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There’s no easy way to explain love

Love is a many splendored thing — and can be quite confusing. What is love? How do we feel love? The Greeks had the right idea. They had at least six different words for love, depending on who or what was being loved.

We often think of love as physical love or passion. Eros is what we feel with the fresh bud of chemistry between two people. Eros is what brings us together in a relationship. Eros is what we feel when we can’t stop thinking of that special someone, and want to jump into bed and have passionate sex. Eros doesn’t last.

When I was in the throes of eros as a newly minted bride, I was talking with an elderly woman friend of mine (she might have been 71), and she told me she and her husband no longer had that sort of intimate relationship. In shock I asked “why?” She delicately told me he could no longer “perform.” I felt such pity for her.

Now that I am an elderly lady pushing 70, I realize what she was saying. Eros turns into agape, or even philia. Agape is a love for friends and your fellow man, and charitable heartfelt acts; and what is more charitable than telling your balding, paunchy husband that you still find him sexy? Philia is love or affection between friends. Who can be more than the best of friends than spouses? I know, not all spouses behave like friends. In fact, many of the couples I knew as a child, fought like cats and dogs. I came to understand that through all that acrimony, there was often a deep love.

Love for our children was storge. Empathy, compassion, protectiveness, pride, are the things we feel for our children, and they for us — hopefully. And xenia is more like courtesy or hospitality to visitors, or those far from home. From this definition I am going to assume the gentle citizens of Xenia, Ohio are a lovely people who would welcome us to their homes. Or maybe not. I’ve never met anyone from Xenia.

The Greek philautia, is a type of love we oftentimes misunderstand or even frown upon-the love of self. We think of self-love as arrogant, vane, or conceited, when loving yourself has actually been identified as a basic human necessity; one that all too often is hard to find.

This is all sounding quite clinical to me. Suffice it to say, I love my husband, my children, and some of my fellow man. What I feel is different in each case because it is different.

Love is not a one-size-fits-all emotion. It grows, it changes, and sometimes it recedes. That’s why loving yourself is so important. If you don’t, who else will? (As a pastor friend of mine once said to me, “If God loves you, so do I.” And I replied, “IF????”)

I’ll leave you with this thought about the Patron Saint of Love, St. Valentine.

He is the patron saint of not only love, lovers, and happy marriages, he is also the patron saint of bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, and the plague. Just think about that on Feb. 14. Happy Valentine’s Day xx.

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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