What’s Love Got To Do With It?.
All You Need Is Love.
Crazy Little Thing Called Love.
I Love Rock N Roll.
The Power Of Love.
I’ll Make Love To You.
You Can’t Hurry Love.
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.
I Love You, Always Forever.
Stop! In The Name Of Love.
Throughout time, “love” has been talked about a lot. Sung about a lot. Written about. Agonized over. Sacrificed for.
But what what is love? I mean, really?
L — O — V — E
Such a tiny word for such an enormous concept.
There’s many different kinds of love. Love for your spouse. Love for your children. Love for humanity. Self-love. Passionate love. Deep friendship love.
It’s a shame that we lump all the different kinds of love into the same word, obfuscating the differences between, and the beauties of, each kind of love that one is likely to feel in their lifetimes.
It’s also a shame that when most people think of “love” in the context of modern-day marriage, they assume that the love they have for each other will always be the same love. Almost everyone who enters into marriage does so under the guise of “being in love”, but I have a shocker for you:
The kind of love that you get married for is not the same kind of love that you’ll end up staying married for.
The love that you got married for will cease at some point — only to, if you let it, be replaced with a different, and better, kind of love which is necessary to sustain your marriage for the long term.
If you expect to always have the same kind of love for your spouse throughout the years…you may not have as many years of marriage ahead of you as you expect.
Sorry to be so harsh. But not enough people are speaking publicly about the cold, hard truth about love and marriage, and it needs to be said.
There’s more than one kind of love. And understanding the differences between and the changes love evolves through (and SHOULD evolve though) will hopefully help us more fully understand ourselves and our feelings toward others.
Though the ancient Greeks certainly weren’t the only people to try to understand and define the different kinds of “love”, their definitions below give a wide and thorough comprehension of the kinds of love you may experience throughout your marriage.
Storge is a basic, natural love. Often called “familial” love, it is a general, all-encompassing love. It refers to the love one feels for their parents, siblings, and children, as well as some friendships and spouses. You can think of storge love as an ‘attachment’ type of love. If you feel attached to someone, and have a good amount of care for their well-being, then you are probably feeling storge love. You can feel storge love for someone even if you don’t particularly like them at the moment.
In marriage: Though storge love is not usually the first kind of love people think of when they think of marriage love, storge love still plays a big part in marriage relationships. Relationships that originally started off as friendships are based in storge love. Couples that have been together for a significant amount of time and developed an attachment to each other also feel storge love. During the hard times of marriage, storge love can be a glue that holds a couple together even when they aren’t feeling other types of love toward each other.
Storge love = natural love, familial love, based on attachment. Can hold spouses together when nothing else does.
Phila is considered friendship love. Whereas storge love is based on attachment, philia love is based on companionship. People experience philia love for each other when they like each other, and like hanging out with each other, and find some goodness out of their friendship with each other. Philia is a loyal love, the kind of love shared between ‘brothers in arms’, teammates, and deep friendships.
In marriage: When people say that they married their “best friend”, their relationship is typically based in philia love. Most people assume that philia love is a necessary component of a successful marriage, but it’s ok for spouses’ philia love for each other to wax and wane over the years. It is considered normal, and even encouraged, to have deep philia relationships with people outside just your spouse. While philia love can help sustain marriages during the hard times, it is not a necessarily a requirement at all times for a successful marriage either.
Philia love = friendship love, brotherly love, based on companionship. Helpful in marriage, but not constantly required.
Ludus is the playful love of infatuation. All the cutesy instagram photos of couples making silly faces and posing in matching outfits together? That’s ludus love. The adorable and sickly sweet love that you both hate and secretly desire. This is (unfortunately) the kind of love that most people assume that all relationships are supposed to have in perpetuity. While ludus is an immature kind of love, it can often develop to deeper and more significant kinds of love.
In marriage: Ludus love is abundant in early marriage and is practically synonymous with the newlywed stage. While it’s natural for ludus love to fade as time goes on in a marriage, it can often pick back up again later as a relationship matures and settles into a more trusting and comfortable connection with each other. Because ludus love is usually the most showy kind of love, it’s unfortunately what many people associate with as “love” and when it fades, many people incorrectly assume their love has failed. However, it is normal and expected within marriage for ludus love to fade and evolve into a deeper, and more mature, love.
