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Love is a special and complicated action that is difficult to understand. Although love is associated with the heart, it actually occurs in the brain. Science and the Bible describe different types or forms of love and to understand fully about love, we have to know the different styles of love that can occur.
For the past three decades, love has been an interest to many neuroscientists, psychologists, and sociologists (Podina, Uscatescu, & Mogoase, 2014). Biologists believe love is biological and not a cultural construct, meaning all human beings have the capacity for love.
Passionate versus Companionate Love – the Science behind the Types of Love
Podina, Uscatescu, and Mogoase (2014) describe the difference between passionate love and companionate love. Passionate love is considered the transitional phase from lust to love and is therefore considered and emotional and motivational state of the longing for a union with another individual that is later desired in companionate love. Brown and Beninger (2012) also studied passionate love. They defined passionate love as an intense longing for union with another individual that involves cognitive, emotinoal, and behavioral components that occur with a romantic partner. Passionate love is thought to share similarities to those of additctions. Studies (Podina, Uscatescu, & Mogoase, 2014) have shown that passionate love produces hormones in areas of the brain that are associated with reward and the hormone euphoria, better known as endorphins, the same way as those of addictions. This produces the repetitive and obsessive thoughts about the one you love. Langeslag, van der Veen, and Fekkes (2012) conducted a study that suggests people in love are similar to patients diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in that both OCD individuals and people in love have obsessions that invade the consciousness. The difference is, OCD individuals spend their time consumed with their doubts and fears whereas people in love are constantly thinking about their significant other. The early stages of passionate love are associated with hormonal and biochemical changes in the brain. Studies (Brown & Beninger, 2012) show that both men and women whom have recently fallen in love have higher nerve growth and lower levels of neurotransmitting serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical produced by the body that maintains mood balance. Surprisingly enough, in new love, women have higher levels of testosterone whereas men have lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of follicle stimulating hormones, which is responsible for producing sperm in men.
Companionate love has been shown to produce calming feelngs, long-term attachments, emotional constancy, and passion in love (Podina, Uscatescu, & Mogoase, 2014). Companionate love, on the other hand, is associated with hormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin is often referred to as the love hormone found in the pituitary gland of the brain, which produces many hormones that control the endocrine system (the center for all hormonal production). Vasporessin is most known for its hormonal control over water retention found in the pituitary gland. However, more recent studies show that this hormone produces neurological effects impacting sexual, mating, and parenting behaviors.
It is assumed that passionate love interferes with the cognitive thought process while companionate love allocates cognitive responses in everyday activities (Podina, Uscatescu, & Mogoase, 2014). Therfore, it is believed that passionately in love individuals are irrational whereas companionately in love individuals remain rational. Other scientists (Sussman, 2010) describe these differences as mature verses immature love. In Sussman’s study (2010), he determined mature love consists of needing, giving, romance, companionship, and helps to develop an enviornment permitting mutual growth between the two individuals. On the other hand, immature love tends to create maladaptive environments involving power, possession, protection, pity, and peversion; characteristics closely associated with obsessions, uncertainty, and anxiety. Immature love permeats daily life, causes out-of-control behavior, and results in negative life consequences.
Greek Forms of Love – also found in the Bible
Although the Bible does not specifically state the terms used by the Greeks to describe the different types of love, the Greeks’ belief on the types of love is found throughout the Scriptures. The Greeks believe in 4 main types of love: Eros, Storge, Phileo, and Agape.
Eros (AIR-ose) – Eros love is romantic love, passionate and intense, that arouses all romantic feelings, and often the driving trigger that makes you fall in love. It is a sexual love. Although the Greek term, Eros, does not appear in the Bible, the Bible describes Eros love as the physical, sensual love between a husband and a wife as seen in the Old Testament book, Song of Solomon. God created man and woman to be instituted in marriage as far back as the book of Genesis in the Garden of Eden. Within marriage, sex is used as an emotional and spiritual bond between two people as well as a way to reproduce. The Apostle Paul encourages people to marry to fulfill God’s desire for Eros love: “…for it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9).
Storge (STOR—jay) – Storge love is love for your family, the bond among mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, the love a parent feels for a child, and family members feel among another. Storge love is unconditional, accepting flaws and faults, and is the driving force to forgive. It is committed, sacrificial love that makes you feel secure, comfortable, and safe. However, this is a slowly developing type of love. People with this type of relationship enjoy participating in activities together and is a long-term relationship in which sex may not be a part.
