If you follow Nudge on social media, especially Instagram, you’d know that I promised a valentine’s day article that wasn’t all about self-love. Here’s me following through on that promise. Now, I’m sure it’s rather evident that the Relationships category on Nudge is oddly sparse with articles. At least, in comparison to Growth or Self-Improvement.
At some point during 2019, after a slightly expected breakup, I realised that I hadn’t yet dealt with the ramifications of an entire rollercoaster of relationships and one-off dates in the Tinder generation. In any case, while I created the category for Relationships, I made a mental note not to talk about it until I had done the work.
That meant deliberately turning dates down, stopping the one-person-after-another thing that everyone around me was doing, and just staying alone working on myself and helping those around me for some time. That is also why the website is filled with pieces on Growth, Productivity and Lifestyle.
So, trust me, I write this article with a unique clarity of mind that I haven’t felt in ages.
The Love of the Greeks
Anyway, did you know that there are seven different words that ancient Greeks had for love? Each term describes a different feeling or bond that one might call “love” today.
Eros is when you find someone physically attractive. This is the love you feel when you’re in the early stages of dating someone, for example. When everything they do is attractive, you can’t get enough of them. It’s that obsessive, “can’t take my hands off you” idea of love. This is also why most relationships end after the honeymoon phase. Eros is also the honeymoon phase of love. Once it ends, everything does if there’s nothing beyond it.
Ludus is the playful love usually without an obligation of any kind. In our time and age, this might be that one person you can’t stop chatting with on Instagram, even when it gets a bit hot in the DMs but you can’t stop talking either or it could be however you define fun. Maybe, it’s someone you met on Bumble and decided that a relationship was out of the question because they’re just so fun. The point is, Ludus is all about the lightness of love that a human being might feel. The one where there isn’t much expectation or obligation. It comes without attachment, usually.
Philia is all about selflessness with intimacy and knowledge. It’s the love present between long-term friends or couples who happen to have an “I know what you’re talking about” connection. It is what’s behind any friendship, even if it is the friendship between partners. It’s all about wishing the best for someone else.
Storge is the love of belonging. It comes from the human need of “no man is an island”. All humans need other people. Storge is what we feel when we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, such as a family or a team or a group. We feel a sense of protectiveness for our own, and we are more forgiving of others when we feel Storge for them. For example, unless something goes terribly wrong, you let your family’s tiny mistakes slide off. That’s Storge.
Ever heard your favourite influencer raving about bath bombs and self-care? That’s Philautia. Well, sort of. The idea of Philautia is the love one feels for themselves. However, Philautia is not just limited to feeling good. It is about self-interest as well. Self-care and self-love are essential, but the idea of Philautia is what probably creates narcissistic or selfish behaviour in humans. Too much of it, and you’re too self-centered. Too little, and you become a trampled carpet. Balance is vital with this one.
Pragma is the love that’s committed and calm. It’s also what we’re searching for if we’re searching for a long-term relationship. This one is the general definition which we put on the idea of love. This is the love that is portrayed in a movie or show or book when an old couple is shown to know each other’s flaws deeply, respect each other and just sort of flow with each other. That’s Pragma.
Agape is a sort of selfless love that is universal. It is the highest and purest form of love that is usually felt as empathy or gratefulness. This is the love that is used for the idea of God (if you’re religious), for nature and other people. The concept of Agape is to have pure compassion for everything outside of yourself. It’s a sort of love where you’re entirely selfless. Agape persists despite circumstance. It is also a strong ideal to achieve and perhaps, you never fully reach it.
Putting It Together
Now, why did I describe seven forms of love? I’ve realised that to be in a stable relationship, one has to feel all seven (or at least five) of those in order. All that is, of course, if you are indeed looking for romantic love. If you aren’t, that’s a perfectly fine thing to do as well.
If I were to put those in order, here’s how the cycle would probably go:
Philautia – Storge – Agape – Ludus/Eros/Philia – PragmaLove yourself with accountability, then those around you, then the world you live in, and maybe then, you are okay to even start searching for love, in whatever form you find it.
I came to this conclusion because I spent the last year and a half focusing only on myself, my environment, and other people. This was also the first time, ever since I first asked someone out as an awkward teenager, that I felt I was ready to commit to another human being free.
If you love yourself enough to have proper boundaries, are selfless and grateful for the world around you and have a peer group that you feel unconditional love and forgiveness for, you probably are healthier than most people trying their hand at swiping on some app trying to court six hundred people at the same time. In my opinion, you have to feel all three of self-love, selfless love and familial love (or belongingness to a group).
I felt that because that is the only way one can have a life of their own before they commit to another person which is, as popular opinion suggests, the root of every stable relationship. If you don’t have a life of your own, you probably cannot be a good part of someone else’s life. Also, I believe there’s a link between all of these.
A person who can experience familial love or Storge learns to see past the flaws of those they need in their lives. Similarly, a person who balances Philautia has better boundaries overall. You get the idea. So, perhaps the Greeks describing seven forms of love isn’t just for the sake of defining them but rather, defining a human being who’s open, vulnerable and peaceful enough to be in love with another. That ensures long-term commitment.
That’s it. That’s whatever I’ve learnt about the idea so far in my life. I hope this is some perspective to anyone who’s looking for love.
Ancient Greeks had not one but seven words for love. Each word corresponds to a different sort of love that a human being can feel. There’s Eros or passionate love, Ludus or playful love, Philia or love between friends, Storge or familial love or love in belonging, Philautia or self-love, Pragma or committed, long-term love and Agape which is pure, selfless love. To be in a long-term relationship, one must first wrap their head around three: Philautia, Agape and Storge. One must be an individual, a good part of a group/family and selflessly grateful for their world. Once they’ve done all three, they might go around searching for love.
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