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On Types of Love and Their Balance in a Relationship

posted 7/23/2009 1:55:30 AM |
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The world is a big place, and life usually lasts many decades. While we're here we try to find happiness. Some of us find love, others find wealth, still others fame. A few find all of these.

As men, we have passions. I've long maintained, to the vehement chagrin of my significant other, there are many types of love, and later on in my journey learned that Greeks had likewise and had specific words designating them. Because we have no equivalent words in the English language, I will use the Greek terms.

Storge Love
Storge love describes our feeling for our parents and family.

Philio Love
Think "affection". This is the love a man has for his friend, his countryman, his brother-in-arms. "Philadelphia" - the city of brotherly love.

Erotic Love
Erotic love is the natural attraction between the sections. When we in English say "love at first sight" what we often mean is erotic feeling. This is very important to relationships, and I would suggest moreso to men than women. Men can have a relatively healthy marriage but find themselves sorely deprived of the outlet for erotic fulfillment.

This is the love one has for a fellow-member of the human family. It is this love that transcends the other three, and it is this love that is not dependent upon affection or emotion. This describes, in some measure, the compassion we have for those who can do nothing for us: for the beggar in the street, for the mentally retarded, for those radically deformed, for the weak and needy. It is this love, I suspect, to which von Goethe alluded by inference in his dictum that one's character may be judged by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

Balancing in the Context of Romance
I am struggling through weighing a proper balance of these kinds of love in a strong, lasting male-female relationship.

Erotic love is a given as an important component (though I know from firsthand experience that its scarcity can be very real and painful, and create deep fractures in a relationship).

But what about phileo love? Is it possible for a wife/girlfriend to be a buddy? Is there place for such a feeling of comradeship in a romantic relationship? I believe there is: consider sentimental attraction to a longtime wife/girlfriend, which would not be out of place in considering a long-time male friend (I speak as a straight man).

Storge love? On a technicality in a marriage, I suppose so, but I've made, as I'm sure many of you have, an effort to separate feelings for my parents from feelings toward my wife. I have not worked through its place in a marriage/long term relationship, though it is certainly present with children in the picture. In that case, there is a common, though indirect, bond between man and child, and woman and child, and by proxy common interest in maintaining that bond between mom and dad. Hence, "empty nester" syndrome among couples who expend all of their energies on children but neglect their own relationship expressed in the other three types of love.

Agape love... This is the most difficult - made moreso from the fact that we are not, by nature, very loveable. Consider: We're all chasing after our self-interests. When we're babies, we are utterly dependent, with our world no larger than what we can see a few feet in front of us. Babies may look sweet, but they are the purest expression of our own self-centeredness. If we are poorly raised and overly coddled as children, these infantile tendencies continue along with us. If we are also physically attractive, we can skate in relationships by compensating erotic love for agape, but in the end this leads too often to despair. As anecdotal proof, consider so many mile-wide, inch-deep Hollywood marriages.

I realize this is not a complete treatise, but rather just some musings on a subject important to all of us, male and female alike.

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Jul 23 @ 9:42AM  

Jul 24 @ 2:32PM  
Thanks Toad for taking the time to read!

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On Types of Love and Their Balance in a Relationship