Is It Love Or Friendship?
If you’ve started dating and you’re not sure if a certain someone is ‘the one’ or just somebody who’s going to become a really great chum, we can help.
In this article we’re going to look at the deep, complex issues of love and/or friendship but also offer you some litmus paper tests to discover what’s really going on. By the end, not only will you know what love is, and isn’t, but you’ll have found out which side of the equation your current relationship falls on.
What is love anyway?
Western media would have us believe that love: consumes us, changes us, gives us somebody who meets our every need, that it’s exciting, hits us like a thunderbolt and that while it can hurt us, it’s always ‘worth the price’. Love means never having to say you’re sorry, spending all your time together and that the one we love will complete us.
This is definitely one version of love – but it’s not the only, or even the healthiest one. At Select Personal Introductions we’ve been honoured to watch love grow in many relationships – and this is what we’ve seen:
- Love grows at different rates – some get thunderbolts, some get barely heard whispers. What creates love is committed action towards building trust, intimacy and understanding.
- Difference is as attractive as sameness – some couples like to be together 24/7 and others spend much of their time apart with different friendship groups and interests. Love is just as possible in either case.
- Admitting mistakes, working on oneself and having healthy relationships outside of the love match are essential to success in the long term.
Litmus Test One
Do you daydream about this person when you’re at work, commuting or shopping? Then it’s probably love. If you can’t stop thinking about somebody, you’ve gone a long way down the path to love.
Eros – The Greek God of Love
Eros was the Greek god of love, or more precisely, passionate and physical desire. Without warning he selects his targets and forcefully strikes at their hearts, bringing confusion and irrepressible feelings or, in the words of Hesiod, he ‘loosens the limbs and weakens the mind’
The roots of modern love
The Ancient Greeks had seven or eight words for love, depending on your definition. Oddly enough, the contested eighth is the one we’re most familiar with today – it’s ‘mania’ which the Greeks defined as ‘obsessive love’ and which is closest to the definition of modern love that we’ve given above. The others are:
- Eros – a romantic, passionate emotion
- Philia – affection
- Agape – selfless feelings, universal in nature
- Storge – the love born of familiarity eg children for parents and vice versa
- Ludus – a playful affection (like flirting)
- Pragma – love born of endurance, the love resulting from shared experience
- Philautia – love of self.
Phew! That doesn’t seem to help at first sight, but actually it’s a great list. Most of us start dating looking for a blend of Eros and Ludus, but what we want to move onto is Pragma and Storge. Of course, without a good dose of Philautia we are probably incapable of loving anybody else, although with too much Philautia it’s likely that nobody will measure up to our vanity.
Being able to chart these phases of love can help us see where we are in a new relationship.
Litmus Test Two
Does your stomach flutter and/or your knees go weak when you see ‘them’ or when ‘they’ text or call? That’s the beginnings of love. Feeling a rush both physically and emotionally, especially if accompanied with jealous concerns about who else ‘they’ might be seeing, is a real indicator that you’re falling in love.
Love and Dating
At Select Personal Introductions, we suggest our members look on each date as a chance to have a good time, rather than a tick box exercise to see if you could ‘love’ each other. This is because the subtler aspects of love can grow out of regular contact, rather than arriving like meteors or exploding like fireworks. As we mature, love becomes a much more complex emotion, based less on physical attraction (although that’s pretty vital) and more on shared values and the development of trust. Giving it time is essential to finding out where any relationship is going.
Litmus Test Three
How’s your eye contact? If you feel a shiver when you lock eyes with your potential love match, and if they tend to look at you repeatedly and for long periods, it’s a clear sign that they are attracted to you. If you find yourself trying to catch their eye, and then getting that little whoosh! when you do, it’s time to admit to yourself that you’re falling in love too.
Love is what we make it
Open communication is vital. If you want to develop a relationship, be brave and speak up. While friendship shares many characteristics with romance, finding out which you’re heading for requires courage. If you’re feeling lust towards somebody (Ludus) and that’s backed up by some affectionate respect (Philia) for them, you’re probably in love. Now it’s time to find out if they share your investment, and if they do, you can start to build in elements of Storge and Pragma along with a big dose of Eros, into your dates!