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Seven words for Love. Tuesday April 19, 2016

What if you had to choose between romantic love and avoiding severe, mental ill health? At the moment I'm choosing the latter, which so far is surprisingly easy.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder six years ago, my tales of romantic relationship turmoil were listed as one of the many diagnostic indicators of my condition.

In forty years I reckon I've been in love about nine times. Each time was beautiful, ecstatic, destructive and excruciating. I don't regret any one of those relationships but each one of them scarred me and at times made me despise myself. Five of them led to thoroughly planned suicides; one of which was attempted and failed, another foiled by a friend at the last minute. The combined effect has cumulatively chipped away at my belief that I might ever be capable of a nurturing, healthy relationship in the classical sense of what I imagine that to be.

So this year I've been actively avoiding a new relationship as a kind of experiment, and it feels good. Empowering even. I'm lucky enough to live an amazing, varied and fulfilling life which is often bursting with love of almost every kind other than that we call romantic love.

For such a rich language I often find it strange that English is so poor at describing all the different kinds of love that one can give and receive in life.

The ancient Greeks had seven words for it:

Eros: Passionate, sexual love
Philia: The deep love of friendship
Ludus: Playful, flirtatious love
Storge: Familial love
Pragma: Long standing, married love
Philautia: Love of self
Agape: Love for humanity

If I can experience five out of seven different kinds of love in my life then surely I am blessed?

I don't know how long I shall last in this strange, yet peculiarly stable period of romancelessness, but for the moment it seems to be the medicine I need.

What have you had to sacrifice for your mental health?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Lex Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 6:42am

I really like the thoughts you are inspiring, Anna. A type of love for every colour of the rainbow... a type of love for every day of the week... clearly, there is more love in the World of love than I realised. Thank you for your words and thoughtfulness. Lxx

Zareen Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 7:56am

Thanks Anna for your blog which I loved & found very encouraging & thought provoking & your response Lex. You expressed your thoughts so clearly & concisely!

Hopeful One Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 7:49am

Hi Anna- A lovely way to start the day. Human beings are ,by nature ,social creatures. So we are programmed to love and be loved.We cannot live without that for long. But love to me begins with oneself (Philautia in your list). Without that the other loves don't stand a chance meaning that they will not last for long. Right now I am in Eros and oh my word its just delicious!

Today's offering departs from the customary laugh .It is about love but the kind that has a chance to last I think. Its in the form of a poem. In a book I have just finished reading called 'Post Romantic Stress Disorder'(PRSD) by John Bradshaw ,a relationship psychotherapist, he makes the point that after the first flush of romantic love falls off, mostly due to circumstance like the arrival of a baby , something has to take its place and when that does not happen it leads to PRSD and ,if not dealt with early, to divorce.

Love Me Little, Love Me Long

Love me little, love me long, Is the burden of my song.
Love that is too hot and strong Burneth soon to waste:
Still, I would not have thee cold, Not too backward, nor too bold;
Love that lasteth till ’tis old Fadeth not in haste.
Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

If thou lovest me too much It will not prove as true as touch;
Love me little, more than such, For I fear the end:
I am with little well content, And a little from thee sent
Is enough, with true intent
To be steadfast friend.
Love me little, love me long, Is the burden of my song.

Say thou lov’st me while thou live; I to thee my love will give,
never dreaming to deceive Whiles that life endures: Nay, and after death, in sooth, I too thee will keep my truth,
As now, when in my May of youth: This my love assures.
Love me little, love me long, Is the burden on my song.

Constant love is moderate ever, And it will through life persèver:
Give me that, with true endeavour I will it restore.
A suit of durance let it be For all weathers that for me,
For the land or for the sea, Lasting evermore.
Love me little, love me long, Is the burden of my song.

Winter’s cold, or summer’s heat, Autumn’s tempests, on it beat,
It can never know defeat, Never can rebel:
Such the love that I would gain, Such the love, I tell thee plain,
Thou must give, or woo in vain:
So to thee, farewell
Love me little, love me long,
Is the burden of my song.

Lou Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 8:13am

what a wonderful poem. Thank you for sharing HO :)

Lou Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 8:10am

Good to know I am not the only one who has decided to step away from relationships for the sake of their mental health. Until I can better understand the choices I have made in the past I feel I am better off flying solo. But, as I may have mentioned, I have been adopted by a rescue cat who brings an amazing amount of love of another kind into my life.

A really good, and very honest, blog. thank you Anna.

