(Uplift | Tanja Taljaard) The kind of love that is often emphasised in modern culture through romantic novels and movies is only one kind of love in the rich tapestry of relating. The ancient Greeks had many different words to describe love. They knew love could be found not only with a sexual partner, but also in friendships, amongst strangers, and with themselves.
How do you express love?
The first kind of love they spoke of was Eros. Eros represented the idea of sexual passion and desire. This form of love was also considered dangerous due to its fiery and irrational nature. Unbalanced, eros could even lead to mania or obsessive love. Friendship, or Philia, was valued far above eros because it was considered a love between equals. Free from the intensity of sexual attraction, it often involves loyalty among friends, a willingness to sacrifice for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them. Another kind of philia, sometimes called storge, primarily to do with kinship and familiarity, embodied the love between parents and their children.
Ludus referred to playful love, the kind of affection you find between children or young lovers. We also experience ludus when we banter and laugh with friends, or when we go out dancing. Another Greek love was the enduring love known as Pragma. Pragma is a love that has matured and developed over time. This long-standing love has been maintained by making compromises to help the relationship work, and through showing patience and tolerance.
The selfless love Agape was considered the highest and most radical form of love. This love extended to everyone, family and strangers alike. It’s pure and unconditional, free from expectation. Philautia is the kind of self-love that enhances your capacity to love to others. The idea was that if you like yourself and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of love to give others.
Love is different for all of us
Not only are there different kinds of love that we all experience at one stage or another in our lives, we all have different “love languages”, ways in which people speak and understand love in its many forms. Every person expresses and feels love differently, and relationship councillor Dr Gary Chapman identified five universal love languages after many years of counselling couples.
These love languages apply to all relationships – within our families, friendships, and partnerships and even in the workplace. Knowing what’s important to people can help you understand, empathise, and work with them better.
Love has many languages, and is different for all of us
How do YOU express love?
It really is worth investigating how the people you love truly feel loved and express love. When we love someone, we care about what matters to him or her. Our particular love language also tends to be the way in which we express love. It’s equally important to learn how our loved ones give love.
They may be expressing their love for you in a way you’re not entirely identifying with, since you are only looking for love in the form you give it. It is also useful to know how you don’t express love, and understanding it as a blind spot. Of the Five Love languages, most of us have one or two that are more important to us than the others, and it’s different for everyone. They make sense because it’s relatable.
There are so many different ways to express love
The five love languages
Words of affirmation Psychologist William James said that one of the deepest human needs is the need to feel appreciated. Words of affirmation and verbal compliments go a long way in meeting this need, and are powerful communicators of love. Dr Chapman notes that they are best expressed simply and in a straightforward way.
Quality time A person whose love language is quality time, needs time to really connect with the ones they love. This means giving someone your undivided attention. Devices or other distractions are put away, and the focus is entirely with each other.
Receiving gifts For some, receiving visible symbols of love in the form of gifts speak loudest. It’s something tangible that they can hold onto. To give someone a gift, you must be thinking of him or her. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought, and it has little to do with monetary value. It is also one of the easiest love languages to learn.
Acts of service This language is about actions speaking louder than words. It is about doing something for your loved one that they would like, rather than them having to ask for it. These actions may require thought, planning, time effort and energy. Anything from cooking a meal, to tidying up or cleaning the car or even doing the shopping, may be acts of love.
Physical touch A simple touch can trigger the release of oxytocin (read our Uplift article Oxytocin changes Everything here). We all need physical touch and affection for our physical and emotional well-being. However, for the person whose love language is touch, it’s absolutely fundamental to them feeling loved.
Even the smallest physical touch can touch us deeply in our heart
Do our love languages change?
Your love language can change over time. As your lifestyle and priorities change, some of your primary love languages could change too.
Your love language might also vary in the different relationships you have, as there are different kinds of love shared with friends or family than with spouses or partners. Your sibling might speak a different language in a romantic relationship than she does with family. While you might need physical touch or acts of service with your partner and family, you don’t necessarily need this with friends to feel like they care.
The Love Languages can help you express your love in the best possible way, and also to get the love that you want without others having to “read your mind.” It opens up communication, and we all know how much that matters in relationships.
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