Copyright © 2007-2018 Russ Dewey
Six Types of Love
In a book titled Colors of Love (1973), J. A. Lee defined six varieties of relationship that might be labeled love.
Eros is romantic, passionate, love–what Tennov labeled limerence. In this type of relationship, love is life's most important thing. Lee said a search for physical beauty or an ideal type also typifies this type of love.
Ludus is a game-playing or uncommitted love. Lying is part of the game. A person who pursues ludic love may have many conquests but remains uncommitted.
Storge (STORE-gay) is a slow developing, friendship-based love. People with this type of love like to participate in activities together. Lee said that storge results in a long-
Pragma is a pragmatic, practical, mutually beneficial relationship. It may be somewhat unromantic and is sometimes described as "shopping list" love because a partner is selected on the basis of a series of traits or requirements. Sex is likely to be seen as a technical matter, needed for producing children, if they are desired.
Mania is an obsessive or possessive love, jealous and extreme. A person in love this way is likely to do something crazy or silly, such as stalking. The movie Fatal Attraction was about this type.
Agape (a-GOP-aye) is all-giving love, not concerned with the self, only with the partner, or with people needing compassion. It is said to be relatively rare.
Hendrick and Hendrick (1986) found that Lee's typology was supported by questionnaire research in two studies with 1,807 and 567 respondents, respectively. "Six love style scales emerged clearly from factor analysis" in both studies.
What six different types of love did J. A. Lee define?
Hendrick and Hendrick (1986) produced a Love Attitude Scale to detect the six varieties of love through questionnaire responses. It was used in most of the later research on Lee's love types. Here are some sample questionnaire items:
- Eros: "My partner and I have the right physical chemistry between us." "I feel that my partner and I were meant for each other." "My partner fits my idea standard of physical beauty/handsomeness."
- Ludus: "I have sometimes to keep my partner from finding out about other lovers." "I can get over love affairs pretty easily and quickly." "I enjoy playing the game of love with my partner and a number of other partners."
- Storge: "Our love is the best kind because it grew out of a long friendship." "Our love is really a deep friendship, not a mysterious, mystical emotion."
- Pragma: "A main consideration in choosing my partner was how he or she would reflect on my family." "An important factor in choosing my partner was whether he or she would be a good parent." "One consideration in choosing my partner was how he or she would reflect on my career."
- Mania: "When my partner does not pay attention to me, I feel sick all over." "Since I ahve been in love with my partner, I have had trouble concentrating on anything else." "I cannot relax if I suspect that my partner is with someone else."
- Agape: "I would rather suffer myself than let my partner suffer." "I cannot be happy unless I place my partner's happiness before my own." "I would endure all things for the sake of my partner."
Lee predicted men would endorse Ludus more frequently. Initially that seemed to be confirmed, as Hendrick, Slapion-Foote, and Foote (1985) reported that men were more likely to show the ludic type of love, while women were more likely to be storgic or pragmatic.
However, Woll (1989) found that "the only loving style which showed clear gender differences was Eros, on which males scored significantly higher than females." Several other studies using the Love Attitude Scale found no gender differences.
What have researchers found, in studying Lee's six types of love?
Couples happily married for over 30 years commonly identify with the Eros category. This might seem counter-intuitive if one equates eros with sexual attraction only, or with limerence.
However, the Love Attitude Scale items for Eros emphasize passionate devotion more than sex. Perhaps it is not surprising that long-married, happy couples would endorse statements like, "We are meant for each other."
A survey of 500 students in two of my introductory psychology classes showed that the first five types were familiar to over 80% of the students from their own relationships or people they knew. However, less than 10% of students knew somebody who expressed agape.
Which type of love was least familiar to students in an introductory psychology class?
Neto et al. (2000) reported cross-cultural research with the Love Attitude Scale. The authors hypothesized that "factors involving strong personal feelings, such as mania, eros, and agape, would be largely free of cultural differences" while "factors involving strict social rules... such as pragma, storge, and ludus, would be dependent on cultural influences."
The authors surveyed 1,157 undergraduates, equally divided between men and women, at universities in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, France, Macao, Mozambique, Portugal, and Switzerland. The results supported their hypotheses.
Types of love involving strong personal feelings were similar in all cultures; "cross-cultural differences were very moderate." However, with regard to Pragma and Storge, "cross-cultural differences were considerable."
Angolans, Brazilians, Cape Verdians, and Mozambicans were more pragmatic than French and Swiss. The first three of those countries also produced more storgic responses than French or Swiss. "There were few differences between genders."
Gana, Saada, and Untas (2013) were curious about which love styles might correlate with marital satisfaction. They studied 146 heterosexual couples. "The results revealed that among the love styles, only Eros contributed to marital satisfaction for both men and women."
Sharma and Ahuja (2014) found something very similar. They looked at 20 dating couples, 20 couples married for less than 2 years and childless, and 20 couples married for more than 15 years with children. "Among the various love styles, only Eros and Agape were significantly correlated with relationship satisfaction across life stages."
Gana, K., Saada, Y., & Untas, A. (2013) Effects of love styles on marital satisfaction in heterosexual couples: A dyadic approach. Marriage and Family Review, 49, 754-772. https://dx.doi.org/
Hendrick, C. & Hendrick, S. (1986) A theory and method of love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 392-402. https://dx.doi.org/
Hendrick, S., Hendrick, C., Slapion-Foote, M. J., & Foote, F. H. (1985) Gender differences in sexual attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 1630-1642.
Lee, J.A. (1973). Colors of Love: An Exploration of the Ways of Loving. Toronto, ON: New Press.
Neto, F., Mullet, E., Deschamps, J. C., Barros, J., Benvindo, R., Camino, L., Falconi, A., Kagibanga, V., & Machado, M. (2000) Cross-cultural variations in attitudes toward love. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31, 626-635.
Woll, S. B. (1989) Personality and relationship correlates of loving styles. Journal of Research in Personality, 23, 480-505.
Write to Dr. Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org.