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Types of Love According to the Greeks

Types of Love According to the Greeks

Updated on Sep 12, 2023

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Types of Love According to the Greeks & Understand It's Meaning

Almost all of us are looking for love in life. But very few of us realize that there are more types of love than just the romantic one that we all know about.

Because our culture is so immersed in romantic love, we have managed to neglect other types of love which are, in some cases, more stable.  

For instance, there is familial love but we do not pay much attention to it. Or self-love, the lack of which can result in many self-esteem and self-respect issues.

According to ancient Greek mythology, there are 8 types of love. Each of these loves is loosely based on classical Greek readings of Plato and Aristotle. 

Let’s take a brief look at them. 

Types of Love Infographic

The 8 Types of Love According to the Greeks
The 8 Types of Love According to the Greeks

8 Different Types of Love

Most people do not pay attention to any other love in their life except the romantic kind.

This is because most of these types of love are much more readily available than the fairy tale, romantic love that we all dream of.

However, in the long term, these loves are also more fulfilling and healing. 

Before we take a deep dive into understanding these loves, we need to understand what a love catalyst is, because every single type of love has a love catalyst.

A love catalyst is that part of you that sparks or enhances your experience with a particular type of love.

It provokes the love itself or makes you incorporate significant changes in your life or actions to enhance that type of love.

For instance, the catalyst for self love is the soul and the catalyst for affectionate love is the mind. 

Now let’s look at the different types of love. 

#1 Type of Love – Eros or Romantic Love 

Eros refers to sexual or passionate love. It is the closest equivalent to what we know in the modern world as romantic love. The name itself is derived from the Greek word erotas, which means intimate love.

According to ancient Greek myths, Eros is brought about in a person when he or she is hit by one of cupid’s arrows. In fact, the Greeks called it a type of madness.

When the arrow breaches us, we “fall” in love. Examples of this type of love in modern Greek literature include the love between Paris and Helen, which led to the downfall of Troy and the Greek army. 

Significance in the modern world:

According to modern literature, Eros is the part of our broader life force.

Several philosophers referred to it as a fundamentally blind process which is used as a tool by evolution for survival and reproduction of the species.  

Eros and Logos:

The ancient Greeks often portrayed Eros as the opposite of logos, or reason. They painted cupid find folder child to further drive home this point.

This understanding of Eros also coincides with the modern philosophy which paints romantic love as devoid of reason and logic.  

Love Catalyst: 

The physical body or your hormones drive you to seek a romantic partner. 

Recognizable traits:

  1. Strong physical and emotional connection throughout the relationship
  2. Starts with a stranger who immediately evokes excitement
  3. Physical touching, such as hugging and kissing
  4. Romantic affection
  5. Appreciating partner’s physical body

Examples of this love can be seen in movies like Pretty Woman, Working Girl, and Girl with a Pearl Earring

#2 Type of Love – Philia or Affectionate Love

Philia love or friendship refers to a shared goodwill between two people. According to Aristotle, there are three reasons why a person can have goodwill for another. They are: 

1.       The other person is pleasant to be around.  

2.       The other person is useful in some way.  

3.       The other person is good, or in other words, rational and virtuous.  

The latter reason is the most morally ethical reason for maintaining shared goodwill. Friendships that depend on the goodness of one’s heart do not only see mutual benefit. They also comprise dependability, companionship and trust. 

Significance in the modern world:

According to Plato, the best kind of friendship is between lovers who have a shared feeling of goodwill for each other.

This type of friendship is Philia that is born out of Eros. In turn, it feeds back into Eros and strengthens and develops it.

Ultimately this type of friendship transforms from the lust that makes people want to possess each other, into the higher understanding of the self, the world, and other human beings. 

Philia and Eros:

In other words, when Eros is accompanied by Philia, it turns one’s attention from lust and possession to philosophy.

Real friends encourage each other to live a true and full life. They relate to each other in an authentic way and teach each other than ever there is a limit or defect in their value systems or character. 

Love Catalyst: 

Your mind tells you which friends share your values and beliefs, which ones you can trust, etc. 

