Do you find conversations and thoughts about love are difficult?

It’s often hard to work out exactly what we think about someone, and even harder to tell them. Much of this is down to the very limited vocabulary we use when talking about love. Any word that can apply to “chocolate mousse” and “the person you’re longing to share the rest of their life with and adore with all your heart and soul” is probably going to fall short of requirement.

So it’s useful to look at what a other cultures have thought about love over the ages. The Greeks, those pioneers of almost everything great and common sense, had 5 different types:

Agape –  generally refers to a “pure”, ideal type of love rather than the physical attraction suggested by eros.

Eros – is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. Some translations list it as “love of the body”.

Philia – a dispassionate virtuous love, includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. Philia is motivated by practical reasons; one or both of the parties benefit from the relationship. Can also mean “love of the mind”.

Storge – is natural affection, like that felt by parents for offspring.

Xenia – hospitality, was an extremely important practice in ancient Greece. It was an almost ritualized friendship formed between a host and their guest, who could previously be strangers.

Another more ‘scientific’ framework for thinking about love, suggests that it’s all a combination of “Intimacy”, “Passion”, and “Commitment”, so we end up with:

  • Liking or friendship (intimacy)
  • Infatuation or limerence (passion)
  • Empty love (commitment)
  • Romantic love (intimacy+passion)
  • Companionate love (intimacy+commitment)
  • Fatuous love (passion+commitment)
  • Consummate love (intimacy+passion+commitment)

So if like me you find yourself torn by your love of someone’s mind and body, but can’t quite bring yourself to feel the commitment, it’s heartening to think of it as being Romantic Love, rather than a failed Consummate Love, allowing you to enjoy it for what it is, and not feel bad about what it isn’t.