Understanding How Love Can Differ For Different People In Your Life
You may be able to identify several groups of people in your life whom you love. You might have told friends, extended family, parents, partners, or children that you love them.
In all of your relationships, has the love been the same? Love is a complicated emotion and often differs depending on circumstances or the people it is directed toward. For example, the love you show to your kids may look more nurturing than your love for your best friend.
To accommodate such differences, the ancient Greeks studied love and had several unique words for love. Today, we may use one word for the different types of love we feel. However, there are as many as eight different Greek words for love, each referring to distinct types of relationships, levels of intimacy, and situations.
Understanding the different forms of love and how they're often expressed may give you perspective when connecting with others or expressing love in your life.
What is love?
Love is often defined by most people as a feeling of intense affection. Love may deepen the bond between friends or turn a casual romantic relationship into a long-term commitment. Love may change and evolve. On a physical level, love releases chemicals in the brain that can cause happiness and feelings of joy. Many times, recognizing that you love another person is one of life’s most memorable and impactful moments.
You may not feel "in love" with a partner as soon as you meet them, and it may not happen "at first sight." Love can be a slow process; once you fall in love, your feelings may grow or change as your relationship changes.
Love can exist between two people who are close in a romantic or sexual sense. However, it can also be felt or expressed toward family, in friendship, or oneself in a platonic way. With a broad range of applications, it can be helpful to define the varied forms of love developed by the ancient Greeks.
Types of love
When learning about the different forms of love in Greek, they may overlap in different ways. For example, you may experience both pragma and philia for your partner. Or you may feel storge for your grandmother and the best friend you've known since you were young. Below are the eight types of love and how you can practice them.
Ludus (playful love)
Often present in the early stages of a relationship, playful love, Ludus, is a non-serious type of love. It's often marked by the butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling you might get when you first feel affection for a new romantic partner or a crush.
Ludus isn't often associated with a commitment but with a flirtatious, fun type of love. Playful love can turn into a more devoted form of love over time.
If you have a new romantic interest, expressing ludus by flirting can create a low-stakes level of intimacy that you may be able to build upon.
Eros (passionate love)
Named for the Greek god of love, eros is a passionate, sexual, romantic form of love. It's often characterized by physical touch and powerful attraction and is mentioned in so many songs about love. The Greeks felt that the passion and desire that came about due to eros was dangerous, yet it's often a form of love that people seek.
As humans, we may crave a relationship with enduring love, but also one that is full of romance and sexual attraction. Eros may be a component of a sexual or lust-driven connection or romantic love. However, it may also be considered passion. If your relationship with your partner seems to need a spark, consider whether passionate love may be lacking.
Pragma (practical love)
Also called enduring love, pragma is characterized by commitment and is often present in long-term romantic relationships. Pragma is considered by many the ideal form of love between romantic partners.
You may experience pragma in a partnership with mutual support and trust. With pragma, while you may experience ludus and eros with your significant other, your relationship may not be primarily characterized by those expressions of love anymore. You might feel a deeper and more meaningful connection or desire long-term commitment.
Storge (familial love)
Imagine the bond you have with your children, parents, siblings, or chosen family. Storge can be described as the innate love you experience in relationships with those you consider part of "your group."
Storge is a familiar form of love that's often instinctual. It may be seen in a powerful connection a parent feels for their children as soon as they're born, between individuals in the family, or the intimate bond best friends have.
When you experience familiar love, storge, you may feel a strong desire to care for the other person. A reliable support system based around storge love could be a vital aspect of your life. Studies show that deep social connections with your community can improve health. Storge may be one type of love that allows you to experience this connection.
Philia (brotherly love)
Also called affectionate love, philia is often marked by deep feelings between friends or family. Philia is a platonic love that may feel as intimate as the love felt in a romantic relationship. It was considered by the Greeks to be a deep form of love because it related to people who felt that they were, in all ways, equals.
You may feel philia love for a best friend with whom you had in your life for years. You can develop and nurture such deep friendships by ensuring that mutual respect, admiration, and affection are present.
The Greeks differentiated between philautia, which they considered healthy self-love or self-compassion, and narcissism, which can be thought of as a love of oneself to the exclusion of others.
Philautia may cause healthy positivity about yourself and offer love and affection to yourself in the same way you would to someone else. You might choose to practice self-love by creating a self-care routine, tending to your mental health, or indulging in activities you enjoy.
Mania (obsessive love)
Considered an unhealthy type of love, mania may be characterized by jealousy, obsession, or possessiveness. Obsessive love, mania, may be present when one romantic partner is more attached than the other or if a couple develops a co-dependent relationship. Mania love is not to be confused with the symptoms of mania often experienced in bipolar disorder.
With this type of love, you may notice that you act differently when you're afraid of losing someone. Mania can come from a place of low self-esteem or other individual concerns, or it could mean that a healthy form of love is missing.
If you realize that there are toxic elements or potentially unhealthy expressions of love in certain relationships, consider whether you could benefit from practicing self-love (philautia) or practical love (pragma).
Agape (unconditional love)
Agape love, often called unconditional love, compassionate love, or selfless love, may feel difficult to achieve. Agape is considered a type of everlasting love in which you care for another person without the expectation of reciprocation, even in hard times. It can be a selfless and altruistic form of love that is often referred to as universal love because it can apply to everyone and everything. You may choose to express agape love by volunteering or practicing random acts of kindness to others, even strangers.
