THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE
OK, some of us do make use of alternative words to ‘love’ – we can be fond of someone or something, we can feel affectionate about someone or something, have a crush on someone, be infatuated, be enamoured of someone. But are these really synonyms for the word love or something perceived as close to love, but no coconut? Akin to love, though the word love probably would be used instead in far more instances. Is it just the English language that falls short on words available to us, or are we lazy, so use a cover-all word. Then again maybe we are not as passionate about words, or as some would argue, simply not as passionate, so why not just stick with ‘love’?
Tamil speakers can make use of fifty plus alternatives, all with subtle differences. Arabic’s rich vocabulary offers a plethora of words that can be used at different stages of falling in and feeling love. These include the initial attraction (maybe we would use the words like or fancy in this case?). The most frequently used word for love shares its root with the word seed - and is seen to be indicative of something with the potential to develop into something beautiful. A concept which appeals to me.
As for English speakers, well we generally use the same old word to cover many scenarios. We love a pair of shoes; we love a book or television programme; we love someone’s new hair style; we’d love to go to a party; we love our friends, our pets, our relatives, our partner, our lover. But we really don’t mean the same thing ... do we? Rather, we seem to assume that the person we are communicating with knows which spin we are applying to the word. Maybe we are playing safe and being typically British rather than admitting to lusting after someone, having a crush on them or fancying the pants off them!! Have we gradually lulled ourselves into this way of using that little word, forgoing previously used variations on the theme including enamoured, smitten, infatuated, devoted to – though this latter seems to still occasionally be used with reference to elderly couples, or people’s dogs!
TYPES OF LOVE
Up to fifteen variations can be found. I am going with psychiatrist Neel Burton’s recognition of seven different types described in Psychology Today, June 2016. He says that ‘Most of us seem to be hankering after romantic love. But few of us realize that, far from being timeless and universal, romantic love is a modern construct that emerged in tandem with the novel.’ So, if you are one of these hankerers, is what you seek based on the likes of Barbara Cartland’s writing, maybe something more up to date and down to earth, or even a rom com at the cinema. Or are those notions of romantic love somehow now floating around in the ether ready to catch us unawares should cupid’s arrow come winging our way? I wonder how many of us see romantic love in this way, or do we have a more down to earth version as our image. Even with what seems to be the most loving of relationships there will be peaks and troughs. When push comes to shove, if we are in such a relationship, the ultimate price, as the Queen said, can be grief. Grief at the loss of that much beloved partner through death, or through them seeking pastures greener when you were more than content with the pasture that the two of you shared.
So, what of those other varieties of love?Types of love that can prove to be fulfilling, maybe with less of the ups and downs many are faced with in romantic love? The Ancient Greeks also had more than one cover-all word for love, and Burton uses these. I include direct quotes from Burton’s piece throughout.
1. Eros. Passionate or sexual love – probably nearest to what most of us think of as romantic love, instigated by those arrows that Cupid fired. ‘In modern times, eros has been amalgamated with the broader life force ... a fundamentally blind process of striving for survival and reproduction.’
2. Philia. Friendship involving shared goodwill. ‘Aristotle believed that a person can bear goodwill to another for one of three reasons: that he is useful; that he is pleasant; and above all, that he is good, that is, rational and virtuous. Friendships founded on goodness are associated not only with mutual benefit but also with companionship, dependability, and trust.’ These characteristics lead to an open, balanced relationship of give and take. How many of us know those who have moved on from this kind of loving foundation to Eros?
3. Storge store-jay" or familial love. The love between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren. Not quite such a balanced concept of love, especially in a child’s early years when a baby is dependent on the parent; usually becoming a much more balanced love; then, later in life, can tip with the older adult becoming more dependent on the younger. Dependency is seen as an essential element of this form of love. Those in an Eros–type relationship can find that with advancing years, their relationship can gradually transform into one more readily described as storge love.
4. Agape aga-pay is a very universal type of love as in love for our planet, nature, people (including strangers), their god. It goes beyond family and familiar. ‘Called charity by Christian thinkers, agape can be said to encompass the modern concept of altruism, defined as unselfish concern for the welfare of others ....altruism has been associated with better mental and physical health, and even greater longevity.’ Looking at this often crazy old world of ours, I am sure that we would benefit from giving and receiving of agapay rather than man’s inhumanity to man and the ever-present me-me selfishness exhibited by so many.