Recognizable traits:

  1. Having deep conversations with your friends
  2. Trusting them and be open with them
  3. Supporting them in difficult times and showing them gratitude
  4. Developing a deep bond that stays intact for years
  5. Genuinely wanting to see your friend succeed in every way

Examples of this love can be seen in movies like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

#3 Type of Love – Storge – Familial Love

Storge or familial love is a type of Philia that extends to the love between children and parents.

It is slightly different from Philia because when the children are young, love is unilateral, as it comes only from the parents side.

It is also known as brotherly love because it is also present between siblings. 

Significance in the modern world:

Storge is a type of love that can be best described as fondness that families have for each other because of familiarity or dependency.

In contrast with Eros and Philia, this type of love does not depend on any of our personal qualities.  

Storge, Eros, and Philia:

In the beginning stages of a romantic relationship, people expect unconditional Storge love from each other.

However, they mostly find Eros. Over time, romantic love or Eros may mature and become Philia, and if it is given enough time, it turns into Storge. 

Love Catalyst: 

Memories encourage the development of long-term bonds with people in our family. As we share more memories, the bond deepens and the love becomes stronger.

Recognizable traits:

  1. Sacrifice personal desires for the family
  2. Forgive quickly
  3. Spend time with each other
  4. Share memorable moments from childhood

Examples of this type of love can be seen in movies like The Addams Family, Yours, Mine and Ours, and Kramer vs Kramer

#4 Type of Love – Agape or Selfless Love

It is a universal type of love, but as the love, we have for nature, strangers, animals, or god. It does not depend on familiarity, like Storge.

Christian thinkers called this love charity. In the modern world, agape can be said to be a manifestation of altruism, which refers to an unselfish dedication to help other people. 

Significance in the modern world:

Research has indicated that altruism has a lot of benefits. When it comes to short term advantages, altruism leaves us feeling euphoric, which is also known as the helpers’ high.

In the long term, the act of altruism has been associated with mental as well as physical health benefits. 

Socially speaking, agape, unconditional love, or altruism – whatever the name may be, this love is responsible for building and maintaining the fabric of our society.

It helps us maintain a psychological and social consciousness for our fellow human beings that enriches our lives.

In the modern world, there is an increased sense of anger and division in the society. Agape love can help us deal with such conflicts. 

Love Catalyst: 

Your spirit allows you to understand that there is a bigger purpose to the world than just you and your desires.

It helps you understand oneness, which is the foundational stone for charity and selflessness. 

Recognizable traits:

  1. Being kind to other people
  2. Volunteering at orphanages and homeless shelters
  3. Donating to charities
  4. Developing consciousness of the results of your actions on others
  5. Doing random acts of kindness

Examples of this type of love can be seen in books like The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, and movies like Titanic, Untamed Heart, and Forrest Gump.

#5 Type of Love – Ludus or Playful Love

This is the playful or uncommitted love. It involves flirting, teasing, seducing, etc. This type of love is focused on having fun, with no strings attached.

It is the most casual and undemanding type of love. There are no complications involved and it is usually not very long-lasting. 

Ludus and Eros:

Ludus works best when the two people involved are mature and know how to handle their emotions.

If one of the parties is emotionally immature, they can mistake ludus for Eros. This is when problems start to arise. 

Love Catalyst: 

Your emotions make you feel excited, giddy, and happy when you are interested in a person and are involved with them too. 

Recognizable traits:

  1. Flirting, engaging in silly conversations
  2. Spending time together having fun
  3. Doing silly and childlike things together

Examples of this type of love can be seen in Dangerous Liaisons, Cruel Intentions, and Kids

#6 Type of Love – Pragma or Enduring Love

Pragma is a practical love which is based on rational reasons, a sense of duty, or combined long term interests of both parties.

In this type of love, the people involved are much more focused on each other’s personal qualities and compatibility that they share instead of any sexual interaction.

Common goals and a desire to make things work is much more important than any other factors. 

Significance in the modern world:

Arranged marriages are mostly focused on pragma. Although it is quite unfashionable in the modern world, because it is the polar opposite of Eros, or romantic love – the truth is that it still has quite a lot of late age in many cultures.

In fact, high profile celebrity marriages and political pairings are commonly based on pragma.  

Pragma, Eros, and Ludos:

Oftentimes, relationships that start with Eros or ludos and end up becoming a combination of Storge and pragma.

Pragma may sound like it is the opposite of ludus, but it is possible for both of them to coexist. 

