I’m currently in Boston visiting my sweet, incredible boyfriend of 4 months. It is an unbelievably expensive city to live in, so he shares an apartment in Cambridge with a few roommates. One of his roommates has a girlfriend, and I was asking him some questions about her. The first thing I asked was “Do you love her?” He struggled to find an answer to that question, and answered with a question of “What does love mean to you?” I then stumbled through an elementary explanation of love, and also pointed out that there are different kinds of love: romantic love, familial love, and friendship love. After I described that love means you are happy around that person, he said yes, I do love her. I told him that I love everyone I meet, and he asked if that cheapens the word or feeling for me. I said no. These are my definitions of love and my reasons for answering no to his question:
Friendship love (or in the Greek, Philia)
To me, friendship love is very valuable. On the Meyers Briggs personality type test, I am a Feeling over Thinking type. This means that when someone betrays me, I am hurt deeply, and have a difficult time trusting them again. It also means that I am very forgiving- I know, that sounds backwards! Friendship love, to me, is fondness for someone that merits trusting them enough to see who you really are. Friends laugh together, they cry together, they experience life together, and true friends are always there for one another, no matter how difficult life gets. I love my friends in a deep way, because of how much I truly value their desire to be a part of my life. Friend love is different from family love because you CHOOSE your friends, you don’t choose your family. It is beautiful and can be very shallow, short lived love, or it can be deep and lifelong love. Friendship love varies from a fond memory of going out for ice cream to cheer a friend up all the way to a childhood friend who is still there experiencing life with you 30 years later. Also- real, deep, friendship love extends beyond time and distance. Friendship love will still be there even if you haven’t spoken with someone in months or even years. It is that beautiful familiar feeling that humans so appreciate- that connection beyond a passing smile or a friendly hello.
Familial Love (or in the Greek, Storge)
Familial love is something I do not always enjoy talking about, because people generally become standoffish when they hear my views. As the daughter of a woman who was adopted, I have grown to understand and appreciate the value of family love more than many people I know. Familial love is different because it is almost an obligation. Before you freak out, hear me out. Friends, you choose to love and can be flighty and flaky with. Lovers, you choose to love and things can fizzle out and you can never see them again and be okay with that. Family, though, you have to love. For good reason, too. Don’t get me wrong, ALL love is a choice. I do not believe love is an emotion. There are feelings that are behind love, but I believe love is a VERB and you choose to do it for other people.
Loving family is a given, so that can cause us to take it for granted, but that also means when family chooses to not love one another it hits harder and affects people more than any other unrequited love. My mother and her twin sister were given up for adoption when their siblings were kept and raised by their biological parents. The ones who were supposed to take care of them chose not to, and so my mom and Aunt were chosen by my actual grandmother, the one who adopted them and CHOSE to love them. Even without technical blood relation, my mother’s adopted family is expected to love her because she is family. Familial love is defined almost by closeness and presence. My mother and father have always been there for me. They chose to have a child (me) and raise me and change my diapers and care for me and watch me become a woman who may or may not agree with everything they have taught me. That is a selfless type of love, one that wants to give their life (which raising a kid is giving time, effort, energy, and resources) to bring up another person who may or may not choose to honor you. Loving family is choosing to be there no matter what they do, how badly they mess up, what they believe in, or anything that would typically scare you away from any regular person. It should surpass all judgmental feelings or tendencies.
Romantic Love (or in the Greek, Eros)
Romantic love is both highly rational and insane. People crave romantic love. From a young age, we want to connect with people. To me, personally, romantic love is the most selfless. Friendship love is beautiful, but does not go as deep as romantic love. Familial love is almost obligational, and that sets it apart from romance. I believe there are two types of romantic love: compromising love and forever love. The first one is just as real and important as the latter. As an unmarried woman, I cannot say for a fact that I have forever love, because I have not written vows and said “I do”. But after chatting with Simon and my boyfriend Dylan, it got me thinking about how romantic love can vary. Compromising love is a love that borders friendship love and romantic love. It is one that says, “I care for you as a friend and we have some chemistry, but both of us or one of us is not 100% into the relationship and wanting commitment to you.” It is a love that wants to keep fighting but deep down knows that it is not meant to be. It is a love that doesn’t come so easily, and for that reason it is at a stalemate. Perhaps you want different things in life. Perhaps one of you is wanting children now, and the other doesn’t want children at all. For whatever reason, this love has to COMPROMISE one or more big things in order to stay with the person. This is not to be confused with SACRIFICIAL love. Compromise is more like, “Well, I don’t want to give this up, but to get this person to stay with me I will.” That kind of “giving up” can cause resentment and ruin the relationship that is already probably not going to work out. Sacrificial love is different, it is “will I give up something I am selfishly keeping in order to honor and care for the other person?” The difference between the two is obvious: intent. One is for ME, the other is for YOU. Forever love is a love that sees past bad breath or annoying habits, because the person behind those things is so wonderful to you that life would never be the same without them. Forever love is what brings people to marriage, because for forever lovers, marriage isn’t a chore. It is something to be excited about, something to look forward to and something to enjoy thoroughly, especially when the going gets tough. Forever love doesn’t go away, doesn’t fade, doesn’t lose its’ value. That’s what forever means..
LAST but certainly not least…
God Love (or in the Greek, Agape)
AGAPE is the only love that is unachievable and impossible from human to human. Agape love is PERFECT. It knows no bounds. It is not bothered by any part of you, ever. God’s love for humankind is Agape. It is perfect, it reaches beyond sin and ugliness and pain and suffering and is always there to take comfort in. God’s love is different from human love because He chooses to LOVE ALL. We choose to love who we want to. God is the one who created love. Being an imperfect human being, though, we can’t even love God as much as he loves us. Words do not even come close to describing God’s Agape love.
If you all want to read some of the things that have really taught me what love is, read ALL of 1 Corinthians 13.
Love you guys and thanks for reading!