What is the most misused 3 letter phrase in any relationship today?
We use this phrase all the time with a “one-size fits all” attitude.
It is called “I love you.”
In fact, we use this phrase without thinking, for the most intimate of moments like a candlelit dinner to something as casual as to sign an email with “lots of love”. This seemingly casual attitude is one of the root causes for many failed relationships we see today.
But it was not always like that.
The ancient Greeks were far better than us. They knew six types of LOVE around 2000 years ago.
And accordingly to the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle, these six types of LOVE comes under three unique types of relationships- and only one among the three is the RIGHT one for you to bring true HAPPINESS.
Aristotle says, only a relationship that care takes and nurtures the soul can bring happiness and TRUE LOVE.
So, in a nutshell, a really HAPPY relationship only comes when you stimulate your core self — and grow into your highest potential. Basically, the nurtured soul is the ultimate orgasm for happiness.
Aristotle mentions the following types of relationships that we can get from the world at large.
Relationships of Pleasure
These relationships are all about sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. You share soulless, passionate sex and playful banter — but they’re about the body or ego.
They never soul-nurture you with inspiration and growth, so they never bring real-deal happiness. Basically, instead of finding a soul mate, you’re simply finding a sex-mate and/or an ego-mate.
Aristotle describes two dominant types of LOVE in these relationships:
The first kind of love was eros, named after the Greek god of fertility, and it represented the idea of sexual passion and desire. But the Greeks didn’t always think of it as something positive, as we tend to do today. In fact, eros was viewed as a dangerous, fiery, and irrational form of love that could take hold of you and possess you
Eros involved a loss of control that frightened the Greeks. Which is odd, because losing control is precisely what many people now seek in a relationship. Don’t we all hope to fall “madly” in love?
This was the Greeks’ idea of playful love, which referred to the affection between young lovers. We’ve all had a taste of it in the flirting and teasing in the early stages of a relationship. But we also live out our ludus when we sit around in a bar bantering and laughing with friends, or when we go out dancing.
Flirting and Bantering with strangers may be the ultimate ludic activity, almost a playful substitute for sex itself. According to Aristotle, little ludus might be just what we need to spice up our love lives.
Relationships of Utility
These relationships are only based on philautia or self-love. And these are of two types. One was an unhealthy variety associated with narcissism, where you became self-obsessed and focused on personal fame and fortune. A healthier version enhances your wider capacity to love.
But, most of the time the very premise of such relationships hinges on garnering status, power, money, and beauty like the rich guy with a trophy girl. Again, this is about body or ego and doesn’t bring true joy.
So, instead of finding a soul mate, you’re finding a sex-mate, ego-mate, status-mate, and/or wallet-mate — none of which are long-term satisfying mates!
Relationships of Shared Virtue
This is the ultimate pinnacle of any GREAT relationship.
These relationships are between partners who challenge and inspire you to grow into your highest potential and nurture your soul. When you prioritize seeking a partner who supports you becoming your best self — instead of crushing on “superficial lures” (hotness, funniness, smartness, success, etc.) — you wind up with a soul mate/a Prince Charming/a true friend!
Aristotle defines 3 kinds of LOVE that can be possible in Shared virtue relationships.
Philia or deep friendship
Philia concerned the deep comradely friendship that developed between brothers in arms who had fought side by side on the battlefield. It was about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them
We can all ask ourselves how much of this comradely philia we have in our lives. It’s an important question in an age when we attempt to amass “friends” on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter — achievements that would have hardly impressed the Greeks.
Agape or Love for Everyone
This is called “empathy” in modern terms. This is perhaps the most radical of all loves. This was a love that you extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers. Agape was later translated into Latin as caritas, which is the origin of our word “charity.”
Pragma or long-standing Love.
Another Greek love was the mature love known as pragma. This was the deep understanding that developed between long-married couples.
Pragma was about making compromises to help the relationship work over time, and showing patience and tolerance.
The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that we expend too much energy on “falling in love” and need to learn more how to “stand in love.”
Pragma is precisely about standing in love — making an effort to give love rather than just receive it. Considering the modern fragile relationships, we seriously need a dose of pragma into them to survive!
Bringing it all together
The ancient Greeks found diverse kinds of love in relationships with a wide range of people — friends, family, spouses, strangers, and even themselves. This contrasts with our typical focus on a single romantic relationship, where we hope to find all the different loves wrapped into a single person or soul mate.
The message from the Greeks is to nurture the varieties of love and tap into its many sources. Don’t just seek eros, but cultivate philia by spending more time with old friends, or develop ludus by dancing the night away.
It’s time we introduced the six varieties of Greek love into our everyday way of speaking and thinking. The art of love needs a much more sophisticated vocabulary than the mundane “I Love you”, we mouth every time unimaginatively.
As Friedrich Nietzsche has rightly said.
“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
About the author-:
Ravi Rajan is a global IT program manager based out of Mumbai, India. He is also an avid blogger, Haiku poetry writer, archaeology enthusiast and history maniac. Connect with Ravi on LinkedIn, Medium and Twitter.
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Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com