Love Catalyst: 

The subconscious is the reason for the partners falling in love with each other. The feelings arise without any conscious thought, and over a long period of time. 

Recognizable traits:

  1. Showing effort to connect with your partner.
  2. Strengthening your bond by sharing difficult times together. 
  3. Finding hobbies and common interests. 
  4. Making memories with each other.

Examples of this type of love can be seen in movies like Ordinary People, Pride and Prejudice, etc. 

#7 Type of Love – Philautia or Self-Love

This type of love is referred to as self-love and it encompasses both healthy and unhealthy aspects of self-love. Here is a brief description of both:

1. Hubris

Unhealthy self love it’s also known as hubris. Ancient Greeks called people who place themselves above the guards as having hubris.

In the modern world, politicians who think of themselves above the law and the greater good of the public can be said to have hubris.  

Significance in the modern world:

Today, hubris often refers to an inflated ego. When a person is most concerned about their status, accomplishments, or abilities, and when this concern is accompanied by arrogance and haughtiness – it is known as hubris.

Since hubris is more concerned about one’s own ego, it often leads to conflicts among people who are in a relationship. When hubris is displayed by someone in a position of power, it can also lead to injustice. 

2. Self-love

When philautia is practiced in a healthy way, it is known as self-esteem and self-respect. 

Significance in the modern world:

This type of love helps us determine our own worth in terms of our abilities and drawbacks. It allows us to accept our flaws just as well as our successes.

Most importantly, it is the lens through which we think, act, and feel. It allows us to develop a healthy relationship with ourselves, others, and the rest of the world. 

People who have a healthy sense of self love do not feel the need to define themselves using their social status, accomplishments, or income.

In certain aspects, it can even be said that self love and self-respect are the opposite of hubris.  

Love Catalyst: 

For healthy levels of Philautia, the soul is the catalyst, as it allows you to figure out how to love yourself despite your flaws and problems. Ego acts as a catalyst for Hubris.

How to show self-love:

  1. Create a healthy environment for yourself
  2. Take care of your mental and physical needs
  3. Spend time with people who love you

You can read more about healthy self love and self-respect here.  

#8 Type of Love – Mania or Obsessive Love

Obsessiveness towards one’s partner, unwanted jealousy, possessiveness are a part of this type of love. It is often seen in codependent couples and people who have an imbalance in their relationship. 

Mania, Eros and Ludos:

It is believed that an imbalance of Eros and Ludos can result in Mania. When romantic and playful love becomes overbearing, it becomes obsession. 

Love Catalyst: 

When a person does not have enough self-worth and self-esteem, it triggers their survival instincts which forces them to seek value from their partner. This in turn becomes an obsession. 

Recognizable Traits:

  1. Anxiety about falling in love
  2. Expecting pain in relationships
  3. Forcing a partner to show love for you
  4. Possessiveness and jealousy

How to avoid Mania:

  1. Learn to recognize obsessive behavior
  2. Find love within yourself, not outside
  3. Trust your partner
  4. Seek therapy is things get out of hand

Examples of this type of love can be seen in movies like Fatal Attraction, Play Misty for Me, and Taxi Driver

Differences Between The Different Types of Love

Here is a brief summary of all the types of love and how they manifest:

Types of LoveMeaningLove CatalystHow to show
ErosRomantic LovePersonal infatuationBodyPhysical touchesHugging Kissing
PhiliaAffectionate LoveDevelops in long-time friendships MindShare beliefs and flaws  with friends 
StorgeFamilial LoveBetween parents and child, siblings, or childhood friendsMemoriesCall and spend timeShow gratitude 
AgapeSelfless LoveEmpathy and love for all living beingsSpiritBe kind to strangers
LudusPlayful LoveEarly stages of long-term relationshipsEmotionFlirtingLaughingSmilingLight touches
PragmaMature LoveDevelops over a long period of time between partnersSubconsciousPut effort into your relationshipShow interest in each other’s’ hobbies
PhilautiaSelf-Love when it is healthy and Hubris when it is unhealthySoulRespect, appreciate, and accept yourself, but do not tip into arrogance or haughtiness
ManiaObsessive LoveMadness over your love partnerSurvivalThis love should be avoided, not shown. 
Differences between the different types of love

What is the Best Combination of Loves for Different Relationships? 

