Love x Three

You’ve probably heard of the classic Greek agape, eros and philia? Well, this isn’t that. 

Most people love with their heads, not their heart or their gut. 

By that I mean they experience a mental feeling state of love. It’s very conditional: “I love you because of what you do.”

That doesn’t make it wrong. It’s the love that draws people together with common interests. When my aunt was dating recently, she wanted a man who’d cook for her. She found a man who wanted someone to cook for. Of course, there were many other things, but they both had a condition on love that was met. Oh, and they are married now.

What happens when the conditions are no longer met? If there isn’t a deeper love in place, then friendships drift apart, relationships break down. A few years ago now, someone told me they could only love me if I started to do a particular thing in my work. Because for them that seemed a vital expression of my (philia) love for them. There was no depth in their love – just a requirement for obedience. Without obedience, no love.

AITA groups consistently comment on behaviours as unacceptable for relationship. They are looking at love as a mental feeling state, with conditions.

Don’t get me wrong. Often the only reasonable comment on those posts seems to be, “Run and don’t look back.” And this is not about ignoring the need for boundaries or negotiating living arrangements.

The mental state of love feels good – needs are being met, and that creates a sense of safety. But we all know that sooner or later, a need won’t be met. At which point it’s easy to throw the baby out with the bath water. I had a client once who had picked a husband to take care of her. When his declining health started to indicate that he needed care, she was ready to leave. No shame, if the condition was the only thing that kept love in place, then there was nothing to hold her. 

What is deeper?

The next layer of love is a raw emotional love, felt in the gut. Not lust, that’s generally still a mental feeling state, when it depends on the other looking a certain way or doing certain things.

Raw emotion is untainted by the external – looks, actions, behaviours. It’s an unspoken sense of connection. 

But, it’s still conditional. We don’t feel that same sense of connection to just anyone. It’s the love of a parent for their child, the love that grows between friends over time, the sudden hit looking into the eyes of someone who is not going to be a stranger for long. It’s a love that can accommodate differences, bad behaviour, and change. It’s the love a marriage needs to endure the years and the challenges.

Raw love feels good. Raw love hurts. Raw love asks a lot of us. And raw love is still for a particular person, and not for another. Even if we can’t explain why. 

What is deeper?

Then, we have the energy of love, known in the heart. This is unconditional love. It has to be, because it sees no other. This is the energy that we swim in before birth and after death – yet seem to forget in between. We can live in this energy, albeit filtered to some extent by our humanness.

It is this energy that means I can hold no ill will towards a culty leader with narcissistic behaviour traits – without condoning or excusing their actions.

It’s this energy that gives us a stable foundation for living all the emotions, all the feelings. It’s this energy that makes it safe to dream, to reach, to rest. It’s this energy that carries us home. 


So, we have love times three:

  • The mental feeling state of love – our preferences, likes and dislikes
  • The emotion of love – our commitment to our tribe
  • The energy of love – our true nature

My wish for 2024 is that more of us learn to recognise the energy of love as our essence, allow it to nourish us, and grant it the power to guide our choices. 

With Love, Sara

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