Love is… Simply complicated.
by Neil Thrussell
As I was wondering what to write for Heart and Mind Matters this week, an incident that caused me a little discomfort flashed into my field of consciousness again.
This incident occurred while I was doing some deep, heart-felt work in a men’s group. I was being raw and vulnerable. After the exercise was done, I said to the man I was working with, “I really love how deep and vulnerable you were able to go in this process. That’s what I really love about you!”
When I spoke those words it was like I sucker-punched this man. He was unable to comprehend that another man could say those words to him. It was his experience that love was exclusively tied to romance and sexual experiences. He thought I was actually ‘hitting’ on him. In his vulnerable state he was hurt, ashamed and very angry. (To the point of almost being violent.)
His reaction to me my heartfelt comment immediately displayed to me, as a coach, that we were on completely different levels of understanding of the word ‘love’.
I would like to share my thoughts on love with you, but before I do, I’d like to start my article off with a disclaimer:
Don’t believe anything I say, ESPECIALLY about Love.
Because my experience with love is rather limited; I have only been married to the same woman for 35.5 years.
I don’t know what it is like to love a child born from the fruit of my loins.
I don’t know what it’s like to love a person in a same-sex relationship.
Don’t know what its like to love another man’s children.
Or to learn to love a second, or even third, wife.
BUT if you will indulge me, I can share with you my own personal experiences about love and the lessons I have learned along the way.
What is love?
The Oxford dictionary definition of love is pretty lame:
An intense feeling of deep affection.
That hardly describes what love can do to our development and well being! (As displayed by the man in the men’s group I participated in.)
For love, many people have gone to war, killed others, lied and cheated. In many cases, some people have sold their souls just to feel loved. We crave love, we need it and we have a fundamental desire to be loved… yet the Oxford dictionary describes Love as merely
An intense feeling of deep affection.
That’s really not a great definition in my mind. The ancient Greeks really dug into the heart of love. They came up with 8 types of love. Yes, 8 types of love.
1. “EROS” OR EROTIC LOVE
The first kind of love is Eros, which is named after the Greek god of love and fertility. Eros represents the idea of sexual passion and desire.
Eros is a primal and powerful fire that burns out quickly. It needs its flame to be fanned through one of the deeper forms of love (described below) as it is centered on the selfish aspects of love, that is, personal infatuation and physical pleasure.
Love Catalyst: The physical body
2. “PHILIA” OR AFFECTIONATE LOVE
The second type of love is philia, or friendship. The ancient Greeks valued philia far above eros because it was considered a love between equals.
Love Catalyst: The mind
3. “STORGE” OR FAMILIAR LOVE
Although storge closely resembles philia in that it is a love without physical attraction, storge is primarily to do with kinship and familiarity. Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and their children, and children for their parents.
Love Catalyst: Causal (Memories)
4. “LUDUS” OR PLAYFUL LOVE
Although ludus has a bit of the erotic eros in it, it is much more than that. The Greeks thought of ludus as a playful form of love, for example, the affection between young lovers.
Ludus is that feeling we have when we go through the early stages of falling in love with someone, e.g. the fluttering heart, flirting, teasing, and feelings of euphoria.
Love Catalyst: Astral (Emotion)
5. “MANIA” OR OBSESSIVE LOVE
Mania love is a type of love that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is an imbalance between eros and ludus.
Love Catalyst: Survival instinct
6. “PHILAUTIA” OR SELF LOVE
The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not the unhealthy vanity and self-obsession that is focused on personal fame, gain and fortune as is the case with Narcissism.
Love Catalyst: Soul
7. “AGAPE” OR SELFLESS LOVE
The highest and most radical type of love according to the Greeks is agape, or selfless unconditional love.
This type of love is not the sentimental outpouring that often passes as love in our society. It has nothing to do with the condition-based type of love that our sex-obsessed culture tries to pass as love.
Agape is what some call spiritual love. It is an unconditional love, bigger than ourselves, a boundless compassion, an infinite empathy. It is what the Buddhists describe as “mettā” or “universal loving kindness.” It is the purest form of love that is free from desires and expectations, and loves regardless of the flaws and shortcomings of others.
Agape is the love that is felt for that which we intuitively know as the divine truth: the love that accepts, forgives and believes for our greater good.
Love Catalyst: Spirit
8. “PRAGMA” OR ENDURING LOVE
Pragma is a love that has aged, matured, and developed over time. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended the casual, and it is a unique harmony that has formed over time.
You can find pragma in married couples who’ve been together for a long time, or in friendships that have endured for decades.
Unfortunately, pragma is a type of love that is not easily found.
Love Catalyst: Etheric (Unconscious)
Pragma love is what most people seek to experience, yet it is the most elusive.
Because, in my observation, it takes the MOST work!
Love has many of the same developmental milestones as a child.
When love is first birthed, we are fully attentive to the wants and needs of the relationship.
Then much like a child, a relationship goes into the terrible two phase. We start to challenge boundaries and change the way we express ourselves. The honeymoon phase is over!
Then if the relationship continues, all is well for many years. Then like a child going through puberty, the relationship goes through chaos around 10 to 13 years when one or both of the partners question who or how they are as a couple.
If the relationship survives that chaos and continues, the relationship takes on new meaning and is re-invigorated.
Then like a child, relationships hit the college years. Questions like, “who am I?” and “what is the meaning of life?” arise. If the relationship is not in PRAGMA phase, this spells the end of many long-term relationships!
This is when many women file for divorce.
Yes, I used romantic love as the example, but all forms of relationship that involve you loving another goes through similar phases.
To help you ride through the tumultuous phases of your relationships, I recommend you learn both your love language (Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love languages” is an amazing resource) as well as your partner’s, your children’s and your friend’s love language.
Keep your relationships fresh.
Put energy towards your relationships.