The Many Types of Love
We couldn’t pass through Valentine’s day without thinking about the importance of love and intimacy in human health. Love, lust, attachment and attraction are basically chemical reactions mediated by neurotransmitters and hormones (1,2). These stimulate emotions and behaviours that aid survival of the species (1). When people think of love they often think of romantic love but love can encompass many different relationships. The Greeks, rather helpfully, had several words for the different types of love including:
- Eros – named after the God of fertility, Eros means sexual passion and desire.
- Philia – is the love found in deep friendships. Philia was more highly valued by the Greeks than Eros.
- Ludus – is playful love which may refer to the feelings between children, young lovers and friends with whom we have fun.
- Pragma – is mature love that may develop between long standing couples where compromise, patience and tolerance have allowed the relationship to survive and strengthen.
- Philautia – is love of the self. Two types of philautia are described. There is self obsessed love called narcissism, which is considered unhealthy. The healthy form of self love enhances your capacity to love others.
- Agape – is selfless love or unconditional love for others, extending to everyone, not just friends and family. Similarly, the concept of metta in Buddhism means universal loving kindness (3).
The message from the ancient Greeks is to not put too much emphasis on Eros. The other types of love may well be longer lasting and more nurturing. Don’t expect to get all the types of love from one person but extend your circle of love wider. Be aware that love will change, deepen and evolve as time goes on. And be heartened by the knowledge that even while single you most likely have many types of love in your life!
- 1. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Jul-Aug;20(4):558-63. The neuroendocrinology of love. Seshadri G.
- 2. CNS Spectr. 2016 Dec 29:1-5. Decreased lymphocyte dopamine transporter in romantic lovers. Marazzitti D, Baroni S, Giannaccini G et al.
- 3. Roman Krznaric, How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life.