When we think of the word love, typically we picture romantic relationships. But there are actually all different types of love—eight, in fact—that designate the different feelings of compassion and affection people have for one another. From romantic love to self love to familial love, love is not just one set feeling but a spectrum of many varieties.
The ancient Greeks are credited with typifying love into different forms, giving us a better understanding of the emotions we feel for other people. Here’s what you should know about the different types of love.
What Are the 8 Types of Love?
The Greeks thought that one word for love wasn’t enough to describe the different varieties of affection people can feel. So they used eight specific greek words to better delineate the various relationships people can have with one another. (The ancient Greece era was marked by philosophical conversations and creations on a variety of topics that are still useful to us today.)
There are the 8 types of love they created:
The Greek word Ludus, playful love, is defined as an affectionate love built on flirting and physical touch. While ludus love can develop into a romantic relationship, this particular stage is an uncommitted love that’s more just for fun than anything else. If you feel a playful, physical love for someone else, that’s ludus.
Sexual love (Eros)
Also known as eros love, named after the greek god, this type of love is marked by sexual attraction when you’re around that person or even just thinking of them.
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Typically, this passionate love happens in the early stages of a relationship when there’s heightened sexual desire and tension. It’s normal for this euphoric feeling to wane as the relationship progresses into a more enduring love.
Enduring love (Pragma)
Speaking of enduring love: The next type of love comes from the ancient Greek word pragma, which means practical love. This is the love of deeply committed or married couples who decide to become partners for life. While a relationship may begin with passionate love (eros), if it continues it will likely progress into an everlasting love that may feel less exciting and more comfortable. As you age with your romantic partner, you may not feel those butterflies as strongly as you did before, but you will feel a deep, satisfying sense of contentment.
Friendship love (Philia)
Philia is defined as the affectionate love of deep friendship. In modern times, we might call it brotherly love or platonic love. The love people have for their friends is important, as the ancient Greeks so clearly saw, as it brings something different to our lives than romantic love. Friends provide laughter and fun but also strength and comfort. These relationships can be just as strong as romantic love, andbring just as much sadness if they end.
Familial love (Storge)
Family love, called storge by the Greeks, is the affection people have for their family members. This can be a complicated love for some people, since we don’t get to choose those within our family and there’s a high chance for conflict among people living under the same roof—and sharing the same DNA.
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Still, familial love is an enduring love that can shift and change throughout our lives as we grow from children to adults. Even those with fraught relationships with their families can still experience this type of love.
Obsessive love (Mania)
Mania—obsessive love—is when physical attraction and passion turns into an unhealthy obsession. Perhaps the love is one-sided with one person pining for another even though there is no mutual interest. Perhaps there’s sexual passion between two people but their relationship is toxic in some way. There could be extreme highs and lows marked by times of happiness followed by periods of conflict or even abuse. Typically, these kinds of manic relationships are not good for people’s mental or physical health. Sometimes, people in these relationships can also lack the self awareness needed to get out of these situations.
Universal love (Agape)
Agape love is the unconditional love that people might feel toward all human beings and the world in general. This selfless love is marked by empathy, compassion and peacefulness. Like divine love or spiritual love, this type of love operates on a higher frequency than the love we might feel toward another person.
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With universal love, you might feel a sense of oneness and connection to all beings. In this way, love is the doorway to eternal life. It’s a selfless love that doesn’t require reciprocity.
Self love (Philautia)
Finally, the last type of love is philautia, self love. The Greeks thought that achieving high self esteem was a means toward a happier life. Being secure in one’s self and harnessing one’s self compassion allows for true joy and more fulfilling relationships with others. The idea that you need to love yourself to fully accept love from other people is an enduring idea, not just a platitude that’s popular in our modern world.
What Type of Love Is Best?
To lead a balanced life, people should seek out all different types of love relationships (steering clear of unhealthy, manic love, of course). Romantic love feeds the soul’s need for partnership and sexual compantionship. Familial love is comforting and grounding when you feel close with those in your family or origin.
Friendships add new perspectives, joy and community to our daily lives. For those also in romantic relationships, friendships diversify our emotional support, ensuring that we don’t develop unrealistic expectations around our partners being everything to us all at once.
Self love enables us to stand firmly rooted in ourselves and live from a place of self compassion. With self love, we can believe in ourselves, trust our intuition and know that we are deserving of good things.
Finally, universal love allows us to see farther than our own lives and embrace the oneness of being human. It reminds us that people are more similar than we are different, allowing us to come together to support one another and our common goals.
All types of love require commitment. Each day, we must commit to ourselves, our partners, our family members, friends and community to show up with an open heart. Nurturing these relationships allows them to thrive, which keeps our lives feeling rich and meaningful. Love truly does keep us going, both in hard times and in happy times.
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