Does Your Marriage Have All Four Types of Love? (Part One)
There are four distinct Greek words used for love in the Bible: storge, philia, eros and agape.
Though each word can translate to the English “love”, each has different connotations and nuances. Since “eros”, (from which we get the word “erotica”) means romantic love, commonly we only think of “eros” when we think of couples and relationships.
Especially around Valentine’s Day, the focus is on marriage romance. And yet, to be truly great a marriage must have more than romance. Having more than just romance, but also affection, friendship, and appreciation, are signs of a healthy relationship and marriage.
Do you have an “eros-only” marriage? Or do you have a marriage with the four loves?
In this article we’ll look at the first two loves: storge and philia. Be sure to check out our second article to find out more about eros and agape.
The first Greek word for love is “storge”. Storge can be described as natural affection, especially between family members. If we were to make the distinction between heart, mind, body and spirit, then storge would be of the heart, as in largely emotional, gut or instinctual. It is a love filled with respect and honorable duty, like what a child may have for a parent.
“Storge” is the fondness and doting service that a parent may have for a child. But affection, honor, duty and service are not simply for parent and child but these qualities create a strong marriage bond as well.
Especially in later years, as health of one partner may fail, and you begin to lean on another more, “storge” will be the love that will carry you through those time. Storge will compel you towards preserving and honoring one another’s dignity and serving each other by assisting through sickness and frailty.
But you do not have to wait until the latter years to encourage “storge” in your marriage. What can you do now to build storge in your marriage? You can encourage emotional intimacy; kindle a sense of fondness and attachment. Make a favorite meal. Take a burden off by doing a chore for your spouse that s/he dislikes doing. And find other ways to serve one another.
The second Greek word for love is “philia”. Philia is a friendship sort of love. In the heart, mind, body, spirit diagram, philia would be of the mind, as in it is a love of conscious choice, as opposed to storge’s instinctual and natural love.
We choose our friends in a way that we do not choose our family. “Philia” is where we get word constructions like “philosophy”-- love of wisdom (sophia means wisdom), philanthropy-- love of humanity (anthros means man), bibliophile—lover of books (biblia = books).
From this we see that philia is also the love that we have for abstract things or non-human things like music, science, chocolate, dancing. In this way we can better see that the essential aspect of philia is appreciation and enjoyment.
We have friends and acquaintances because we appreciate and enjoy their company. The more we spend time with them we discover more of what we appreciate and enjoy about them.
Similarly, we love things like chocolate or dancing because we appreciate and enjoy them. Like in “Music appreciation” class in college, we study a subject to grow in our appreciation of it. For connoisseurs, the more we know about various aspects or kinds of music or dance or fine wine, the more we appreciate them and love them. In the same way, you can cultivate “philia” in our marriage by building up your friendship or companionship with your spouse. Hang out together.
Go on Christian marriage retreats together. Study your spouse. Ask questions. Converse deeply and attentively. The more you know about your spouse, the more you will come to love your spouse.
Yes, although we may only think of eros love and marriage, we can see that to truly love our spouses we must serve them and study them. True love is filled with all four types of loves, including affection, appreciation, service, and enjoyment.