Julie Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 9:11am

I've done the same as you Anna and Lou and have found I do much better on my own and its been 15 years now! It's good to see I'm not alone in this decision as I haven't ever met anyone else who's done this too. It's not always been easy on my own but the pros ultimately out weigh the cons that's for sure as a Bipolar episode is worth avoiding at all costs in my view.

The Gardener Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 9:21am

Oh Anna, I can only respond to Agape. I've observed so many relationships, successful ones (don't know how they started) seem based on mutual respect, interests in common and 'having own space". Almost all the 'extreme passionate' starts have been destructive. Expectations too high?

Mary Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 9:22am

Brilliant blog Anna. And I'm sure it rings bells for many of us.

The Gardener Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 9:24am

My father spent his entire life seeking the 'ideal' woman, they spent his money, he was very gullible - died a sad, lonely, bitter old man - see now he was bi-polar. Most passionate and consuming? The 'crush'. I am still ashamed of the harrassment caused to our history teacher when I was a teen-ager - still happen? Counselling? Done for harrassment?

Sheena Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 9:34am

Anna you are doing the right thing ... for now! It's part of Philautia. Self acceptance, self care, and enjoying one's own company is the foundation for making good relationships. I enjoyed your blog very much, so thoughtful and observant. Sometimes I wonder if bi-polar stems from poor infant bonding. This would explain the in love with being in love that can chaotically consume teens, twenties and beyond :) I'll look out for your next instalment Sheena

Leah Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 9:59am

Sheena, I had great infant bonding so that wouldn't be a reason for me. I suppose many people have chaotic relationships and they don't have bipolar. A very complex issue.

Leah Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 9:55am

I had been diagonised with bipolar and then blamed my relationship troubles on my bipolar!!

In your list I hope that Eros and Pragma are not mutually exclusive.

Glad this is working for you. Great thoughtful blog.

Adrian Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 9:58am

Lovely thoughtful blog Anna.

On the lucky day when one might experience all seven - it has got to feel like a royal flush!
A x

Richard Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 10:41am

Anna. Your blog is amazing. I admire your honesty, compassion, love for humanity and self-respect.
You are blessed, no doubt about it.
Peace & Love,

Debbie Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 10:43am

Great blog and so very apt for me too. I have chased relationships my whole life, looking for someone else to love me and complete me because I didn't love myself. I'm single now and finally accepting that it it what I need to be in order to addree the past, learn to love myself, be there for my children, rebuild my life after years of destructive behaviour and to protect my mental health. I rescued a puppy this time last year and it's the best thing I could have done. Hard work but very rewarding. Lots of fresh air and exercise helps my depression and he of course gives me unconditional love :) x <3

Ann Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 10:10pm

Hi Debbie, Hi Anna, Hi All, "looking for someone else to love me and complete me because I didn't love myself"... That rings a bell for me, Debbie, and from within a very long-standing relationship, but one which started in our late teens. 2+ decades later, and with a late arriving darling son aged only 5, Eros and Ludus need some time in the diary. As does Philautia.... Self-love seems to have suffered since darling son came, or I never had it but it's lack didn't throw me off balance until I became a mum... Being grumpy and off-balance does put a strain on Pragma and Storge and Philia! Thankyou Anna, for your thought-provoking words, and Thankyou for everyone's comments. Xx

The Gardener Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 7:17pm

Re-reading, re-thinking, after long, tiring day. touched on 'Eros' twice - guys showed me a life I did not know - one, classical music, the other international politics. The both seemed fascinated with me, stattered and scared - of disruption. Curiosity, looked on Google to find trace - one, still charismtic! Very important, as is his son - stability of family all important - but, in current gloom, glad I knew those times. Love peace and contmentment, Anna

The Gardener Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 7:21pm

Don't know if above makes sense - but visual memories! Three of us, our sons, eating outside on Via Appia in Rome, under vines - such conversation, such an atmosphere - and little alcohol - Italians self starters - I could be there now, it has come to life so vividly

Debs Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 7:24pm

Lovely blog Anna, I've never had a successful relationship - I bound in then crash and burn. I've not had one now for six years but after a lot of therapy and a lot of soul-searching I think I may be able to handle one now ;-) I always defined myself by my depression and thought I was 'damaged goods' but now I see that its only a tiny part and the rest of me is pretty good (got to keep saying that to believe it!) Thanks for making me think today - your words have been floating around in my head which is testament to your talent. Merci cherie xxx

The Gardener Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 8:18pm

Going to bed - just thought of a prog on Ovid yesterday. Anna used Greek words for love but look at the writings and see what a mess they made of their relationships - violent death, banishment, being turned into animals (Artemis and the stag?) Gods as counsellors - judges - mixed-up kids - time to put a stop to this - whirling thoughts.

