What Are The Different Types Of Love?
Updated September 04, 2018
The words "I love you" can be said to many people, and the meaning varies widely. When we tell someone we love them we might mean it in an entirely different way than we would tell someone else those same words. Being "in love" and "feeling love" is not the same thing. Many people struggle to define love. This can be because of childhood abuse, or because their parents did not show love in the normal way. It can also have to do with the person you love; we're all guilty of sending mixed feelings which is why some people may not be sure that what they're experiencing is the "right" kind of love for that person.
Romantic Vs. Platonic Love
The biggest difference between types of love is that of romantic love vs. platonic love. Romantic love is the feelings you would have for a partner or spouse. While they may not necessarily be sexual, there is a sexual element to them and a physical intimacy that is not usually present in any other type of love. Platonic love does not have sexual feelings. With sexuality being a very open subject these days many people are comfortable having "friends with benefits" situations which can blur this line.
The addition of physical intimacy to platonic feelings does not mean love, it simply means that you continue to have a friendship but scratch a physical itch with that friend rather than using a romantic partner. There could be many reasons why, but it will never progress into romantic love.
We often say that we "love" our 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. Depending on the type of friendship you have you may be physical with each other (hugs, cheek kisses, etc.) but most instances are fully clothed or on areas of the body which do not have a sexual connection.
Friendly love can also be the love experienced with camaraderie or a connection through people at work. This might not be "love" but a shared connection that could blossom into friendship love if it was continued over time.
People who we are related to or who we spend a lot of time with tend to be quite close. If they are close as your family, you may feel familial love for them. This type of love is very strong and protective. You do not feel romantic feelings for these people, but you do feel a type of connection that is different than people who are simply "friends." Familial love is very relaxed and comfortable; you may be more open with someone you feel familial love for because there is also a deep amount of trust there. Familial love can be frustrating at times because you may feel familial love but have bad experiences with that person which can make it conflicting.
Familial love is the first type of love we experience and if it is not 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. Romantic love is powerful and can take over your world. It's quiet, understanding, caring, protective, and many other adjectives. When you're in love, you think about your partner a lot and will also spend time with them. You may buy them little gifts, compliment them, and want to plan a future with them. When you're in love, you'll also feel strong physical urges towards them. Biologically, romantic love is designed to create a bond that eventually leads to children through the physical act of love.
The physical act of love is biologically hard-wired into us. We are designed for procreation and to mate and produce children. There are many physical expressions of love, but sex is by far the culmination of these. While it is possible to have sex without having feelings for the person that does not love when you love someone sex becomes more about connection than about physical urges.
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.
This is physical love. It is passionate, and the closest description is romantic love. Eros or Cupid was a god of love who was blindfolded to indicate that "love is blind." Eros love is consuming and is considered connected to our life force and part of survival. Eros love is something we do not have any control over; it controls us. It is needy, dependent, controlling, and powerful. Eros is also deeply connected to lust because of this.
This is the love of friendship. Philia is friendship 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 about each other.
This is a subset of philia which is only for familial relations like parents, children, or siblings. Storage 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.
This is an ambiguous love and relates more to enjoyment than an actual bond. 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 health. 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. and is a very zen or sage feeling.
Ludus is about enjoying the moment. It can be confused for eros which is often the case of unrequited love, but it is strictly platonic like philia. Ludus is casual, fun, and can be long lasting like in the case of close friendships. It is a shared experience without the pressure of eros or the physical urges that accompany it. Ludus requires time to grow and mature, it is a following on of philia beyond the initial friendship stage.
This is a type of romantic love where the relationship has transcended the physical need and moved on from the powerful urges that accompany the beginning of a relationship. Pragma is about compatibility and steadiness. It is about shared interests and compatibility that often blooms out of arranged marriages where eros doesn't exist. Unlike Ludus, pragma is not about fun or enjoyment but connection alone. In pragma relationships, partners understand that there are things they don't like about the other but choose to ignore them in favor of the things they do enjoy.
This is self-love. It's something most people struggle with as it can cause hubris and it can also cause deep inner struggle. It is connected to confidence, self-esteem, and people who struggle with philautia tend to have problems with addictions.
It's easy to see how many different types of love interact with each other, in fact, many of them are required together to experience the full emotions of romantic love, platonic love, etc. As our connection to that love grows, it also changes. As long as you're happy it's not important to define your love but it is a good thing to set boundaries.
If you're struggling to define the feelings you have, then you may be dealing with an emotional disorder. Not everyone expresses their feelings easily and since some types of love require that your partner feel the same way it is stressful having to guess what your connection is. The best way to get over this is to ask them, but what if they give you the "wrong" answer?
If your love is unrequited, it can be just as heartbreaking as losing someone you have been in love with. It's important if you're struggling with your feelings or unrequited love that you seek help. While most people work through their feelings, sometimes it can be so overwhelming that it seems impossible. This is when therapy can help. Specialists like those at BetterHelp can talk you through coping methods or what it is that's making you hang on to a relationship that is unhealthy. While you can't make someone love you, it is possible to work on your feelings.
A specialist may not be necessary, but if you're in a relationship with someone and you're struggling it may be time for counseling. Counselors can help you both find healthier ways to express your feelings and work through your issues concerning love as a couple.