Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Types of Love in a “Good” Romantic Adult Loving Relationship

According to wikipedia.org, Love is a feeling of embarrassment and sexual experience related to a sense of strong loyalty or profound oneness.[1] The meaning of love varies relative to context. Romantic love is seen as an ineffable feeling of intense attraction shared in passionate or intimate attraction and intimate interpersonal and sexual relationships.[2] Though often linked to personal relations, love is often given a broader signification, a love of humanity, of nature, with life itself, or a oneness with the Universe, a universal love. Love can also be construed as sexual love,[3] religious love,[4] familial love, and, more casually, great affection for anything considered strongly pleasurable, desirable, or preferred, to include activities and foods.

As I have mentioned a few times in recent Posts, I currently am writing a self-help book tentatively titled Your Adult Loving Relationships with a good friend and colleague Dr. Bill Lambos. Yesterday, we concluded writing the final first draft of Chapter 16, titled, “Loving.” At the beginning of the chapter, we talk about the concept of love. (And, interestingly, in Chapter 17 we talk about “Loving” – the behavior of love.) Here are a few selected and abridged parts of the beginning section of Chapter 16 on the concept of love:

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Creative artists such as poets, playwrights, novelists, musicians and screenwriters have tangled with the nature of “love” for thousands of years. More recently, psychologists have studied the issue from a scientific perspective. To get a sense for how the subject has been approached, let’s first look to philosophers, in particular the ancient Greeks such as Plato, who described three different types of what today continues to be called “love” – Eros (ρως – érōs), Agape (γάπη – agápē) and Philia (φιλία – philía) – to refer to three different types of love.

Eros originally meant passionate love, with sensual desire and longing, and indeed, the Modern Greek word “erotas” means “(romantic) love.” Today, despite the lingering connotations of words such as erotica, eros is more commonly used to refer to love based on respect and admiration, and in particular self-love and self-respect.

Agape was defined in contrast with Plato’s eros. The term s'agapo means “I love you” in Modern Greek, and today we use agape to refer to a passionate and desirous love, with sensual feelings and longing for a specific other person.

Finally, Philia (or Philio) means “friendship” in Modern Greek, a dispassionate virtuous love, and was a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philia denoted a general type of love, and was used for the love between family, between friends, and a desire or enjoyment of an activity. Thus philosophy is a love of logic and analysis, and philanthropy is a love of one’s fellow human being, as expressed by donating money to worthy causes which benefit many other people rather than a specific individual.

My colleague, Dr. Lambos, and I are convinced that healthy, balanced adult loving relationships include all three types of love – eros, philio and agape. Having the insight, the understanding and the skills for demonstrating all three of these types of love, nonetheless, is very important for two individuals in an adult loving relationship to have. As Alan, one of our former clients said about his wife, “I can feel agape love for Myra with all of my body and all of my soul. But if she does not feel loved that way by me, then it might as well not even exist and wouldn’t matter anyway.”

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Please try to remember this pearl of wisdom regarding eros, philio and agape kinds of love: In a “good” romantic, adult loving relationship, both partners communicate and demonstrate these three types of love to each other AND both partners feel these three kinds of love from each other.

Question: Regarding this above pearl of wisdom, what has been your experience?



Anonymous said...

I think all three are necessary for a successful relationship. I am sure there are many people out there who are in relationships in which only one or two types of love are exhibited. But they are just cheating themselves and their partners. I look at it like a table - with three legs it is strong and will stand the test of time but with only one or two legs it will most certainly fall. Interesting topic!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi there Maconole,
Glad to see you (it’s been a while). Thanks for your kind and gracious comment – yes, it is an interesting topic. Thanks also for the table analogy – I’ll use it in my lectures. I also may add that two people could sit at and eat at a two-legged table, but they would have to constantly be attending to keeping the table up and not enjoying it (and, as you say, eventually they would get tired of working so hard at it and quit, and then the table would fall).
Thanks for making me think!
‘til next time,

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Hey - that's a great image: the couple at the table, each one holding up a two-legged balancing act. I think many relationships go along in that vein, and when a deeper love emerges, the table grows the third tripod leg.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Julia,
Thanks for the kind and gracious Comment regarding Maconole’s table analogy. And you added a fascinating developmental twist to it – starting out with the eros and philio and then the agape developing/emerging as the relationship strengthens. Yes, indeed fascinating.
Thanks again – truly a creative addition to the image!