Love can be a great joy and an enriching part of life. It may help you strengthen bonds with friends, family, and romantic partners and improve your mental and physical well-being. Finding love can create impactful moments and may leave a lasting impression in our lives, However, understanding your feelings and the types of love you experience can be complex. Support is available if you need help talking through your emotions or working on your relationships.
Discuss love and relationships in therapy
Speaking to a professional may be valuable if you're struggling with relationships; if you're in love with two people, if you feel like your love life is an empty cup, or if you just want to learn more about the world of love. At times, barriers to treatment, such as cost, distance, or availability, can make it feel challenging to get support. If you relate, you might try online counseling.
Research points to online therapy as a helpful method of addressing concerns related to love and relationships. In a related story, in a recent study on the effectiveness of online therapy interventions for couples, researchers found that treatment significantly helped distressed relationships. Participants experienced improved communication and overall relationship satisfaction and decreased symptoms of individual mental health concerns.
If you're looking to understand your feelings better regarding the relationships in your life, a mental health professional can help. An online therapy platform like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples can connect you with a licensed provider who fits your needs and preferences.
What is love according to different people?
There are different types of love for different people. What love is for people tends to change with time, and one’s definition of love may be very different in the beginning than it is later. Some say it’s an indescribable force full of thrilling emotions too complex and dynamic to label, while others believe the only true type of love is unconditional love.
Because of its complexity, it isn’t uncommon for some people to feel unsure about how they would define love. To help people understand the often complex nature of love, psychologists may reference different theories of love set forth by researchers who specialize in relationships and intimacy, such as the triangular theory or attachment theory of love.
What are the seven types of love?
The "seven types of love" concept is often associated with the ancient Greek categorization of love described in some of their literature and philosophical works. These types of love were first introduced by the philosopher Plato and later expanded upon by other thinkers like Aristotle and the Roman poet Ovid. It's important to note that these categories are not universally accepted, and interpretations can vary.
The seven types of love are:
Often associated with strong feelings of passion and romance, Eros is characterized by strong physical and emotional attraction. Eros is sometimes called erotic love and is usually focused on desire, beauty, and intensity.
You may know philia as a kind of “sisterly love” or “friendship love.” It is based on mutual respect, trust, and discussed values. It's the kind of love that may exist between close family friends and family members.
Storge is a natural affectionate love often found in familial relationships between parents, children, and siblings. It's a deep, caring, and comfortable type of love often built with quality time, familiarity, and shared experiences.
Agape is often considered the highest and most selfless form of love; some say it’s one of life’s greatest joys. It's characterized by a deep and unconditional love for others, regardless of their actions or circumstances. Agape love is compassionate, giving, and often associated with universal loving-kindness.
Pragma love is practical and realistic and develops in long-term relationships. Pragma's enduring love is based on compromise, understanding, and shared goals. Pragma is sometimes called “empty love” and can be characterized by a strong commitment after passion and intimacy die.
Ludus love is playful and flirtatious. It's the kind of love associated with infatuation and the early stages of romantic relationships. Ludus love involves teasing, joking, and a lighthearted approach to romance.
Philautia is self-love. It can benefit our well-being and involves self-care, self-esteem, and balanced self-worth.
What are the four kinds of love?
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle developed the concept of the "four kinds of love" as a more condensed version of the seven types of love. It includes storge, philia, Eros, and agape.
Can you be in love with different people?
An individual can be in love with (or have romantic feelings for) different people simultaneously. In fact, a 2021 study found that one out of 6 participants had expressed interest in, and one in 15 had consensually engaged in polyamory.
Is being in love different for everyone?
Yes, the experience of being in love differs between people, and one’s understanding of love is often shaped by a considerable number of outside influences.
Why do we fall in love with different people?
Again, love is a highly personal experience, and our reasons for falling in love with different people run the gamut.
We do know that recent research on the similarity-attraction effect (the idea that we tend to like people who are like us) indicates that some of us fall in love with specific others when we believe that we share core compatibility—even if that assumption is only based on sharing one or two minor opinions.
A large body of scientific research also shows that who we find attractive and how has a lot to do with physiological changes in the brain. The sex hormones estrogen and testosterone play a dominant role in who we feel physical attraction to in the beginning (lust). When we become more comfortable in the relationship, dopamine keeps us bonded and interested—or not (attraction). Finally, when we’ve been together for an extended time, oxytocin and vasopressin provide a stable and rational foundation for long-lasting love (attachment).
Some also believe that our “love language” plays a large part in who we fall in love with.
What are the three types of true love?
According to psychological theories such as the triangular theory of love and the three-loves theory developed by Dr. Helen Fisher, the types of true love we experience within our lifetime are the first love (akin to the romantic love Eros), the intense love (attraction), and the unconditional love (attachment).
What is the ideal kind of love?
According to Robert Sternberg’s triangular love theory, the ideal kind of love is consummate love. This type of love includes intimacy, passion, and commitment—all necessary for a robust and long-lasting relationship. It’s important to note, however, that this type of love is difficult to sustain, and typically, relationships phase in and out of consummate love as time progresses.
What are the two main types of love?
Some people believe that the two main types of love consist of our intense feelings for someone, such as intimacy and passion, and the choice to continue to love when those intoxicating and thrilling emotions wax and wane.
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