When February 14 rolls around, hearts and minds everywhere focus on love. Some look forward to the day with unbridled anticipation, while others feel only trepidation. During our lifetimes, most of us will experience both feelings depending on how life is going at that moment.
Love can be enduring, or elusive. It can be the center of our dreams, or the crux of our nightmares. Love can bring us to the mountaintop or plunge us into the deepest, darkest valley.
Valentine’s Day celebrates all kinds of love. According to the ancient Greeks, there are seven different types of love. I’m not sure that all the emotions we humans call “love” can really be narrowed down to seven categories, but I suppose it’s a start.
1. Eros, or erotic love, represents the physical body. This type of love has all the passion and desire to fuel a romance. It is because of Eros love that Cupid wears a blindfold.
2. Philia, or affectionate love, is the love we feel for our friends who have our backs through the bad times in our lives. These trusted friends provide the chocolate cake when our romantic love hits rock bottom.
3. Storge is familial love. Storge is the type of love we feel for our parents and children. It can also be the fondness we have toward childhood friends where the relationship is built on familiarity and acceptance.
4. The playful love of ludus is found during the early stages of falling in love. That’s when just seeing the interest of our affections can set our hearts all aflutter. Ludus can also describe the relationship of friends who enjoy hanging out with each other.
5. Pragma is enduring or practical love. This kind of love is found in married couples who have made the effort to maintain their relationship through compromise, patience, and tolerance. It can also be found in couples who stay together for political, social, or other practical reasons.
6. Philautia is self-love. In this sense, it is a good thing! In order to truly love someone else, it is necessary to first love yourself. Philautia is unhealthy when a person places himself before others.
7. Agape is the purest love. It is selfless love free of expectations that accepts and forgives. Agape is unconditional love.
We all understand that in a romantic relationship, we give our hearts, and we expect that love to be reciprocated. Since Cupid is blindfolded, sometimes love is blind. We focus only on the good qualities and overlook the irritating ones. Whether we survive the good, bad, and ugly that makes up every human being on earth depends on how much effort we put into keeping the love alive.
When we look at the different kinds of love, it is easy to see that agape, or unconditional love, is the type of love that caregivers have for their loved ones with dementia. When Jim developed dementia, my love for him became multidimensional and included both pragma and storge. I often likened my love for Jim to that of a mother for her child. More importantly, I don’t believe that the love of a caregiver fits neatly into some Greek or psychologist’s category.
Each of us is a unique individual with an individual capacity for love. Not even a scientist can accurately measure the love one person has for another.
A lot of hearts given on Valentine’s Day are not worth the paper they are printed on. The real value of a Valentine’s heart is determined by how we treat the ones we love the other 364 days of the year and throughout the years of a lifetime.
Copyright © February 2017 by L.S. Fisher