So, why do we focus so intently on just one?
Most of us don’t get butterflies in our stomachs when we see our parents, friends, or siblings. Though sometimes, just thinking about a significant other or someone we’re dating can evoke that sense of euphoria. So, we crave romance — sometimes to a fault and against our best interests.
Romantic love feels amazing. Without question. The sensation and even what it biologically does to our bodies is unrivaled. Because this is the case, we often get tunnel vision and focus so intently on this form of expression that we undervalue the others that are fulfilling and readily available.
To have a true friend, an adoring mother, or a compassionate neighbor is also tremendous favor. Yet, we sometimes treat those other relationships like consolation prizes to fall back on when we’re in between lovers. We can neglect people who care for us deeply as we preoccupy ourselves with men or women we desire.
The ancient Greeks had it right, valuing at least seven different forms of love so much that they assigned each its own name. Each is different — all are powerful:
Eros: Romantic Love
Eros is named after the Greek god of love and fertility. It involves passion, lust, and pleasure. It’s also where we got the term “erotica.” Cupid is modeled after Eros. This is the love that can act as a drug. We get high off of this type of love and experience deep sadness when it is tainted or taken away.
The Ancient Greeks believed Eros to be dangerous as it feeds off of our primal impulse to procreate and involves a loss of control. It stimulates romantic and sexual feelings that aren’t duplicated with other forms of love. For many, this makes it close to irresistible.
Philia: Friendly Love
The second type of love is Philia, which is authentic, intimate friendship. From Philia stems the idea of “platonic” relationships, meaning “without physical attraction.” The term was named after Greek philosopher Plato who felt that physical attraction was not a necessary element of love.
Agape: Universal Love
Agape is selfless, empathetic love. Such as the love for strangers and people whom we don’t know well. Agape love is bigger than you and me as it exhibits boundless compassion that is extended to everyone regardless of our connection to them. It is pure and sacrificial. It is perfect.
Ludus: Flirtatious Love
The Ancient Greeks thought of Ludus as a playful form of love. Think of a teenage crush or the affection demonstrated between young lovers. We were so light and free back then. Relationships were fun, and love felt easy.
Storge: Familial Love
The affection experienced among family members is Storge. This kinship-based love is protective, caring, nurturing, and unconditional. Storge is most common between parents and their children.
Pragma: Committed Love
Pragma is devoted, companionate love such as marriage and life-partnership. It is a love built on understanding, patience, and long-term investment. Pragma has matured over time — tried and tested by the challenges of life.
The Ancient Greeks understood well that to effectively care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. Philautia sets the tone as self-love is the faucet from which all other love flows.
As Aristotle said,
All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.
Love is beautiful and powerful and transformative. In every one of its magnificent forms, love is everything. Let’s appreciate the privilege it is to love and be loved in many different ways.