Cultivating many kinds of love
Written by Abby Lee Hood
In English, “love” is a catch-all term we use for many kinds of relationships. We use it for those with our friends and family but also with our romantic partners. Ancient Greeks had seven different words to describe the different types of love, like self-love, platonic, unconditional, romantic and more.
All these types of love are equally important. As some of us face a lonely Valentine’s Day this year or have limited social interaction because of the COVID pandemic, we could do with a little love cultivation and connection. Humans crave being social and it’s good for our mental health. Even without the pandemic, many of us may suffer from seasonal depression or general anxiety. If you’re feeling a little down, you may benefit from a little extra support from friends, family or lovers.
The importance of social connection during a pandemic
Social interaction is incredibly important for our health and wellness. We evolved to rely on and benefit from emotional experiences!
“Humans are inherently social beings and our social ties give us meaning,” Dr. Kristen Mark, a Coral expert says. “Often, people think about this as only being important for extroverts, but meaningful small group social connection is important for introverts too!”
Mark says isolation can cause depression or make depression symptoms worse. Even if we can’t achieve it in person, investing in strong relationships of various kinds can mitigate symptoms and help ease problems with mental health. Mark also says we aren’t designed to rely on one person for all our social needs. It’s simply too much for one person to bear and can leave both parties feeling overwhelmed and disappointed. Mark says that diversifying where our needs are met means we’re more likely to feel like we’re living a fulfilled life, and it removes some of the pressure for one person to meet all your needs.
So what kinds of love are there, exactly? While the Greeks had seven words, we’re going to use a slightly smaller set of categories to make it a little easier. Let’s dive in!
Ah, romance. It’s on all our minds this Valentine’s Day, whether we want to admit it or not. The Greeks called this kind of love eros, and it was passionate. According to Well + Good
, you can define it as “desire and obsession… most similar to what we think of as romantic, passionate love between life partners.” Even in the pandemic, you can cultivate this kind of love
. Studies show dating app usage has surged in recent months, and apps like Hinge have introduced video chats for face-to-face chats. The good news is now that dating is more online, you can take your time to deeply connect and chat before meeting. Consider looking for matches outside your local area, searching for a real connection you might’ve otherwise missed!
The Greeks called unconditional familial love storge, or “the protective, kinship-based love you likely experience with family members.” So many of us are separated from our families because of the pandemic, but there are ways to re-connect. Some families love card games; have you considered playing UNO online with your parents? Simple FaceTime calls are a good way to go, but consider picking up the phone and dialing grandparents or great-grandparents. When was the last time you put in the effort and gave them a call? If you’re not close with your family, this kind of love can also result in deep affection for teammates. Is there a local sports team or group meet up you can join? Roller skating groups
have increased during the pandemic, and give you a common outdoor hobby to share. Is there something similar near you?
The Greeks used philia to describe strong friendships. “Philia is characterized by intimacy, knowing, and soul-to-soul bonds. It’s encouraging, kind and authentic,” says Well + Good. These kinds of relationships are deep whether they’re romantic or platonic, but if you haven’t invested in your friendships lately you might consider inviting them to play a board game with you. The recent hit that was Netflix’s Queen’s Gambit has caused chess set sales to soar
, and people are playing the classic game by mail again. Here’s how you can do the same with friends!
If games aren’t your thing, a simple text will do. Even if you haven’t talked to the person in a few weeks, reach out and check in. It takes real effort and attention to cultivate friendships and you both deserve it, so don’t let awkwardness or time lost get in the way.
One of our personal favorites, if we’re being honest. Self-love was called philautia by the Greeks, and it could take the form of self-care
(i.e. taking time to rest or doing a face mask) or the pleasure-seeking self-love that results in masturbation, career moves and ambition. At Coral we'll never get tired of touting the many physical and emotional benefits masturbation has, but self-care can also look like responding to an important email you’ve been avoiding or cleaning the bathroom. We suggest making a list of three things you can do for yourself today: one that provides comfort, like a self-foot massage, one self-pleasure experience (ideally that makes you orgasm), and one that pushes forward your career goals or gets an important task off your to-do list.
Ludus meant casual, flirtatious love to the Greeks and let’s be honest: not every relationship you find yourself in will be a deep, meaningful one! The world is scary and often very heavy, so if you want to have a fling or some casual sex we support you 100%. When you're looking for a casual situation, dating apps are your friend, but you might consider reconnecting with a previous partner you trust. Be sure to ask important COVID and STI questions like whether you’ve both been tested and isolated. Sex doesn’t spread COVID, but the act of intimacy and being close can, so be cautious if the person isn’t in your quarantine pod already
This year, Valentine’s Day is going to look different for all of us. But that doesn't mean you have to be lonely or feel isolated. If you don’t already have a therapist we’ll tell you exactly what they would: you need and deserve meaningful connections.
Now that you know the types of love and have some ideas for cultivating each, go forth boldly, and don’t let nervousness get in the way! It can be scary to get back on the dating market or chat with someone you haven’t in a while, but it’s worth it. Plus, why rob others of your awesome charm, personality and friendship? That’s just bad manners.