. Eros is primal, powerful, and intense. It is guided by lust, pleasure, and infatuation – and it often involves a loss of control. For this reason, the Ancient Greeks didn’t necessarily think that it was always a good thing. It can be dangerous and is likely to burn out quickly unless it turns into another type of love.
Agape: unconditional, divine love.
Agape is selfless, unconditional love for the whole world and best fits the Christian belief of love your neighbour as yourself. Agape calls on you to love neighbours, strangers, everybody. Existing on the spiritual plane, it is the highest form of love – and the one in shortest supply. Empathy fuels Agape love, which is given freely without any desires, expectations, or judgment.
Often paired with Eros and associated with puppy love, Ludus is the playful affection that you feel during the early stages of a relationship. You laugh, you tease, you flirt. You also feel Ludus when you’re laughing and bantering with friends, dancing with strangers, or making eyes at someone new. Ludus makes you feel young and euphoric.
Pragma: committed, married love.
A hallmark of healthy, long-term relationships, Pragma is a deep understanding and unique harmony between two people. While Eros is about finding love, Pragma is about giving love. Patience, tolerance, and compromise are essential elements.
Philautia: self love.
You need to love and respect yourself if you are going to be able to love other people. Having pride in your work, taking care of yourself, and maintaining a loving inner dialogue are all parts of Philautia. Self-loathing people have little love to give. After all, you can’t ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ unless you love yourself first. Beware, the negative form of Philautia is narcissism. An Ancient Greek idea that we know all too well today, narcissism is defined by self-obsession, vanity, and a narrow focus on one’s personal gain.
Loving anyone is challenging
I think that all types of love are challenging and, yes, some are more challenging than others but the truth is that everyone can be annoying, everyone can be hard to love at times. Have you ever been on a long, long road trip with someone who insists on having the air-conditioning on while you are freezing? Tell me how much you love them then? Have you tried to go to the cinema with a friend only to find you cannot agree on one film to see together? Again, that tests love. What about living with someone new? At first all there little quirks are endearing but two years later how do you feel about a housemate who always leaves the taps on and never shuts the fridge?
Even your own children can be hard to love, especially when they become teenagers. A friend of mine told me that her Year 12 son blamed her because he didn’t complete his assignment. She wanted to know how she could possibly be responsible – she knew nothing about the subject (which her son normally excels in) and was interstate on a conference the week it was due. According to her son, being away from home was the problem – he lacked moral support. My friend’s advice to her son was simple, “Grow up!”
Corinithians 13: 4-8
Friends, family, children, spouses, work colleagues, neighbours and strangers can test out patience. Regardless of your faith, I like what Corinithians 13:4 to 14 says about love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
I think to love anyone – a child, spouse, friend, neighbour or relative – at times we all need to have the patience of a saint. We need to be slow to anger, kind and endlessly patient. We need to smile and laugh when we are half way to the party but have to drive back home because our partner has lost his asthma spray or wallet or jacket.
Humour can help sustain love
I think humour is essential in love of any kind. You have to laugh at the other person and yourself. You both need to embrace your imperfections. Humour can defuse tense and uncomfortable situations, but always be respectful.
Good humour is people playing with words and with each other. Keep it harmless, blameless, and don’t ever use humour as a weapon. Once you have those ground rules, it will make it easier to love other people.
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.