Love comprehends the complexity of human relationship in all its forms. All of us hold feelings for others, but these feelings differ according to the people involved and the circumstances under which we interact. In the English language there is only one word to describe all of them: Love.
It wasn’t always so. The Ancient Greeks had around thirty words to describe Love in all its shades and complexities. The most easily recognizable of these forms are generally accepted to be the following seven:
Agape – the love of humanity (also known as ‘Love without desire’)
The kind of love which makes us sad when we hear of a crisis in another country (or our own); that makes us give our time or money to charity; and makes us feel connected to people we don’t know simply on the basis of our shared experience as human beings.
Storge – family love
The love a parent or grandparent has for a child, or the love a child has for a favourite aunt or uncle. Equally, the love a foster parent feels for children in his/her care. Also of course the love between siblings.
Pragma – love which endures
The love between a married couple which typically develops over a long period of time. This is the love that endures in sickness and in health and is also the love which exists between old friends (of the same or different sexes) and which causes one to care for another in later life.
Philautia – self-respect
The love we give to ourselves. This is not vanity, like narcissism, but our joy in being true to our own nature and values. It gives us the strength to care for ourselves so that we can in turn care for others.
Philia – shared experience
The love we feel for people we combine with to achieve a shared goal – our fellow workers, the players in a team or soldiers in an army.
Ludus – flirting, playful affection
The feelings we have when we play at what it might be like to be in love with someone.
Eros – romantic and erotic love
The one which is most often thought of as love but is really based on sexual attraction. It can turn into other kinds of love – like pragma – but it starts as romance.