Eros, Philia and Agape. What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Some married men and women anticipated the holiday for weeks, looking forward to basking in the glow of love and sweet exchanges with their spouse. But, the truth is, many couples look forward to Valentine’s Day with as much disdain as Friday the 13th. They go through the motions with no sense of love to celebrate. Any displays of affection are obligatory. Others mock or ignore the day all together. For these husbands and wives it is likely that the thrill is gone. The passion has faded. Instead of fortifying their marriage with trust, respect and love, these couples have let coolness and distance creep in. The euphoria of a fresh love has been replaced with negative emotions; fear, complacency, envy, resentment. Though that loving feeling may be buried, it has not necessarily vanished. As our relationships mature so should the depth of which we relate to one another. Rethinking what is means to “love” your mate is a great start.
When lovers first meet, woo and eventually commit to one another they experience Eros, a passionate love marked by sensual desire and longing. This Ancient Greek word means “intimate love”, something chemically distinct from friendship. We fall head over heels for someone and attraction grows into eroticism. Intoxicating sex and the feeling that you cannot live without this person are characteristics of Eros. Because of the joy and good feeling it brings, Eros can lead to love and marriage – but it cannot keep us there. Even the most enamored lovers must give into the mundane aspects of their union. Duties dictated by work schedules, family responsibilities and finances are a necessary evil that ground a couple, sobering them up from the love-drunk honeymoon period. The limitations of Eros love is it’s selfishness. What happens when you stop feeling “happy”. The moment the marriage hits a rough patch and your partner no longer makes you feel the physical or emotional sensations of the past, your relationship is in jeopardy. A successful marriage must hold on to the heat that Eros brings, but also understand that a more cooperative, sustaining connection must be formed.
Philia is a love based on friendship between two people, it is patient and kind. Perhaps you started out as friends, grew to admire each other, then strong feelings began to emerge. Couples that share a close friendship have the best of both worlds – romance and companionship. If we closely examine our relationships we are most comfortable around, have the most fun with and feel most supported by our friends. A unique quality of friendships is a reliable give and take that is mutually beneficial; a sense that you have each others back. In marriage it is important that you not only love, but also like your mate. If so when looks fade, sexual prowess wains or money decreases, a sense of connectedness remains. If you and your mate’s affair developed quickly and you’ve never found yourselves in the friend zone, take the time to backtrack especially if your marriage is in trouble. Get to know your partner as a person, not a lover. Explore your interests and hobbies together, get silly and take sex out of the picture for a while.
Agape love is beyond Philia and Eros love. Selfless and non-judgemental, it is considered as the highest form of love. Agape is given without self benefit, expectation or reciprocity. When the situation is not ideal one continues to love from their spirit, no matter how hard it might be. In Ancient Greece this is the kind of love that warriors felt in order to sacrifice themselves to win the battle. Are you a soldier of love? Agape love is born in the most difficult of times; when what you want or need from your partner is gone. You hold on, and if you can make it through the strife you will emerge a stronger unit. Unconditional love does not mean staying in an abusive relationship. There are times when it is best to walk away, but marital vows urge us to stand together for better or worse. If it’s possible to love despite disappointment and shortcomings, at the most difficult times in your marriage, that is the mark of the truly committed.