What Are The Different Types Of Love?

Updated February 2, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The meaning of the words “I love you” can vary. When we tell one person we love them, we might mean it in an entirely different way than we would when saying those same words to someone else. Being “in love” and “feeling love” or romantic attraction are not the same thing. Is being in love vs love the same type of love? Many people struggle to give or receive love. This can be because of childhood abuse, or because their parents did not model love for them. 

Romantic Vs. Platonic Love

Love Can Be Confusing, But It Doesn’t Have To Be

An important distinction among various types of love is that of romantic love vs. platonic friendship love. Romantic love is the feelings you would have for a partner or spouse. While they may not necessarily be sexual, they are usually characterized by a physical intimacy that is not typically present in other types of love. Platonic love does not involve sexual feelings. However, there are still plenty of ways to say I love you to a friend

Friendship

We often say that we “love” our best friends, but it’s meant in an entirely different way than we would love a romantic partner. Friend love is platonic love. It’s a love that means you care for someone, they are important to you, and you are connected to them emotionally, but you do not have romantic feelings for them. 

Friendly love can also be the love experienced through camaraderie or a connection with people at work.

Familial Love

People who we are related to or who we spend a lot of time with tend to be quite close. If they are as close as your family, you may feel family love for them. This is the type of love siblings experience or the love a grandparent has for their grandchildren. You do not feel romantic feelings for these people, but you do feel a type of connection that is different from the connection with people who are simply “friends”. 

Familial love is often relaxed and comfortable. You may be more open with someone you feel familial love for because there is also a deep trust there. Familial love can be frustrating at times because you may feel familial love toward someone but also have conflict with that person.

Familial love is usually the first type of love we experience. If it is not experienced in a healthy way, it can affect how we give and receive love as we get older.

Being “In Love”

When you’re in love, you have strong feelings for someone outside your family. Romantic love is powerful and can take over your world. When you’re in love, you may think about your partner a lot and will likely want to spend a lot of time with them. You may buy them gifts, compliment them, and want to plan a future with them. When you’re in love, you might also feel a strong physical attraction toward your partner. 

The 7 Types Of Love

According to the ancient Greeks, there are seven types of recognizable love. However, to be “in love”, you must experience all seven concurrently.

Erotic Love (Eros)

This is physical and passionate love. The closest description is romantic love. Eros love is consuming and is considered connected to our life force and part of survival. Erotic love is something we do not have any control over; it controls us. It is needy, dependent, and powerful. It can be about feeling sexually attractive and sexually attracted; and it is deeply connected to lust.

Brotherly Love (Philia)

This is the love of friendship. Philia is characterized by deep friendship—one that is founded on mutual goodness and understanding. According to Plato, the best type of love is philia because it is trusting and dependable. It may transform into Eros over time but can also exist on its own. Friends who experience philia act as confidants and have a lot of insight into one other. According to the University of Utah Health, philia is an “accepting love of good friendship”.

Familiar Love (Storge)

This is a subset of philia that is exclusive to familial relations like parents, children, or siblings. When your parents say they love you, storge is at work. It can feel like a more hard-wired love compared to philia or eros. Storge is different because it is related to dependency and familiarity rather than chosen through mutual feeling. We do not choose to experience storge; it’s simply part of our relationship with that person.  

Unconditional Love (Agape)

Agape is often used to describe a person’s relationship with God, or with things they appreciate. It’s altruistic and is a sign of good mental well-being. Agape describes the happiness you feel when a song you enjoy comes on the radio or your appreciation of a particularly beautiful sunset. It is the love we feel for our surroundings, our place in the world, etc. It is unconditional love.

Playful Love (Ludus)

Ludus is about enjoying the moment. It is playful love. It can be confused for eros which is often the case with unrequited love, but it is strictly platonic like philia. Ludus is casual, fun, and can be long lasting. Ludus requires time to grow and mature; it is a continuance of philia beyond the initial friendship stage.

Practical Love (Pragma)

This is a type of romantic love where the relationship has transcended the physical need. It has moved on from the powerful urges that accompany the beginning of a relationship. Pragma is about compatibility and steadiness.  Unlike Ludus, pragma is not about fun or enjoyment, but connection alone. In pragma relationships, partners understand that there may be things they don’t like about the other but choose to ignore them in favor of the things that bring them great joy.

Self-Love (Philautia)

Self-love is something many people struggle with as it can cause hubris and a deep inner struggle. Doing things for your own benefit is a way of expressing philautia. It is connected to confidence and self-esteem, and it draws a parallel to the Buddhist tradition of self-compassion. People who struggle with philautia may have problems with addiction.

FAQs

What Is The Highest Form Of Love?

The highest form of love is said to be the Agape love of God, which is a spiritual love. It is God’s love, and it is that kind of love that is totally selfless. Agape is unconditional love. 

Is Love Hard Or Easy?

In the early stages of love, romantic partners may find it easy to love. As the relationship progresses, there are usually some ups and downs. So, love may come easy, but relationships might need a little work to keep the fire burning. 

How Do I Know If Am In Love?

You know you are in love when your feelings are influenced by the feelings of your partner. Depending on your love language, you may begin to act differently towards someone you’re in love with. For example, you might engage in physical touch or expect to receive love back from them. You feel many emotions at the thought or mention of their name. You also may not be able to stop looking at them. You may say sweet things to them. At the same time, you might not be able to explain the love you feel for them. These are telltale signs that you are in love.

Love Can Be Confusing, But It Doesn’t Have To Be

Is Love A Choice?

Love goes beyond feelings. It may begin with feelings or physical attraction, but it is a choice you have to make every day. You may not have that feeling of falling in love every day, but you can still choose to love your partner. Remember that a relationship could start off with Eros and Ludus but may end up evolving into Pragma. 

Takeaway

Love is a choice. If you desire everlasting love, you must make the choice to love someone for the rest of your life. To keep love alive, you may have to work at it. But you don’t have to do it alone. Therapists who specialize in couples counseling can help you navigate the challenges of a love relationship. 

It could be difficult to talk about an intimate relationship with a therapist in person, though. Sometimes, conflicts in these relationships bring up powerful feelings that aren’t easy to discuss. Online therapy may make it easier for couples to open up about their strong emotions, which could aid in the therapeutic process. 

Online therapy has been studied extensively, and the results are encouraging. A recent study showed that internet-based couples counseling is an effective way to manage conflict in a relationship while also removing common barriers to treatment. 

If you’re struggling to find love or experiencing problems in a current relationship, reach out to a BetterHelp counselor today. 

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