As with Eros, the Greek term Storge does not appear in the Bible, but the Bible does talk about this type of love. There are many examples of family love in the Scripture – such as the love and protection among Noah and his Wife, their sons and daughter-in-laws seen in Genesis; the love of Jacob for his sons, especially Joseph; the strong love between sisters, Martha and Mary, and their love for their brother Lazarus in the New Testament. Love for family is so crucial, it is part of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
Phileo (FILL-ee-uh) – Phileo love refers to affection, warmth, and tender platonic love. It is the love for a friend. This type of love is literally the translation for how you feel towards someone. Therefore, you can have other types of love without having phileo love (not encouraged, but possible). The Bible describes Phileo love as close friendship or brotherly love and found throughout the New Testament: “Love one another with brotherly affection…” (Romans 12:10).
Agape (uh-GAH-pay) – Agape love is an unconditional love between two individuals that goes deeper than the surface – the kind of love we all crave. Agape love is all about sacrifice, giving, and expecting nothing in return. It is demonstrated by our behaviors towards another person. It is a commitment and decision to love. It is a gentle, caring, giving love that is not concerned with one’s self. This type of love is actually very rare.
Agape love is the highest of the four loves in the Bible, described as selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional. Agape love perfectly describes the kind of Love Jesus has for His Father and for us. Jesus lived out Agape love by sacrificing Himself for the sins of the world. Jesus tells us this about Agape love: “Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by the Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them” (John 14:21).
Other Forms of Love:
J.A. Lee defines additional types of love in his book Colors of Love (1973). In addition to eros, storge, and agape love, Lee believes there is also Ludus, Pragma, Philaautia forms of love.
Ludus – Lee described Ludus love as uncommitted, game-playing love where lying is part of the game. The Greeks, although not as highly recognized, also believed in Ludus love and considered it a playful love often used to describe the affection between young lovers and children. We all experience a little Ludus love in the initial stages of a relationship with the flirting and the teasing, living out Ludus love when sitting around flirting, bantering, and laughing with friends.
Pragma – Pragma love is pragmatic, practical, and mutually beneficial in the relationship. Lee says pragma love is somewhat unromantic. The Greeks also recognized Pragma love as a longstanding love – or mature love. This is usually used to describe long-married couples and involves making compromises to help the relationship last over time. Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said we spend too much time falling in love and need to learn more on how to stay in love – and Pragma love is about staying in love, making an effort to give love rather than receive it.
Philautia – Another for of love recognized by the Greek was Philautia love, or love for the self – self-love. The Greeks recognized two types of Philautia love, one being unhealthy and associated with narcissism, becoming self-obsessed and focused on self-fame and fortune. The healthier type of Philautia love is the ability to enhance or widen our capacity to love based on the idea that we like ourselves, feeling secure in who we are thus allowing us to have plenty of love to give others.
The Take Away
The goal to a lasting relationship that is composed of true love should include all forms of love. A lasting relationship must include Agape’s unconditional commitment and the decision to love. It should include Phileo’s affection, Storge’s sacrificial love, and Eros’s romantic love. It should include a little Ludus in the early stages – because, let’s be honest, we all like to be flirted with, even when we have been married 20+ years. It should include Philautia love, because how can we love others if we do not love ourselves? Most importantly, it should include Pragma love in order to have a long-lasting relationship necessary if our love is going to survive in this world.
Here is the advice I always give couples getting married and I think ties in perfectly into today’s understanding of the types of love:
“The truth is, we are all always changing and always growing. The key to any successful relationship is to grow and change together.”
– Allison Wortham
Just for fun – here is a link for a PASSIONATE LOVE QUIZ. I found the quiz quite interesting as it rates how passionate you are about your significant other. Just interesting and fun… http://www.prenhall.com/divisions/hss/app/social/chap10_1.html
Brown, C., & Beninger, R. (2012). People newly in love are more responsive to positive feedback. Psychological Reports, 753-763.
Langeslag, S., van der Veen, F., & Fekkes, D. (2012). Blood levels of serotonin are differentially affected by romantic love in men and women. Federation of European Psychopsysiology Societies.
Podina, I., Uscatescu, L., & Mogoase, C. (2014). Are we confucing passionate love with irrationality? Putting passionate love into a cognitive-behavioral framework. Transylvanian Journal of Psychology, 49-59.
Sussman, S. (2010). Love additction: definition, etiology, treatment. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 17, 31-45. doi:10.1080/10720161003604095