The Different Kinds of Love

Valentine’s Day has become synonymous with love. Chocolates, flowers, candlelit dinners, grand gestures - they sound cliche, but these things make up our understanding of romance. But there is more to love than just romantic love.


The ancient Greeks identified several types of love, with sources varying the number from six to eight, primarily arising from the works of Plato and Aristotle.


Eros is passionate love, the love we see in movies and television. It is the Greek’s idea most similar to our current conception of romantic love. Eros is the love of desire, but it isn’t always good - eros is also the love that leads to madness and irrationality. Eros on its own was something to watch out for, as it could make you lose control.


Philia is the love found in friendship. Its hallmark is shared goodwill. This is the love of companionship, comfort and comraderie. Philia is developed through sharing emotions and experiences, as well as sacrifice and loyalty. The ideal romantic relationship would pair eros and philia, but philia on its own is a fulfilling and rewarding love to seek out.


Storge is a subset of philia and is the love you feel for family. It’s most commonly thought of as the love a parent has for a child, which is one-sided in its unconditionality. But storge can grow out of philia and eros.


Agape is universal love, or love for everyone. This is the love of empathy and kindness; in other languages, agape becomes charity. Agape encompasses love for others, the environment and other generalities.


Ludus is a playful love, the light and fun version of love we find in flirting, teasing and dancing. Ludus is what you feel at parties or a night out; it’s the easy affection you feel for friends and casual lovers. Ludus is at its strongest in dance, which is the perfect metaphor for the rush and free-wheeling nature of this kind of love.


Pragma is what people are referring to when they say love is a choice, not a feeling. Pragma is the long-term love that arises from compromise and compatibility. Pragma is more realistic than eros; it’s concerned with balancing shared goals and tolerance. This kind of love is found in long-time couples and can also love in the form of duty or responsibility.


Philautia is the love of the self. However, it’s not narcissism or vanity; instead, philautia should be a healthy love of the self, which in turn would help you love others. A high self-esteem, which would prevent someone from becoming reliant on worldly things like money or status, would be the goal of philautia.


The idea that love comes in more than one form can help us have better relationships with ourselves and each other. Understanding your feelings as eros or ludus can help avoid painful relationship mistakes; knowing what kind of love you are feeling will help you come to terms with your emotions. All of these types of loves tie in to and support each other; rarely do any of them stand on their own. And that’s a good thing! Experiencing multiple types of love will lead to a more fulfilling, rich inner life.


So this Valentine’s Day, don’t celebrate just romantic love. Remember the ideas of the Greeks and celebrate all kinds of love: celebrate your friends, lift up your family and show some kindness to a stranger. We’ll all be better for it.