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7 Ways to Love and Be Loved

Tired of society's obsession with romance? Take a cue from the ancient Greeks​.

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An animated graphic of the word love in various languages.
AARP Staff
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After a much-needed divorce and a whole lot of swiping and frog-kissing, this mama is coming up on another Valentine’s Day alone. But what might have felt like a dire situation in my early 20s feels like liberation these days. Why? Because while I enjoy making googly eyes at a fine bearded man over candlelight, I know that the hearts, flowers and chocolates-type of love we celebrate on February 14 is not all that I — or you — need. There is so much love out here! The ancient Greeks knew it; they even assigned them names. Here are the seven different types of love that we can revel in every single day.

Philautia: Self-Love

This is what our dear Whitney deemed the greatest love of all. Yup, philautia is self-love, and it impacts not only how we see ourselves, but how we interact with everyone else in our lives, from our children to our partners to our God. When we have philautia, we have compassion for ourselves and the rest of the world. It is the foundation we need to enjoy all the other types of love in a healthy way.

Philia: Platonic Love

This is the love you typically share with your closest girlfriends, your sisters. It grows out of fighting a few battles alongside each other, from working your way up the corporate later, to raising your kids, to leaving terrible men. It thrives on loyalty, trust, authenticity and a shared understanding of the world. Philia is platonic at its core, but when combined with eros, it can give birth to romantic couples who call each other best friends and really mean it.

Eros: Romantic Love

Eros is the root of the word “erotic” for good reason: This is what Keith Sweat makes songs about. It’s what we feel for our romantic — let’s keep it real, sexual — partners. Eros is passion in its purest form, and it is leading the way when you sense a spark between you and a new potential boo. The Greeks thought it was a bit dangerous, as it can drive folks to lose control. But when it’s combined with more stable types of love, it can make for a fun, sexy union.

Ludus: Playful Love

This love is playful. It pops up to say hello on the day that you realize you actually feel some measure of affection for the man you met last month. You’re far from wanting to settle down, but ludus makes you smile when he calls, look forward to your next date and genuinely laugh at all his jokes. For a woman who enjoys her independence, ludus is a great home for a casual, uncomplicated relationship, and a good base if you want to take things to the next level.

Storge: Familial Love

This is familial love, the affection you have for your children and parents. It makes for connections that are unconditional in a way that most cannot — and honestly should not — be. If you maintain healthy boundaries with the folks you’ve been thrown into storge love with, it is energizing and affirming. It reminds you that no matter how many days the sun hides itself, you have dear ones walking with you beneath the clouds.

Pragma: Pragmatic Love

Pragma can be interpreted many ways, but at its center is practicality. It can manifest when you stick with your hubby because you want to coparent under the same roof, which perhaps signals that you are forgoing your own needs for what you feel is the greater good. But pragma love can also be the glue in a mature, comfortable relationship that doesn’t require eros to thrive, and instead relies on shared interests, complimentary goals and common commitments to propel you forward.

Agape: Universal Love

At its root, this describes a radical love that is defined by infinite empathy for and connection to the world around us. It guides us to store snacks and socks in our cars to hand out to people experiencing homelessness, makes us well up at the sight of an impossibly beautiful sunset and pushes us to volunteer at the church’s food pantry without posting about our good deed on Facebook. Agape love represents an unwavering connection to the universe, and it can carry you through places where other types of love can’t sustain you.