What is Love?
“What is love? Oh, baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.”
I can still see the heads bobbing to the music. I can feel my heart pumping in sequence to the beat, and I can feel the laughter rising up inside me when I remember Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan dancing the night away to the song’s anthem which asks,
“What is love?” Indeed poets, philosophers, spiritual and religious leaders, musicians, and even comedians such as Ferrell and Kattan have all tried to answer this question. There have been volumes upon volumes written on the subject of love. And while I do not think that love has anything to do with the kind of bump and grind dancing from the “A Night at the Roxbury” skits and movie I do think we have can have a clear idea on what love is.
To help us understand what love is I appeal to the Ancient Greeks who defined love into four distinct categories: Agape, Eros, Philia, and Storge. Agape is what we call “unconditional love” or sacrificial love. Agape is the opposite of selfishness. It is giving yourself, putting other’s needs before your own, and in some cases laying down your life. It is love that puts others first and can certainly exist between parents and their children, husband and wife, friends, and even among strangers.
The English word “erotic” is derived from the Greek word Eros which is the word used to describe the romantic or passionate love that one feels with their spouse or partner. It goes beyond friendship and often refers to the sensual and sexual part of love. Eros is the feeling of being captivated, ensnared, fascinated, and totally in love. It can be extremely strong in the beginning of a relationship and has been known to ebb and flow as relationships move past the initial “honeymoon” phase.
Philia refers to friendship and it is the root name of Philadelphia which is known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” It can be used to describe the kind of love shared between two lovers, but it more often refers to the loyalty between family members, friends, or even with one’s community. If you have ever had a best friend then you probably know what this type of love is like.
Storge is the final type of love the Greeks identified. Storge is primarily used to describe the affection experienced between family members, especially between parents and their children. Storge can refer to the bond between lovers, parents and children, within families, and in friendships. When we speak about giving and receiving comfort, closeness, and connection what we are talking about is Storge.
So, what is love? Certainly the Greeks have helped us to define and understand love. My own understanding of love has been shaped by their thoughts and has helped me to comprehend that love has all the elements of romance, passion, loyalty, reliability, dependability, closeness, connection, and being open to giving and receiving comfort. Simply put: love is being there and putting others needs before your own!
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