Archive for the 'Love' Category

(Linguistic) Love Greek-Style

As any good protestant parishioner (or at least one who has had to endure the oft overwrought “God’s Agape Love” sermon*) can tell you – in the Greek language, there are several different words for love – Eros, Philia, Agape, and Storgē – each expressing its own different facet and expression of love.

So while I was bashing on marriage a few weeks ago in this post and lamenting that the “Eros” version too often only happens when one returns after an extended absence, I thought it might be useful to examine all types of marital love.  And just as the ancient and modern Greeks have 3 or 4 different words for love, expectedly there are also these types and manifestations of love in marriage: 

Eros – Erotic/Romatic/Euphoric Love (Timespan – 1 night to 1 year) – I think we all know what kind of love this is – it is what they show you on TV and in the movies (even the non-pornographic ones!).  It is the chemically addictive desire to mate that our selfish DNA has endowed us with.  This is like when you begin to really like a song and learn its words and you just want to hear it again and again – thinking it will be that fresh and interesting always.

Philia – Philial/the Love of Friendship (1 to 3 years) – This is the most broad and ambiguous of the greek loves.  It can mean anything from the love of friendship, goodness, or even pleasure.  It can even mean being “lovable.”  And this is my favorite definition, for at this stage we are still at least trying to be lovable.  We know ourselves and we know our mates for all our strengths and weaknesses.  This is like when you have learned that favorite song by heart, but you still like it (you just may not want to hear it all the time or necessarily over again and again).

Agape – Unconditional and Long Term (3 to 10 years) – This is the start of the love of family, of the love of the more permanent love artifacts (art, children, connectedness, etc.), and of the love of something more than yourself.  This is like when you continually rediscover that song you liked long ago.

Storgē – Love of Family (10 years to ?) – This is the willingness to sacrifice the Eros, Philia, and Agape for the familiarity, safety, security, and commitment of a long term relationship with your family.  It is when you finally understand-through hard experience-the vows of “sickness and health, richer or poorer,” and so on.  It is the final sweet and pleasant mix of erotic, philial, and agape love with family.  And, with luck, it is the end state of all happy and functional relationships.  So “play it again Sam.”

Notes:
* I personally believe that modern Christians may be imbuing this word (Agape) with meanings it never originally had to have some sermon-writing material.
** I lived in Greece for a few years and would hear these words all of the time, and their meaning and connotation seemed almost nothing like when our preacher would use them (but in his defense, he may have been using the ancient meanings).  Some examples:
“Philemo! My Friend! You want to buy a rug!”
Agapemo! (My Love!)” – was a favorite when I used to hear the Greek Ya-Ya’s use it to call their grandkids in for supper (and they probably weren’t talking about God-like love, although it is possible).

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Marriage and Matters of the Heart

I leave home from time to time and I’m always surprised by the intense renewed appreciation both for and from my spouse upon my return home.

Eventually this appreciation turns to familiarity and then turns to something that borders on contempt and then things finally return to their pre-trip levels of normalcy.  So imagine a typical return home as a romantic sine wave with its peaks, its valleys, and then its leveling off.

But this time, rather than just go along for the rollercoaster ride, I wanted to keenly observe this phenomena, track its progression, and study its lifecycle.  And along the way I came up with a few questions:

  • Is it at all possible to reshape this standard relationship curve by changing the set of inputs?
  • Just exactly how do we transform ourselves from interested, considerate, and near euphoric mates into a bunch of belching, farting, and complaining troglodytes?
  • Exactly how do we ever get to the point where we treat our spouses with less consideration and respect than we show any other human?

And the answers gleaned thus far…

  • For the record, regardless of actions, its does not seem possible to change this cycle – (euphoric and erotic) love fades – spouses grow up  – they get real jobs with real responsibilities – they have kids whose lives have their own special sets of demands – and that is life.
  • We go from being on our best behavior and trying very hard to impress at the beginning of a relationship to our worst behavior and frankly not trying very hard (if trying at all) as the relationship progresses.
  • We seem to be hardest on our spouses because we expect more of them than of any other human being (including ourselves).  Where could these expectations possibly come from?  Most likely the messages transmitted from all forms of media – movies, books, magazines, internet, etc. all portraying some idiolized fantasy realm populated by perfect mates (a Stepford Spouse who is 1/3 Saint, 1/3 Genius, and 1/3 Porn Star).  We need to realize, regardless of media portrayal to the contrary, that our spouses are ordinary humans like ourselves and set our expectations accordingly.

This all sounds like pretty terrible stuff doesn’t it?  But it is not, these examples are but the most negative and most extreme.  Along with these negatives, you get many positives:  comfort, commitment,  and all of those other tenets laid out in the marriage vows.  Of course, you don’t get these things for free – you definitely have to be willing to work for them – and especially try to minimize the many negatives mentioned here.

And it apparently doesn’t hurt to go away and give your spouse a break every so often either.  So here’s to looking forward to the next trip – and appreciative homecoming.

Now, where was I?