Valentine’s Day. Is it something you eagerly anticipate? A time when you are lavished with gifts and cards, when you are the centre of attention for your many admirers or significant other? Or, is it a cruel reminder of how you’re still single, or separated now, on your own, unloved, uncared for, loveless?!
The Cost Saying ‘I Love You’
Well, be cheered because frankly St Valentine is less about ‘true love’ and more about commercialism as it is estimated that in the US last year, more than 18.2 billion dollars were spent on gifts and cards for the occasion.
The Importance of Love
There is no doubt that love is important to all humans but the type and quality of love is not just the romantic sort that is celebrated on February 14th. John Bowlby wrote about the importance of being loved in our infancy and how these early relationships with our caregivers will affect all future relationships for the rest of our lives.
Does Love Equal Happiness?
More recently, Director of Harvard’s Study of Adult Development, George Vaillant stated that the information gathered during this 75-year longitudinal study led him to the conclude that ‘happiness is love, full stop’. Interestingly, he also went on to say that there are two pillars of happiness – one is love and the other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away. In other words, he says ‘happiness is the cart – love is the horse’.
So, if you haven’t met the person of your dreams, does it mean you can’t be happy? Well, if you believe your happiness is dependent on ‘happy ever after love’ you may be cheating yourself out of happiness, because romantic love is only one kind of love and there are many other ways to let love into your life.
Ask the Greeks
Perhaps the Greeks were the geeks of love! They recognised that love can come in many different forms. Consider these for instance.
1. Eros: Love of the body ‘Eros’ is love based on sexual attraction and is where the term erotic comes from.
2. Philia: Love of the mind ‘Philia’ is an affectionate sort of love you may have for a good friend and someone you have a mutual connection with.
3. Ludus: Playful love ‘Ludus’ is a playful love associated with childlike fun.
4. Pragma: Long Standing love ‘Pragma’ describes the type of love that develops and endures over time, more common in long-term relationships than those in the first flush of romantic love.
5. Agape: Love of the soul ‘Agape’ reflects a selfless love that is associated with acts of kindness such and working for a charitable cause. In positive psychology this is referred to as eudaimonic happiness that is shown to increase psychology wellbeing
6. Philautia: Love of the self ‘Philautia’ describes self-love not of a narcissistic nature but one that comes from having high self esteem.
7. Storge: Love of the child ‘Storge’ is the sort of love that parents have for their children, one that is experienced naturally and without effort.
When we consider love in this broader sense it opens us up to so many possibilities and opportunities to enjoy all sorts of loving relationships. It is also interesting how this fits with many positive psychology interventions and theories of flourishing such as PERMA (Positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment) that fit well in several of these different types of love.
Love With A Stranger!
In the book Love 2.0 Barbara Fredrickson gives a scientific definition of love, as a renewable resource, a micro-moment of warmth and connection that is shared with another living being. According to Fredrickson, any brief moment of connection between people, even strangers, which creates a shared experience of positive emotions will cause a matching of biochemistry and a mutual impulse to care for one another. In other words, love.
So, don’t worry about the Valentine’s Day cards that you may or not may not receive this year. There are abundant opportunities to experience a whole range of experiences of love. By sharing love with yourself, your friends, family, pets and through micro-moments of shared connection with strangers you may find that you focus less your love-life and more on the love in your life and become much happier in the process.