Like a rose, love comes in many varieties – and is all around you, waiting to be plucked. The ancients knew this. They wrote about it, performed plays about it and debated it. Modern life, the media, culture and outdated religious views have combined to skew what we think about love and how we experience it. We are told that one person (‘The One’) must fulfill every emotional, sexual, mental, spiritual, physical and intellectual need we have. Being aware of the different types of love can help you think about it in new and fulfilling ways, and change your experience of it.
So, what are the seven types of love?
Eros is sexual love. Whenever the word ‘sex’ is mentioned in regards to love, most people think of a fiery, passionate, can’t-keep-my-hands-off-you kind of feeling and, whilst there is that aspect to it, according to Plato, ‘divine Eros’ is that deep connection you obtain through sexual union. It is closer to Tantra, felt within the body but also the soul. It is not experienced through sexual attraction based on a conception of physical beauty (what Plato called ‘vulgar Eros’) or one night stands, or even sexual release. It is a soul connection deepened by the act of sexual union. Eros fills a sexual and spiritual need.
2. Agape (pronounced a-gop-aye)
Agape is spiritual love, based on a sense of connection to all people and/or things. This type of love sacrifices for the greater good. The ‘other’ is considered as much as the ‘self’. It is not self-deprecating or abusive, but rather, the united ‘all for one, one for all’ comradeship of the Musketeers and the ‘Metta’ (universal love) of Buddhism. Having said that, it must be noted: religion has nothing to do with agape because it is not dependent upon belief in any particular Deity or dogma in order to feel it. Agape fills a spiritual need.
3. Philia (also called Platonic)
Philia is the fondness you feel toward those you consider close friends. Sex (i.e ‘friends with benefits’) is not a feature of this type of love. At its highest incarnation, it is what the Irish call ‘Anam cara’ (soul friendship). With an Anam cara you can ‘be yourself’ and share your innermost desires, dreams and fears without judgment. Philia can develop into Eros, but it is not to be confused with the distorted sexual compulsions often found with this suffix (i.e. necrophilia, pedophilia). Philia fills an intellectual, mental and emotional need.
4. Storge (pronounced store-gay)
Storge is familial love. That innate bond or tie we feel toward family members (immediate and extended), our children, other people’s children and even pets. Most times it comes without any real effort (though sometimes it must be worked on to remain strong or develop). The level of storge bond one experiences varies, and may not be reciprocated at the same rate; different family members will elicit different experiences of a bond. There is nothing wrong with this and is normal. Furthermore, although storge is ‘familial love’, it is not a necessity to have blood family in order to feel it. Many of us have people we meet with whom we ‘click’ instantly. This is storge – an innate bond or tie – as much as anything felt by those we share blood. Storge fills an emotional and physical need (note: ‘physical’ does not mean ‘sexual’. It refers to non-sexual touch such as hugging).
As the name suggests, pragma is pragmatic love. I like you because you can offer ‘x, y, z’ to me and I can offer you ‘a, b, c’. Even though it is unromantic in nature, and based on practical, mutually beneficial, business-like considerations, it is possible to have a fulfilling, long lasting, committed romantic relationship with this type of love. However, for most people, this is where we place networking, acquaintances and business associates with we feel a connection deeper than ‘stranger’ but less than ‘friend’ (philia). Pragma fills an intellectual, mental and sometimes even emotional need.
Philautia is love of the self. Again, when you say that, people think ‘selfishness’. Philautia is not about being selfish, it is having a healthy (i.e. no egotistic or narcissistic) sense of value directed toward the self. One cannot experience any of the other types of love in a meaningful way without first having philautia. Loving yourself will help you understand what you need where the other types of love are concerned.
7. Amour courtois
Amour courtois (courtly love) is my favorite type! It is the outward expression of feelings of admiration, connection and respect for one person by another. Romance is definitely a part of this, though not in the way most people think of it (i.e. a man buys a woman roses and chocolates). In the middle ages, where the idea of courtly love originated, both people showed their feelings for the other in a tangible, visual way. For instance, knights would go off on adventures in their beloved’s name and bring her back treasures; Damsel’s would embroider pieces of their hair into handkerchiefs (there’s some ideas for Valentine’s Day!). It is not sexual (that’s Eros), but can certainly be physical. Intimate caressing, hand holding and kissing fall under this category. Numerous studies have shown that all human beings cannot thrive without positive physical contact. Therefore, amour courtois fills a physical as well as emotional need.
Now you are aware of the variety of love available to you, go out and pluck it with both hands. And remember: love more, love often, love unconditionally.
About A.K. Leigh
A.K. Leigh is an international-selling romance author, identical triplet, writing instructor, incurable romantic, love guru, self-love advocate, amateur mystic, mother, sometimes blogger and vlogger, and trauma survivor.