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Psychologist Robert Sternberg’s theory describes types of love based on three different scales: intimacy, passion, and commitment.

Greek System

Six words for six different kinds of love.

Love Languages

Five ways that romantic partners express and experience love.

There are many ways to look at “Love.”

If you haven’t already, check out the Love landing page to see how it’s broken down here into various sections, each with their own pages, exercises, and resources.

This page is a small tribute to a few helpful lenses through which we can think about love.

The take-home point here is simple: we have too few words for “Love,” and it is always a service to oneself and others to consider its many shades and complexities.


Dr. Sternberg’s basic idea here is that love has three dimensions to it.
As each one varies in strength/presence, it has a different quality of experience to it, such as friendship or head-over-heels love.

The Three Dimensions

Extremely strong friendship. Concerned about the welfare of the other. Intimacy denotes the respect a person has for his or her loved one, the extent of mutual trust the couple possess, the degree to which they are willing to share their possessions, their most intimate self-disclosures, and themselves with the other.

Is the sexual attraction one feels for the other. It has to do with the physical yearning the partner induces in the other. This is also the head over heals kind of love – being swept up in it. Joyful infatuation.

The decision a person makes that he or she loves another person and the individual’s resolution to maintain the relationship once the decision is made to enter it. This can be present in a deep friendship for companionate love or mean something different in consummate love – a decision to be solely together as lovers.

What those relate to, generally, in a visual model:

You can learn more about Sternberg’s model here.

Greek Taxonomy of Love

These six loves, known to the greeks, give our bucket word of “love” a few more shades to consider. These aren’t scientific delineations, but they may be helpful lenses through which to consider love.

Eros, or sexual passion
Named after the Greek god of fertility, Eros. Desire!
The beneficial side of this kind of love is excitement and strong feelings, and likely physical pleasures.
Falling madly in love.
Less beneficial, and perhaps dangerous, quality is the possessed nature of desire — fiery, irrational, lose control.

Philia, or deep friendship
The folks you’ll want to keep in touch with for decades. You want to know what is going on in their lives.
You want to keep a connection with these folks, where you are known, and you know them well.
Facebook friends or other social media followers would not qualify.
Brothers in arms would also be in this category. Loyalty. Sacrifice.

Ludus, or playful love
Think best buddies as a child, or young love who have their first crush and experience of love.
As an adult, the beginning of relating can have that flirting, playful nature to it as well.
With friends, this kind of love can look like the joy of hanging out, or playing a game; lighter than best friends for life, and yet there is a fondness and knowing that goes beyond light acquaintances.
A group version of playful love can often be found in a group dancing together, or at a festival.

Agape, or love for everyone
A love extended to people — all people.A selfless love. A universal loving-kindness.
See Being Love.

Pragma, or longstanding love
An intimacy/knowing/deep appreciation that exists in double-digit years — in it, very gladly, for the long haul.Relational skills to keep the embers of love going — an eternal flame.

Philautia, or love of the self
Unhealthy version of this is Narcissism — self-obsessed and focused.
Healthy version is when one has a deep love for oneself, and from that well spring, one is able to expand that knowing/experience of love to others.

“All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.” -Aristotle

The Five Love Languages

Like the 6 Greek words for love, the 5 “Love Languages” are not scientifically validated. (in fact, they seem to be more and more invalidated as time goes on.)
And, there is no doubt that the 5 love languages have been a helpful model for couples to relate to one another. Consider it a potentially helpful, subjective lens.

  1. Words of Affirmation – Words possess an incredible power to uplift, validate, and inspire. For those who resonate with the love language of Words of Affirmation, verbal expressions of love and appreciation hold profound significance. Whether it’s a heartfelt compliment, a loving note, or sincere words of encouragement, these expressions have the ability to create an emotional sanctuary, nurturing the recipient’s sense of self-worth and strengthening the bond between partners.
  2. Quality Time – The love language of Quality Time underscores the significance of undivided attention and shared experiences in fostering deep connections. This language transcends mere presence, emphasizing the quality of the time spent together. Engaging in meaningful conversations, going on adventures, or simply being fully present in each other’s company allows individuals to cultivate a sense of emotional intimacy and forge lasting memories. Quality Time communicates love by valuing the investment of one’s most precious resource: time.
  3. Receiving Gifts – While the love language of Receiving Gifts may initially evoke notions of materialism, it extends far beyond superficiality. For individuals who resonate with this language, the act of receiving a gift holds symbolic significance, representing the thought, effort, and love invested by the giver. It is the emotional resonance behind the gift that matters most. These tangible tokens serve as reminders of love and care, evoking a sense of appreciation and fostering a deep emotional connection between partners.
  4. Acts of Service – The love language of Acts of Service revolves around the idea that actions speak louder than words. Demonstrating love through acts of service entails selflessly attending to the needs and desires of one’s partner. Whether it’s preparing a meal, completing household chores, or offering assistance in various aspects of life, these acts communicate a genuine desire to alleviate burdens and create a nurturing environment. By recognizing and responding to each other’s practical needs, partners foster feelings of love, gratitude, and mutual support.
  5. Physical Touch – Physical touch, as a love language, encompasses the profound impact of physical affection on emotional well-being. From a warm embrace to a gentle touch, physical contact has the power to convey love, comfort, and security. For those who resonate with this language, physical touch acts as a catalyst for emotional and physical connection. Intimacy and closeness are nurtured through tender gestures, fostering a sense of safety and trust within the relationship.

While individuals may have a primary love language, it is crucial to understand and appreciate the diverse ways in which love can be expressed. Recognizing and actively engaging in the love languages of our partners allows us to build strong foundations of love, compassion, and understanding. By nurturing and speaking these languages fluently, we create a tapestry of affection that enriches our relationships and cultivates deep emotional bonds.

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