Psychology’s Love Types

While the four classical love words are effective in general cases, the field of psychology has expanded the list in some interesting ways. Studies conducted of human relationships have been boiled down to a few more specific love words. Developing an awareness of the variety of love types available in human relationships enhances depth of character interaction, and realistic effects of fictional relationships. Make the effort to include as many of these types in novel work as possible. Careful placement of a few different types within short fiction creates a rich human effect in realistic fiction, which is often reliant on relationship dynamics.

Six Types – Psychology

In addition to the initial Greek words for love, Storge, Philia, and Eros, the field of psychology has claimed three additional terms for love patterns of emotional connection. These three are a kind of subset in that they can exist under the first three, or can be present in family, friend, or romantic relationships. They’re most easily identified by certain patterns of behavior.

Many relationships start out in the ludus type, since much of the game-playing aspect comes from testing each partner’s limits of patience, interest, and compatibility.

Ludus – Game-playing/uncommitted love. Consider flirting. Ludus can be flighty, flaky, unstable, and selfish. It’s ludus that leads to relationships based off teasing behavior, and people who tend toward ludus aren’t planning to stick around.

When writing ludus into a story, bear in mind each of the types of love isn’t a solid character trait. These are dynamic stages of human emotion. At a first meeting, a couple (whether romantic or platonic) could be unequally interested in one another. One of the two might see the situation as “just for fun” and not be hurt to toss it aside as just a nice night out. The other could be everywhere from totally smitten to completely dismissive. Each combination produces a different and fascinating dynamic.

Pragmatic lovers have goals and targets when they look for partners. These often include income stream, assets, or even family standing. While pragma develops over time for many couples, some begin with it, opting for a relationship of convenience which can become more.

Pragma – Practical/Mutually beneficial love. An example of pragma in action would be observing a couple who has been happily married for a long time. Even more specific example would be a couple who has grown old together. Pragma is all about how well two people work together, and how well both are benefited from being together. Now time and romance doesn’t have to be the foundation of pragma. A modern example would be a heterosexual marriage with a spouse who is homosexual. In some cases, the couple is fully aware and accepting of this and are solid enough friends that the marriage is an equal partnership in life. For some people, pragma is enough on which to build a life together. For others, pragma is a dream to build up to over a long period of time together.

Though Twilight is a touchy subject, the relationship between Edward and Bella is the epitome of manic love. This obsession is what pushes the story, forcing the characters to overcome the obstacles in their way.

Mania – Obsessive/Possessive love. Ever hear of a whirlwind romance? Two people meet and suddenly just get all wrapped up in each other in a very short time. This is an example of early mania. This is driven by early obsession, giving every spare minute to the other person. After some time, things are a bit different and mania is expressed in later relationship stages as possessiveness. Jealousy of a partner is an expression of mania, as are the associated emotions of paranoia, fear, and obsessive behavior.

Use caution before jumping to assumptions here, and be aware of the stereotypes mania has collected. While stalking and obsession is a real threat and fear for some people, mania is not always negative. Some degree of mania is present in most young romantic relationships and drives couples to spend the necessary time with one another to develop other types of love.

Six Types of Love | Introduction to Psychology

Additional Type

The six types, original and supplemental, all require an interaction between two individuals. This final type is more concerned with personal health, and fostering the relationship between an individual and their regard for themselves.

Many YA novels have themes of developing self-respect and self-love. While this isn’t always a struggle, one of the main plots in classical fiction (Man vs. Self) uses self-respect as the ultimate goal.

Philautia – self-respect/ love of self. This is generally called self-esteem, but philautia is a bit different. By definition, self-esteem means “value of the self”, or whether or not an individual believes they are of value. Philautia is the love of one’s self. Value, use, or quality isn’t important in maintaining love for one’s self any more than a person only loves their dog if it can successfully fetch a ball or come every time it’s called. Love of self is fostered the same way a relationship with another person is, through compassionate listening, positive interaction, and affectionate exchange. Some concrete examples: getting proper sleep, eating right, enjoying a treat now and then, exercising, dressing confidently, manicure/pedicure, doing something fun, going out on the town, etc. Being aware of what one likes, and trying new things helps develop confidence and appreciation for personal identity.

A character’s conduct can directly show their level of philautia, and their mental health can be reflected (without a dump of mental discussion) by their awareness of their needs and determination to care for themselves.

For more information on philautia, look at The Seven Kinds of Love | Southbank Centre

While these are still just a collection of Latin vocabulary words, they do provide more specific terms than the ridiculous, four-letter umbrella word “love”. This isn’t meant to encourage the use of these terms, since it would likely distract from the story, but instead to provide more accurate language for writers to articulate desired effects in their works in progress. If any of these terms piques interest, or inspires sometime, research more about it and seek examples of it in action in real life or in media.

This post is one of a series! Continue looking at tools for enhancing your characters’ expressions of love here:

Classical Love Types

Write Better Characters Using the Love Languages


Commenting area

  1. Wow. This is a great resource. I find some of my characters are a mixture depending on the type of guy–bad boy, lovable boy next door–comes into their lives. I’m definitely bookmarking this one. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow, this a VERY interesting post and very different. I had never heard of the different kinds of love from a psychological point of view. Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is great. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>