There Are Four Types of Love, A Healthy Relationship Needs All of Them
The ancient Greeks did a lot of things well -- sports, art, philosophy -- but perhaps their greatest accomplishment was to define love as four separate but equal parts. If you're a fan of C.S. Lewis, you probably know about these: storge, philia, eros, and agape. Each one represents a different aspect of love, like romantic or familial. What is so perfect about them is that they embrace the full complexity of love; how it is both a feeling and an action. It is also a great way to keep tabs on the health of your relationship.
That's because a strong relationship should inhabit all four of these parts. Neglecting any of them can lead to problems down the road. But to measure your relationship this way, it's important to understand the nature of each of these forms. Storge is when you like someone through fondness or familiarity. It's one of the easiest loves to nail because it's emotionally based. Surely you're fond of your partner, or why else would you have gotten into a relationship? The problem with this form of love, though, and why it can't be the peg to hang your hat on, is that it's need-based. Affection can be quite vulnerable when perceptions change.
Philia, then, helps to strengthen the bond because it is the type of love shared between friends. Ideally your partner is also your best friend, the person you share the most with, who has your back (and whose back you have). This bond is stronger because it is time tested -- the longer you're friends, the harder it will be to break up that friendship. In fact, the biggest danger with philia is that you get too close, to the point that you shut others out. You become a little two-person island, neglecting the rest of the world.
Of course, one of the highlights of a relationship is eros, or romantic love. This is not mere raw sexuality (although the sex is a major feature), it's also an emotional bond established through romantic feelings and rituals. This is what makes a relationship a relationship, and not merely a friendship. Sadly, as relationships stretch on, this is the form of love that often gets neglected. It's important not to let your emotions control eros. Work needs to be done to maintain that romantic connection. Because once it disappears, the other forms of love become vulnerable.
Finally, there's agape, or unconditional love. This is the love that is most action-based. And it's the love that will strengthen your relationship beyond anything else. This is because it is not held hostage by feelings and conditions. It is love projected outward, and it is given freely regardless of circumstance. It's also the hardest form of love to come by, and the one that requires the most time and investment. But it's the lynchpin, and it should be pursued at all cost.
These four loves are what a true relationship looks like. You need all of them to be healthy. This should be both your measuring stick as well as your goal posts. Inhabiting all of these is essential to making your partnership last.