Ludus love = playful and showy love, infatuation, flirting. Expected to fade in marriage, but can eventually re-emerge.
Eros is the passionate sexual desire kind of love. Though ludus love might be the most showy kind of love, eros is the what most people think of when they think of romantic love. Eros love is powerful, passionate, and often feels involuntary and primal. It’s what we think of when we think of ‘love at first sight’. In one sense, eros love is evolutionary driven and fuels our desire to reproduce – while on the other hand, when left unbridled, eros love can torment our mental state and cause irrational behavior.
In marriage: Sex is important in marriage and brings a couple closer together both physically and psychologically. No one will disagree with this. But it’s not the only thing, nor even the most important thing, needed to sustain a marriage for the long run. The healthy sort of eros love keeps intimacy and passion alive for each other, typically helping to develop an even deeper emotional bond with each other.
Eros love = passionate, lustful, romantic love. Often a stimulus to long-term relationships, but can be volatile & marriage should not be based entirely on.
Philautia love is self-love, which can comprise both the positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, philautia love creates self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, even self-compassion. The negatives of philautia can be pride, hubris, abusive tendencies and narcissism. The way we love and care for ourselves is often displayed through how we love and care for others.
In marriage: Though not as commonly thought of when it comes to marriage love, philautia love has the capacity to make to break a relationship. Philautia love, like eros love, must be kept in a healthy balance: too much or too little will tear down the partnership of marriage. This is not to say that an unhealthy philautia level means automatic destruction of a marriage, but rather that it is important to first and foremost to work on ourselves if we want to improve a marriage relationship. (for more on this, see my posts When Marriage Is Hard and/or How Emotional Abuse Starts In Marriage)
Philautia love = self-love, both positive & negative. Can make or break a marriage; how we care about ourselves is displayed through how we care for others, including our spouse.
Pragma is a long-standing, enduring love. This is the kind of love most people imagine when they see elderly couples walking hand-in-hand. A weathered love, but the deepest and strongest love. This is the kind of love most hope to achieve in their marriages, but fewer have the endurance to put forth the necessary effort and commitment in order to obtain it.
In marriage: The hard-fought and hard-earned pragma love can take a decade or more to achieve. It can be found in couples that have reached a place not of continual harmony (they still fight, have disagreements, and are annoyed by each other), but a place of acceptance, compromise, patience, and trust in the strength of their relationship to endure whatever may come. Pragma love is a mature love, typically occurring only after overcoming significant “breaking point” challenges in a marriage and after a couple’s other kinds of love for each have faded away and been re-defined.
Pragma love = long-standing, enduring love. Usually achieved only after overcoming significant marriage challenges and/or the loss of the more immature kinds of love.
You often hear about people who, in deciding to separate from their spouse, claim that ‘they don’t “love” each other anymore’ as though this is a valid excuse to give up on a marriage. The problem with this thinking is that ALL marriages do (and SHOULD) go through stages where the kind of love they feel for each other changes. No one should enter into marriage thinking that they will only ever experience one or two kinds of love for their spouse…or that those particular kinds of love will remain constant.
- You will likely go through a stage in your marriage where your EROS love wanes, but LUDUS love increases.
- Or where you feel more PHILIA love for your friends than your spouse, but your STORGE love for your spouse still keeps you together.
- Or you or your spouse’s PHILAUTIA love may hit a rough patch and you treat each other meanly, but yet your PHILIA love allows you to see the other as a person of goodness still.
Marriages are not expected to love in all ways at all times.
Some days are for the fun of LUDUS.
Some for the passion of EROS.
Some days require the companionship of PHILIA,
Or the the comfort of STORGE.
Some days are spent focused on maintaining a healthy PHILAUTIA.
All while on the journey of obtaining PRAGMA love.
Different kinds of love ebb and flow over the years. You often only need one or two kinds of love at a time in order to get through different stages of marriage. The fading away of one kind of love does not mean a loss of ALL love…it just gives way to developing a different kind of love.
If you feel as though you no longer love your spouse – I encourage you to take a look at the 6 kinds of love above. Most likely, you DO still love your spouse in one way or another, and I encourage you to find strength in that kind of love as you transition into new kinds of loving.