Like a bouquet has different types of flowers that make it look beautiful, different combinations of love create a long-lasting relationship that brings happiness to the lives of the people involved.

Although there is no perfect way to combine different types of loves, there are certain combinations that can help you develop stronger relationships with the people in your life.  

1. Friendship 

Use a combination of the following to deepen friendships: 

  1. Philia – have deep conversations with your friends 
  2. Storge – develop fond memories with your friends 
  3. Philautia – invest in friendships that boost your self-respect and self-esteem 

2. Romantic relationships 

Use the following combination to connect with your significant other: 

  1. Pragma – you and your partners should work together towards common goals 
  2. Eros – make sure you set aside a certain amount of time for your partner on a regular basis 
  3. Ludus – engage in flirtatious, humorous, and exciting conversations 

3. Family

Use the following combinations to develop stronger bonds with your family members: 

  1. Storge – practice forgiveness, kindness, and unconditional love towards family members 
  2. Agape – sacrifice your personal desires and needs in favor of the family 
  3. Philia – be open to each other and trust your family 

The Color Wheel Theory of Love

This idea is based on the 8 types of loves as described by the Greeks. The color theory was given by Candian psychologist John Alan Lee

Lee says that there are three primary loves, three secondary ones, and nine tertiary loves. He described them using the color wheel used traditionally to explain primary, secondary and tertiary colors.  

  1. Primary loves: Eros, Ludus, and Storge
  2. Secondary Loves: Mania, Agape, Pragma
  3. Tertiary Loves: These are combinations of primary and secondary loves. For instance, Manic Eros, Manic Storge, Agapic Ludus, Agapic Storge, etc. 

Although Lee describes the tertiary loves in nine different ways, he did not find enough evidence to distinguish them.

Different Types of Love Languages 

Besides the ancient Greeks’ definitions of different types of love, there are also other models of describing the complex emotion of love. 

One of these is the love language model. Developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, this model describes the five love languages that couples use with each other.

Dr. Chapman is a relationship therapist and has worked with couples over decades to develop this theory. You can also check out his book, The Five Love Languages, to understand more about this concept. 

According to Dr. Chapman, every single individual expresses and receives love differently. These methods of expression fall into five different categories. Here they are:

1. Words of affirmation 

Saying I love you to each other, complementing each other, encouraging each other. Etc. fall in this category.

People who use words of affirmation as their love language may feel unloved if they don’t hear compliments and encouragement often. 

2. Acts of service 

Some people expressed their love by doing nice things for each other. This is called the acts of service love language.

It can range from cooking a delicious meal for your significant other, cleaning the house, giving them a back rub, to changing the oil of their car.

If your significant other does simple things for you without you even asking for them, this is their way of expressing love for you. 

3. Gifts 

For some people, taking out the time to find a gift for their significant other is a way of telling them that they love them.

The gifts themselves don’t necessarily have to be expensive or unique. Just the mere act of giving each other simple things can make them feel loved and valued. 

4. Spending time together 

Certain people express their love by spending quality time with their significant others. If they don’t get enough alone time with their partner, they may start feeling unloved. 

5. Physical touch 

For these individuals, physical touch is considered as an expression of love. It can be anything from hand holding, cuddling, hugging, kissing, and even sex. 

What is The Significance of Love Languages? 

Sometimes, conflicts can arise between couples because they do not identify or understand each other’s love languages.

Pointing out your preferred love language to your partner, and understanding the way they give the list of love and the way they want to receive it can be crucial for maintaining peace in your relationship. 

Moreover, couples often don’t need to speak the same love language to stay with each other. All they need to do is explain to each other what their preferred love languages are so that both the partners are on the same page.

In other words, understanding each other’s love language is essential for maintaining communication in a relationship. 

For instance, some women may complain that their partner does not say I love you regularly. But their partner may be expressing love using acts of service or physical touch.

But because they do not understand their partner’s love language, they may start feeling unloved. The expectations they have from their partner do not match up, because they fail to recognize their love language. 

This problem is easily solved. All you need to do is have a conversation with your partner regarding your preferred love languages.

Once both of you know how to give love and like to receive it, it will not be difficult to implement it in your everyday life.

