My favorite book on the subject of love is The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis. Lewis addresses four of the different types of love, as delineated by the Greeks. However, there are seven loves that the ancients recognized. What Lewis adds to the mix is the three levels of love.
I would say the number one reason we moderns can be so confused about “love” is because we no longer know or understand these several distinctions. As this pertains to marriage, when someone says they love you, you need to know what sort of love they mean. In today’s free-for-all sexual availability, eros reigns supreme. With the social justice crowd, it is philia. Sometimes, eros is mixed in with philia. That is called friends with perks.
Let me educate you. Let’s look at all 7 love types.
1. Agape - universal love, a collective love of humanity, which is the love of God. When we express agape, we are loving like God loves us, with the caveat that God will judge us, but individually.
2. Storge-family love. The love of family members for one another. Siblings, parents, cousins, and so forth.
3. Philia-brotherly love, the love of friends.
4. Philautia-self love
5. Ludus-playful love, flirtatious love
6. Eros-sexual or passionate love, physical love, attraction
7. Pragma-long term love, the love between spouses, or the love that will not leave
The three levels of love, which I see as Lewis’ genius, are:
1. Necessary love - love of a child for his parents, love of those who care for another
2. Gift love - the love that is freely given, and returned
3. Appreciative love - love though there is no return, it is the classic love from afar scenario
Historically, marriage is about storge and pragma. Obviously, eros plays a part, but it was not necessary to feel sexual love or attraction. In the past, marriage was a practical union. Mostly, marriages were arranged, for the purpose of the continuation of the family, and companionship. People looked at life long term, though their individual lives were much shorter than ours. Through marriage, real property could be passed on to one’s children or grandchildren. However, serfs too married. They had furnishings and other articles that would be given to the succeeding generation, including the leased property.
I have studied a few political marriages wherein the couple hated one another, and yet was able to come together to produce the required heirs. That is possible in a world, in an era, that demanded that individuals do their duty towards the family.
Arranged marriages were rarely the nightmare moderns think they were. Women had the option to say no. The usual question asked of the woman was, “Can you come to love him?” which suggests love was expected to grow over time as the couple focused on the purpose of their marriage. There was no idea of sovereign individuality, that one lived for themselves.
The financial end of marriage was negotiated by the elders. The bride’s family provided a dowery, which was cash, property, or both, that could be used by the husband, but was to be transferred directly to her children from the union. If a part of the dowery was a piece of farmland, then the husband would want to develop it, to turn it into a money making property. This is good for him, as well as his children, as it increases the overall wealth that will be inherited by his children.
The husband provides the bride price or dower. This is cash, property or both, that is given to the bride. Depending on the individual circumstances, like how wealthy the families were, this could be money she set aside for herself. If she were to be widowed, she would need means to live. If she died first, the money would probably end up distributed among her children. If there were no children, the money would be returned.
Some marriages had all three loves, storge, eros and pragma, intertwined. Sometimes marriages were love matches from the get go. Such a couple was Henry II and Aliénor d’Aquitaine. They fell into eros on sight, even though Aliénor was 11 years older than Henry. The two freely chose to marry. Their marriage ended up having issues later, but they never lost the pragma love. They seemed to move from the 2nd level of love, the gift love, to the 3rd level, as they would always appreciate one another even when separated.
Today’s relationships between men and women are so highly sexualized that it is difficult to find someone who is, well, appropriate. Too many men expect women to sleep with them as a part of the dating experience. How to tell a woman to not have sex before marriage when she herself is probably lonely and in want of male companionship, is an enterprise of great tact. It is a conversation her father needs to have with her. But too many young women lack a father in the home.
Back in the day, an uncle or grandfather or brother would protect the young women from the scoundrels. If the scoundrels attempted seduction, they got out of town pretty quickly. Scoundrels have always been with us, but never before have they had such encouragement as they do today. Dating apps like Tinder are individuals looking for sex. The scoundrels love Tinder.
And how did erotic love enter into this business of marriage? With the troubadours. These were men and women who were poets, storytellers, writers of fiction and music, musicians and singers. During the early Middle Ages, the troubadour system developed probably from the Mediterranean countries. Some say the music was first heard in the Holy Land during the first Crusade, in 1099. Europeans began living in the kingdoms in the Holy Land, and adopted many of the Near East cultural practices. Like love poetry. And songs of love and war, and storytelling.
The hot bed of the European troubadour movement was through the south of France. One of the big supporters of this entertainment and philosophy of love, was Aliénor, and her famous son, Richard Lionheart. Sometimes this era is referred to as the Romance Movement. In a time when so many people married for practical reasons, the idea of love was introduced. Eros made a bold entry into the house of the nobles. And thus the confusion began. The church condemned it. But could not stop it. Pandora’s urn was, once more, emptied.
But oh the art that was turned out. The Holy Grail concept comes from this movement. And the songs of love are some of the most beautiful I have ever heard. Emotional and stirring, and yes, dangerous.