5. Ludus – described as a playful, uncommitted love which can include flirting, seducing – a no-strings attached kind of love, casual, erring more on the side of fun. ‘Problems arise when one party mistakes ludus for eros, whereas ludus is, in fact, much more compatible with philia’.
6. Pragma is a love based on duty or longer-term interests. ‘Sexual attraction takes a back seat in favour of personal qualities and compatibilities, shared goals and "making it work".’ Maybe a ‘marriage’ of convenience for political, business, family reasons or a mellowing of a relationship originally based on the eros type of love? Fine, so long as both parties are treading the same path, with the same needs within the relationship.
7. Philautia – a love of self. OK, I will often suggest to clients that they need to love themselves more, recognise their abilities, their worth and just how much they have to offer; develop a much more positive self-esteem. On the other hand, philautia love unhealthily takes this to extremes and is accompanied by arrogance, and an inflated opinion of abilities, skills, looks etc. This kind of love certainly comes at a price as it is often accompanied by a fear of not meeting up to their self-concept, of failing or being rejected by others if and when they realise that maybe, just maybe that person is on a somewhat wobbly self-erected pedestal. If this pedestal begins to crumble, too often there is a resorting to drugs, alcohol in an effort to prop it up, as sadly, the person’s self-esteem doesn’t actually always come up to par.
WHAT OF THOSE COSTS?
In many cases, these different types of love can and do gradually morph from one to another. The problems arise if this doesn’t happen for both – or all parties – involved. Needs and wants are no longer fulfilled and love – often the eros variety - can far too readily be sought in other directions. A loving relationship that is seen to stand the tests of time is one where any changes work for all parties involved, in step and seemingly with quite natural transitions. I imagine my parents’ relationship fitting this scenario. They met when my Dad was a Cub Scout and my Mum was a Brownie, so plenty of transitions along the way. I always felt that I was surrounded by and encouraged on by their love. A love that withstood war, financial struggles, and on-going ill health. I am so very happy that they had this and still walked along hand in hand up until the day that my Mum died – much as I presume that young Wynn and George had done so many years before.
Of course, as HRH Queen Elizabeth said, ‘Grief is the price that we pay for love’, with this being equally applicable if a partner dies, or chooses to seek pastures greener. I always feel that this latter scenario has a more complicated grief as you are not only grieving the loss of a partner, but also the fact that they actively chose to leave and knowingly cause this grief. Though I guess that this very much depends on the circumstances around the decision to bale out.
WHAT OF TOUGH LOVE?
A term mentioned in a 1968 book by Bill Miliken entitled 'Tough Love', though I presume that it was something that happened, without its current label, well before the 60’s. Wikipedia describe tough love as ‘an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run.’ With Bill Miliken giving the example of "I don't care how this makes you feel toward me. You may hate my guts, but I love you, and I am doing this because I love you." For many of us, those alarm bells are set a-jangling at the thought of tough love, as whilst it may be OK in practise, who is to say how tough each individual’s concept of tough might be! Certainly, in my work as a therapist with survivors of childhood abuse, I was aware that abusers echoed similar words to those of Bill Miliken’s in defence of their physical and emotional abuse. A reason to lock a child in a shed, to deprive them of nourishment, to beat them and on and on – certainly tough, but for me, that word love doesn’t have any place in such scenarios and the long-time trauma and mental health problems which are the aftermath of the treatment. The author emphasises the need for love and caring as an essential prerequisite of tough love. I feel that this has, over the years been a forgotten requirement and the price paid by survivors has been a huge one.
There have been – and presumably still are in some places – boot camps that claim to put tough love into practise for teens who are perceived to be ‘going astray’, overweight even. I have seen programmes where some seem to offer support through the ‘love’ part whilst maintaining that tough regime. Others, however seem to have tunnel vision on the toughness. I have not seen any follow-up programmes so cannot comment on any long-term benefits or problems .... maybe it will work for some but not others.
Where tough love can pay dividends is through referral. Referral of an offspring, a relative to those who understand and are qualified in such as drug and alcohol abuse, withdrawal and recovery. Referral of offenders to the police. Especially so if the person referred is assured that they are still loved. It is their behaviour that isn’t. Could this be seen as short-term cost for long-term gain?
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