LillyPet Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 8:29pm

I love this blog Anna.
I am fascinated by the the special kind of loves that people talk about, love at first sight, or when you just know that it's right, it's mutual and easy. I've never considered that it could be a choice between that and good health. My ideal would be that the right person and the right love would be strong enough, never say never type thing maybe "not at the moment!" Leaves space for the unexpected! :)

In terms of sacrifice, I have realised how difficult and stressful certain group situations have been for me and how much they trigger my anxiety. They have tended to be gatherings of family or collegues who know me well. Deciding not to attend if I have a choice has been empowering, but in the case of family the sacrifice has been that my children would have loved me to have been there with them and I have had to put my wellbeing first.
I've been careful to use the past tense, (as ratg once suggested) leaving space for future possibilities.
Thank you for a new perspective on something so fundamental. LP xx

Anonymous Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 8:32pm

Thank you for your thoughts.
I've avoided new romantic/intimate relationships for 7 years - rebuilt a romantic relationship into something close and not romantic. But in my openess and emerging into something of a brighter state this year I have reconnected with someone to whom I discover I am attracted...wasn't expecting it at all and it is very confusing and bringing some mixed scores on my Moodscope tests! He knows I have made that decision and I feel I have to keep a lot of feelings under wraps. And my non romantic relationship would be affected if I moved forward with someone else. How very muddled life can be. But I hope I am more able to deal with it than over quite a long period of my life...

Ann Tue, Apr 19th 2016 @ 10:21pm

Philautia is tricky for me. But Agape I can do!
Did anyone hear this song on Radio2 yesterday late morning, chosen by a guest, who explained it as here is a great song, that instead of, or as well as, focusing on finding "the one" to love, what about giving some love to some of the other millions... not sure I liked the song musically, but food for thought in the lyrics! Xx

Oh your heart is always full of love babe
And you gave me lots of love today babe
Will you also keep the world in mind
Tell me what you did for all mankind
To give the world some love today babe

Everybody in this world has to do a whole lot more
Then love the one they spend a lifetime looking for
You just can't keep your love in a cozy little shell
Got to love the one you know and a whole darn world as well

Did you give the world some love today babe?
Did you give the world some love today babe?
Well you gave me lots of love that's true
You gave the world some loving too
You gave the world some love today babe

Dilys Wed, Apr 20th 2016 @ 10:49pm

I found this very interesting and helpful. My story is the opposite however - my mental health became fragile mid-life because I have NEVER been in love. It is difficult to describe, but I got to a point where I felt desperately lonely and longed for a soul-mate or "my other half" - to be deeply in love with someone I was very attracted to both physically and emotionally.

I am married - have been for 19 years - but am not in love with my husband sadly (looking back I never really was "in love" with him: more in love with some religious idea of marriage we shared once). So after 19 years of being married and intimate with someone I was not in love with it started to get to me emotionally and psychologically. It was quite a journey. My illness started by creating a fantasy world which I privately inhabited. I created a phantom lover - or phantom lovers - who I inhabited. In some ways it helped my marriage because I projected my fantasies into my real life - but that's when my depression problems really began: when I saw how my reality and my fantasy were poles apart - and I started to slide down into a deep depression and wanting to end it all - conscious that time is running out for me and is now too late to experience it. I doubt I will ever experience being in love now.

So there are two sides to it!! A book which helped me understand my illness was "The Invisible Partners" (about animus/anima) written by a Jungian analyst: Jung observed some women create a phantom lover if they never experience being in love. It was painful when I read this, but also helpful knowing I other women had experienced this intense loneliness.

Eventually - with the help of some CBT - I came out of denial how unhappy I was being married to someone I was not in love with and I was challenged to make a decision about the future - so I decided to remain faithful to my marriage vows and stay with my husband - this was the beginning of my recovery. However at times I still long to be in love.

Having said all that there is much to be celebrated in singleness: being single (and celibate) can bring regeneration and renewal. I spent three years single before I married and it was a nice time and a good time to reconnect with one's own identity (rather than being part of a "couple').

I do thank Anna for being so open sharing her experiences which sound painful: during my breakdown I realised that being in love could lead to pain and heartache and that it wouldn't be as smooth or easy as in my fantasy world!!

Anna Wed, Apr 20th 2016 @ 11:35pm

Dear everyone, thank you for your wonderful, sweet and amazing responses. I wanted to reply to every one of you properly but have been sucked into an all consuming job this week so I'm not able to. The lovely thing is that during a week when my mood has been plummeting, you all helped me feel a bit better with your kind words. It's also good to know I'm not alone in this. Thank you x

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