8 different types of love explained
There are so many questions when it comes to love. How do you know you’re in love? Why do you fall out of love? Is it possible to fall in love at first sight?
We often think of love just in terms of romance, but love between friends and family members can be thought of as types of love in their own right, and they can be just as powerful. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of different types of romantic love too.
And this isn’t anything new. In fact, ancient Greek society understood eight different concepts of love, each embodied by a different word – and they’re all still relevant today. Plus, they can help us to understand what kind of love were experiencing, especially when it comes to love with a romantic partner.
Different types of love: Greek types of love
The eight different types of love, according to the ancient Greeks, are:
- Eros (sexual passion)
- Philia (deep friendship)
- Ludus (playful love)
- Agape (love for everyone)
- Pragma (longstanding love)
- Philautia (love of the self)
- Storge (family love)
- Mania (obsessive love)
So what is each type of love and what do they all mean?
1. EROS (SEXUAL PASSION)
Eros is the word for romantic, passionate love, suitably named after the Greek god of love and desire, Eros (the equivalent of Cupid in Roman mythology).
“Eros is a fiery, intense form of love which arouses sexual and romantic feelings,” explains COSRT-accredited psychosexual and relationships therapist Cate Mackenzie.
“With eros love, people let go of their boundaries and get very physically and emotionally involved. This can be a time when people can’t get enough of being with their partner or lover,” she adds.
However, it’s for these reasons that eros was thought to be a dangerous type of love by the ancient Greeks, because of how it made people lose control.
Eros love doesn’t necessarily need to be long-lasting. “It’s a very physical form of love, and it might just last between six months to two years, depending on the relationship,” explains Cate. “For some people, this intense attraction might burn out and cause the relationship to end, or it may transform into a deeper or different type of love.”
2. PHILIA (DEEP FRIENDSHIP)
Philia represents love between friends, which can often be just as important as romantic love. “Philia can mean love between equals, love connected with the mind, and love between people who have shared hard times,” Cate explains. “This comes from the Greek philosopher Plato (hence the idea of platonic friendships),” she adds.
Plato’s idea of platonic love came from his belief that physical attraction wasn’t a necessary part of love, and anyone who’s experienced philia will know that friendship love can still be powerful.
3. LUDUS (PLAYFUL LOVE)
“Ludus is a playful and affectionate type of love,” says Cate. This might mean the love and excitement you feel when you have a crush on someone or when you’re first getting to know them.
“Ludus can mean flirting and teasing in the early stages of a relationship,” Cate explains, but it can also refer to the playful affection between friends and between children.
4. AGAPE (LOVE FOR EVERYONE)
You might have come across this one if you studied RS at school as it’s a concept in Christianity too, referring to selfless unconditional love for others and love between God and humans.
“Agape is a spiritual kind of love, involving enormous empathy. This kind of love means that we accept, forgive and trust others,” Cate explains. Plus, the concepts of charity and sacrifice within agape can be thought of as ‘the highest form of love’, particularly in Christianity.
5. PRAGMA (LONGSTANDING LOVE)
Pragma means long-lasting love. “It’s a love that has endured and matured over time, and has meaning,” says Cate.
This kind of love often involves compromises from both people in the relationship, as well as patience and tolerance – and the focus is more on staying in love, rather than just falling in love.
“Pragma is the result of action on both sides of the relationship; it involves people who make agreements and stick to them, and who put the relationship first,” Cate explains.
6. PHILAUTIA (LOVE OF THE SELF)
You might think that our modern idea of self-love is a pretty new thing, but it was actually a concept way back in the time of the ancient Greeks.
Philautia refers to self-love or self-compassion, and the Greeks thought that loving yourself meant you had a wider capacity to love others – something we could all still learn from today when it comes to self-care. In fact, Aristotle is thought to have said: “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”
However, the Greeks knew that there was a negative type of self-love too, in the form of self-obsessed narcissism. But it’s possible to healthily love yourself without being narcissistic!
7. STORGE (FAMILY LOVE)
“Storge refers to love between family members, like the love found between parents and children, between siblings, or between old friends that feel like family,” Cate explains. “It builds a feeling of safety, security, and support for one another, as well as the joy that comes from having shared memories,” she adds.
As well as the love between family members, storge can also describe a feeling of patriotism or allegiance, whether it’s to your country or even to a sports team, for example.
8. MANIA (OBSESSIVE LOVE)
“Mania can be a jealous and obsessive kind of love,” Cate explains. “It often involves feelings of codependency or the feeling that another person will heal and complete you,” she adds.
However, we would now consider these behaviours to be symptoms of an unhealthy or a toxic relationship, rather than being a positive kind of love.