The forms of love

Love is not equal to love – we quickly realize this when we think about who we love: We love our partners differently than we love our children or our parents, and even the love of friends feels very different. And then there are many more things we can love: Music, certain foods, nature, our dog.

So there are different forms of love, as far as we all probably agree. But on the question, how many forms of love there are now, and how these forms can be defined, there are many different answers.

How many forms of love there are?

Different researchers, coaches, philosophers and psychologists (or even amateur psychologists) present different models on the subject of "forms of love". One finds models with three, six, seven, ten, 13, 14 and more forms of the love. None of them is right or wrong – the researches, definitions, trains of thought have only different emphases and presuppositions and also not always a claim to completeness.

Love is one of the phenomena that make up the human condition, and despite all the hormonal underpinnings, it is such an individual feeling that it will probably forever elude science and sober observation at least in part. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting or useful to look at it. We would like to present two models that are mentioned and used again and again, although not always completely and exactly as designed by the respective researchers.

The six forms of love according to John Alan Lee

The Canadian Sociologist John Alan Lee (1933 – 2013) established a model with six types of love. He is only concerned with the couple relationship, or at least his model is usually only applied to couple relationships. Its six types do not have an exclusive character, instead most partnerships are composed of several of the forms of love.

  1. Eros (romance/passion)This form of love is expressed in the physical attraction to the partner. It includes intense feelings like sexual interest, infatuation and longing for each other.
  2. Storge (friendship/ intimacy)Friendship within the love relationship is characterized by a relationship of trust with each other. The lovers respect each other as they are, with their strengths and weaknesses, and love each other on a spiritual/mental level. This is also called plantonic love. Often this term is used exclusively for friendships without a sexual level, but of course Eros and Storge exist in parallel and complement each other in most long-term love relationships.
  3. Ludos (conquest/playful love): This is the feeling of the (sexual) conquest of a partner. Although ludos is often thought of as being unattached without a committed relationship, to refer, for example, to what connects people in affairs and one-night stands, the playful element, the adventure in love, can of course also be experienced by couples in committed relationships with each other, for example, by bringing variety into their love lives and always trying out something new.
  4. Pragma (purposefulness): Expediency or pragmatism sounds unromantic and unfeeling in the context of love, but it does not have to be negative. While pragma is about entering into or maintaining a relationship for specific reasons (for example, to start a family or to have support and companionship in old age). The lovers are then united above all by the common goal and the attraction lies here in the personal abilities or characteristics of the people. But it is precisely this that can create very harmonious, compromising relationships that are characterized by reliable satisfaction and last into old age.
  5. Mania (obsession/possessive love): This rather extreme form of love is an intensification of Eros love. The:lover not only feels absolutely sexually attracted to the:partner:in and has the greatest longing for him:her, but can hardly imagine life without him:her. He:she is the center of life. Mania is usually felt by people who are afraid of loss. Exaggerated jealousy and insecurity are typical components of Mania love, which usually cannot have a long-term, healthy existence.
  6. Agape (selflessness/ altruism): Agape love puts the well-being of the partner above everything else, including one’s own well-being. It is characterized by helpfulness, willingness to sacrifice and unconditionality. It is what binds people emotionally to their partners, even when they become seriously ill, disfigured, emotionally withdrawn, or when the relationship goes through a serious crisis.

The 14 forms of love according to Tim Lomas

British psychologist Tim Lomas defines the concept of love more broadly and deals with different areas of life. He defines 14 forms of love, to which he assigns Greek terms, as does John Alan Lee, and adopts the Canadian’s terms, although he partially removes them from their purely romantic context.

  1. According to him, the non-interpersonal realm has three different types of love:
    Meraki: The love of activities. This is the love people feel when they pursue their passions: Making music, drawing, going hiking, and so on.
    Choros: It is the love of places or even the love of home, the secure feeling of belonging to a certain place.
    ErosAccording to John Alan Lee, eros is usually understood as something related to passion and eroticism. Lomas, on the other hand, discovered "eros" in his study as the love of objects. That is why people have favorite pieces of clothing, furniture and souvenirs that they would never part with. He derives this definition from the use of the term in ancient Greece, where "eros" was used to express a kind of aesthetic appreciation.
  2. The interpersonal, but not romantic resp. sexual love also has three types:
    Storge is with Lomas the love to the family, thus to children, parents, grandparents or brothers and sisters, which is characterized like with Lee’s model by trust, loyalty and respect.
    Philia is the love of friends. It refers to a planontic love on a spiritual level between people who are not related and have no sexual interest in each other. In some modern models it has the same meaning as Lee’s Storge and is applied to the mental level in love relationships.
    Philautia is the healthy love for oneself. It is not to be confused with an excessive, narcissistic self-love.
  3. Romantic love is given five different forms by Lomas. He takes the first three from Lee: Mania, Ludos and Pragma.
    In addition to this Epithymia, a kind of passionate desire (probably the equivalent of Lee’s Eros) and Ananke, the fateful, predestined love. The researcher associates this expression with concepts such as "inevitability" or "irresistibility".
  4. Completing Lomas’ model are three other types of love beyond personal love between people who know each other:
    Agape is with it the compassion and/or the neighbour love. Of course, as with Lee, it works within the relationship, as well as to family members, friends, but also to complete strangers as well as to animals. Doctors, for example, who travel to dangerous crisis areas as part of "Doctors without Borders", are mostly motivated by this kind of super-personal love. Also people who voluntarily maintain rescue centers for wild birds or other animals.
    Koinonia is the participatory consciousness. It is the feeling of love, emotion, or connectedness that people feel when they experience or engage in something with many other people, such as attending a concert or demonstrating together for something.
    Sebomai is finally the religious love, the reverence for a deity.

Philosophical and psychological books about love

Love is probably something that people will think about as long as they exist. Many thinkers have expressed their thoughts on this in their books. Are you interested in philosophical and psychological approaches to this topic? Then we can recommend these books to you:

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