photo by Youngjun-Koo for

photo by Youngjun-Koo for

Lots of people talk about love, sing about love and write about love, but haven’t you ever wondered: what exactly is “love” anyway?

I recently went to a workshop where many different aspects of love were addressed and we, the participants, were encouraged to examine how these different aspects of love appear (or don’t) in our lives.

Excited by this, I sat down and wrote about the 8 kinds of love that I think are the most interesting and how they enrich or impoverish our lives. Most of these names are from the original Greek words, so they may not be familiar to you.

Phllalautia – This is self-love, how we feel about ourselves. In the Greek definition, it has 2 sides: narcissism and self-respect. I think narcissism is often misunderstood. It can mean thinking that you’re so much smarter, better, more beautiful than everyone else (which will inevitably lead you into trouble) or it can mean that you do think you’re smart, beautiful and talented…but then, so is everyone else! See the difference?

Storge – This word is pronounced “stor-gay” (nice, isn’t it?) This kind of love is parental, mentoring love. It has a protective vibe. I feel this when I see a young LGBT couple eating at a restaurant, holding hands, and some homophobic guy at the next table glares disapprovingly at their expressions of love. I feel very protective of the young couple: this is the essence of storge.

Pragma – This word describes a deep, long-lasting, committed love, the kind you see in the best kinds of long-term relationships. It’s not easy to achieve, but there is a depth here that helps us get through the disagreements and disappointments that any long-lasting loving relationship is bound to experience.

Platonic – You may think you know what this means, but I was told that it means loving the beauty inside people, not their external presentation. This has an interesting implication for friendship: do you love your friends because of their inner beauty (kindness, sensitivity) or must someone be physical beautiful to be your friend?

Eros – This is sexual, passionate love, often manifested in the physical. This may be the kind of love you are most familiar with. If so, you might explore the others a bit more. On the other hand, if you have little eros in your life, you probably feel pretty low-energy. Eros – in healthy moderation – recharges our batteries.

Ludus – This is a word that was new to me. I was told it is a playful, flirting, teasing love. Perhaps ludus leads to eros (or vice-versa). Ludus can also relate to playing games and sports, giving another aspect to the playful quality. Ludus has a lightness to it, youthful energy. If you find yourself not very light or playful, a little ludus might be just the thing for you.

Epithumia – I wasn’t familiar with this term. I was told it is a kind of obsessive desire where you find yourself saying things like: “You are my life; I can’t live without you” to someone you allegedly “love”. Let’s be clear: obsession is not love. Obsession is a very unhealthy form of insecure self-centeredness, where other people exist only to make you happy.

The above 7 kinds of love were discussed at the workshop I went to, but I’d like to add one more:

Agape – This is unconditional love, for example: how we are told God loves us mortal humans. Regardless of whether you believe in God or not, agape is something we can all strive for in our loving relationships. To love with agape means we forgive easily and understand that everyone we love will screw things up at some point. Will we still love them? Can we easily forgive them their humanness?

After reading through the list of these 8 types of love, I suggest you try this exercise:

Look at each kind of love and ask yourself:

1.   Do I have this in my life?
2.   Do I want more of it or less of it?
3.   How could I make that happen?

Have fun with it. Experiment with it. Why not have an entire week/month/year full of many kinds of enriching, enlivening love?