Types Of Love

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated May 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The meaning of the words "I love you" can vary, but at its core, this phrase usually expresses a deep affection toward someone. There are many types of love, and people can love one another at various levels of intensity. One major difference between types of love can be romantic versus platonic love. Platonic love is generally the type of love that exists in friendships and with family members, while romantic love usually exists in romantic relationships. Meanwhile, familial love or parent-child love is a specific type of platonic love normally experienced within families.

You may have heard of the Greek God Aphrodite, who was honored as a goddess of sexual desire, everlasting love, and beauty. The ancient Greeks studied love and often spoke of seven types of love, including eros, philia, storge, agape, ludus, pragma, and philautia, which all have varying meanings.

Though they are not ancient Greek philosophers, it can be beneficial to work with a licensed therapist in person or online to gain clarity about romantic partners, sexual attraction, and self-awareness in matters of love.

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Love can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be

Romantic vs. platonic love

An important distinction between different types of love can be that of romantic love vs. platonic or friendship love. Romantic love is generally the feeling you would have toward a partner or spouse. While these feelings may not necessarily be sexual, they are usually characterized by a physical intimacy and romantic attraction that is not typically present in other types of love. Platonic love does not normally involve sexual feelings. However, there can still be plenty of ways to say I love you to a friend. Platonic relationships can still involve physical touch, affectionate love, and even passionate love, although these types of love may be more common in romantic relationships.

Different types of friendships

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

Friendly love can also be the love experienced through camaraderie or a connection with people at work. Although friendship doesn't involve romance, it can often contain memorable and impactful moments. Love for friends can also be long lasting love, as you may be more likely to move on from a partner than from a friend.

Familial relationships

We tend to have close relationships with the people we are related to or spend a lot of time with. If you consider these people to be your family members, you may feel familial love for them. This can be the type of love siblings experience or the love a grandparent has for their grandchildren. You do not normally feel romantic feelings for these people, but you may feel a type of loving connection that is different from the connection you have with friends.

Family love is often relaxed and comfortable, and many people consider this type of love one of life's greatest joys. You may be more open with someone you feel familial love for because there is usually 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 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.

Romantic relationships

When you’re in love, you may have strong feelings for someone outside your family. Romantic love can be powerful, and in the early stages, you might feel especially passionate about the person. Being 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 plan a future with them. When you’re in love, you may also feel a strong physical attraction toward your partner. Being in love is often accompanied by a mixture of intoxicating and thrilling emotions, which may be why there are so many songs about love. Over time, your feelings for this person might change and become a different kind of love. If you love for a partner, or any other person, ever becomes obsessive love, however, you may need to take a step back and work on developing a healthier type of love with that person.

Seven types of love 

According to the Ancient Greeks, there may be seven types of love. 

Passionate love (eros)

Eros is thought to be a passionate, affectionate, and physical love. Eros love is often consuming and may be connected to our life force as part of our survival needs. We may feel like we lack control under the influence of erotic love; in many instances, we may feel like its associated emotions are ruling our behavior. It can be needy, dependent, and powerful. It can be about feeling sexually attractive and sexually attracted, and it is usually deeply connected to lust.

Brotherly love (philia)

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

Familiar love (storge)

Storge can be viewed as a subset of philia that is exclusive to familial relations like parents, children, and siblings. When your parents say they love you, storge is usually at work. It can feel more like a hard-wired love compared to philia or eros. Storge may be different because it is typically related to dependency and familiarity rather than chosen through mutual feeling. We do not generally choose to experience storge; it may simply be 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 can be an altruistic, selfless, and spiritual love and is often a sign of good mental well-being. Agape may describe the happiness you feel when a song you enjoy comes on the radio or when you appreciate a particularly beautiful sunset. It may be a universal love we feel for our surroundings and our place in the world.

Playful love (ludus)

Ludus (playful love) is usually about enjoying the moment. Love ludus can be confused with eros, which is often the case with unrequited love, but it is normally strictly platonic, like philia. Ludus can be casual, fun, and long-lasting in some cases. Ludus typically requires time to grow and mature; it can be a continuance of philia beyond the initial friendship stage.

Practical love (pragma)

Practical or enduring love (pragma) can be defined as a type of romantic love where the relationship has transcended physical need. It has generally moved on from the powerful urges that usually accompany the beginning of a relationship. Pragma is normally focused on compatibility and steadiness. Unlike ludus, pragma is not necessarily about fun or enjoyment, but connection alone. In pragma relationships, partners usually understand that there may be things they don’t like about the other person, but they may choose to ignore them in favor of the things that bring them great joy. In a sense, it’s a more compassionate love.

Self-love (philautia)

Self-love can be something many people struggle with, as it can be associated with hubris and a deep inner struggle with self-worth. Doing things for your own benefit can be a way of expressing philautia. It is often connected to confidence and self-esteem, and it may draw a parallel to the Buddhist tradition of self-compassion. 

Love can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be

Therapy for love

Love can be a complicated emotion. One minute you might be feeling giddy, and the next like you’re holding an empty cup. To keep love alive, you may have to work at it, but you don’t necessarily have to do it alone. Therapists who specialize in couples therapy can help you navigate the challenges of long-term relationships. Similarly, there may also be many therapists who can help you navigate familial relationships or challenges with close family friends.

It can be difficult to discuss an intimate relationship with a therapist in person, though. Sometimes, conflicts in these relationships may bring up powerful feelings that aren’t easy to discuss. Online therapy may make it easier to open up about your strong emotions, which can aid in the therapeutic process. Plus, if you’re interested in attending therapy with a partner or family member, online therapy sessions are typically easier to schedule.

A recent study showed that internet-based couples therapy can be an effective way to manage conflict in a relationship while also removing common barriers to treatment. This study also noted that the effectiveness of online and in-person therapy is generally the same.
Takeaway
A few common types of love can include romantic love, platonic love, and familial love. These types of love usually exist in romantic relationships, friendships, and familial relationships, respectively. Meanwhile,  the ancient Greeks thought there may be seven different types of love: eros, philia, storge, agape, ludus, pragma, and philautia. If you’re experiencing challenges related to any type of love, online therapy can be a helpful tool to work through them.

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