To find out what your love language is, check out this video:

The Three Components of Love

According to Dr Robert Sternberg, there are three components to the triangle of love

1. Intimacy – this involves feelings of connectedness and closeness. It refers to the strength and depth of the bond between two people. 

2. Passion – this refers to feelings of physical attraction, romance, etc. 

3. Commitment – commitment is a manifestation of feelings that allow a person to remain with another for a long period of time and move towards shared goals in that person.  

The three components act alone or interact with each other to form seven kinds of love experiences: 

1. Friendship (Intimacy only)

When a person has feelings of intimacy for another, without passion or commitment in the romantic sense, it leads to friendship. Friendship is essentially the foundation of all other types of love. 

2. Infatuation (Passion only)

Then feelings of passion are present without intimacy or commitment, it leads to infatuation. Over time, infatuation can turn into deeper love, commitment and intimacy.  

3. Empty love (Commitment love)

Empty love is characterized by the presence of commitment in absence of passion or intimacy. Sometimes, a strong relationship can deteriorate into empty love.

On the other hand, the empty love of an arranged marriage can grow into a deeper form of love. 

4. Romantic love (Intimacy and Passion)

This type of love is born out of emotional bonding of people due to the presence of intimacy and physical passion.

The two people involved know intimate details about each other while also engaging in affection and sexual attraction.  

5. Companionate love (Intimacy and Commitment)

This type of love is intimate and has commitment but there is a lack of passion. It is stronger than friendship, because people are committed to each other for a long period of time.

This type of love is often found in marriages where spouses no longer have sex because of a lack of passion, but they still share deep affection and bond with each other. 

6. Fatuous love (Commitment and Passion)

When commitment and passion are present, but there is no intimacy, fatuous love is born. It is often referred to as a whirlwind romance, in which the couple commits to each other due to the passion they share, but do not have any intimacy.  

Witnessing this kind of love can often be confusing for the people who are looking on. The couple may even seem to be impulsive.

In most cases, such marriages do not work out for a very long time, and if they do, it is purely a matter of luck.  

7. Consummate love (Intimacy, Commitment, and Passion)

When all three components of love are present, consummate is formed when all three components are present. This is the ideal type of love.

The couples who experience consummate love are completely devoted to each other and cannot imagine themselves with another person.

They are truly happy with their romantic partner and they manage to overcome any hurdles or differences together. 

Different Types of Love We Have All Experienced 

Here are some more types of love that do not fit into any given category, but they’re certainly something we all felt at some point in our lives: 

1. Platonic love 

This is the simplest type of love. It is pure and friendly and we experience it at a very young age for our childhood friends and siblings. 

2. Crushes 

This is very similar to the infatuated love described above, but it is less intense than infatuation. It is usually experienced in early teenage years. 

3. Limerence 

Have you ever felt madly in love with someone, but you never wanted to express it? That’s limerence. These feelings are usually reserved experienced by young children for their teachers. 

4. Unrequited love 

This is an experience that almost everybody has had at some point. It is a dreadful feeling to love someone when you know that they will never love you back.  

5. Selfish love 

To call this love is giving love a bad name. This is mostly seen in abusive relationships. It is also known as narcissistic love because you only care about your happiness, not your partner’s.

You are even ready to sacrifice your partner’s mental health for your own convenience.  

6. Animal love 

Have you ever seen a cute puppy and felt a rush of affection? Or maybe you are a cat person? Some people feel animal love much more intensely than any type of love that they may have for the humans in their lives. 

7. Same sex love 

Have you ever felt extremely happy when you see a friend of the same sex? Or maybe a celebrity?

You are straight and you don’t feel any sexual attraction to this person, but you still feel extremely impressed by them. This type of love has a lot to do with admiration, respect, and awe.  

8. Unconditional love 

Most people in a relationship strive to experience this type of love, but very few are lucky enough.

If you care about your partner’s happiness more than your own, then it is unconditional love. It is usually seen in fairy tales and romance novels, but very rarely in real life.

Closing Thoughts

When it comes down to the bare bones, love is love. Reading theories and types of love helps us understand this complex phenomenon in a better way, and it makes it efficient for us to express and receive it.

So now that you have explored the bedazzling varieties of love humans can experience, go on and share it with the whole world!

Are you interested to know more about ‘Passionate Vs Companionate Love’ then click here?