Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Theory of Love Pt. 1: Lee's 6 Love Styles

Happy Tuesday LOVEanese! The best thing about Tuesday is that at the end of the day, we're one day closer to the weekend!

Today I want to introduce part one of a new series of posts I will be reviewing and discussing over the next few weeks regarding the "theory of love."

It's a bit more scientific than this.

What this refers to is a collection of semi-related psychological, sociological, communication, and social psychological studies about interpersonal relationships that seek to provide a better and more scientific understanding of what love is, how it is manifested, and how it influences individuals. Although I have a problem with how many of them define their concepts (e.g., love) (and you'll just have to wait for my thesis to find out why!), they are still relevant to understanding human courtship/dating behavior, and also the way some emphasize certain characteristics, while understating others. 

Moreover, this series differs greatly from certain indicators and tools such as the Five Love Languages I wrote about earlier. For one, these a more scientific. They have been tested over and over through multiple academic/social scientific studies, and even across cultures. But more importantly for you, these are not necessarily specific categories for people to fit into. Although they describe certain behavior, they do not always necessarily apply to any one person at any one moment in time. So as the Love Languages communicate love in certain, explicable channels, these studies try to understand, define, and categorize love. 

The first theory of the series I am highlighting is one of the first of these theoretical typologies of love proposed in the 1970's, and is something some of you might have a bit of familiarity with. These are the 6 Love Styles typology purported by John Alan Lee (1973, 1977), and later (greatly) expanded on by Susan and Clyde Hendrick in 1986 who created the "Love Attitudes Scale" used in many psychological and social psychological studies (Google Scholar has them cited over 1000 times!).  

These Love Styles are 6 models/classifications of how people love, which are analogous to the color wheel and are similar to the Greek types of love (in fact, he titled the first book in 1973 outlining these ideas as "The Colors of Love"). There are 3 "primary," main Love Styles, and 3 "secondary" Love Styles that arise out of a combination of two of the primary types. So what are these? Take a gander:


1. Eros
2. Ludus
3. Storge


4. Mania
5. Pragma
6. Agape

Look familiar? Here's a little bit about each one:

1. Eros: The Romantic. This style (named after the Greek god of love, and the son of Aphrodite), is characterized by relentless romance and passion, and often falls in "love at first sight." For someone who exhibits Eros (hence, Erotic), there is a primary emphasis on physical attraction and sexual desire, at times, even at the expense of other aspects of compatibility. Additionally, these individuals seek out their "ideal type." This is someone that, to them, is the perfect example/image of what beauty and attraction is. Moreover, these individuals tend to be very committed, as they value intense emotion and desire exclusivity, especially if they are with someone that reflects their ideal type/someone they are very attracted to. Erotic lovers also tend to have higher than average self-esteem since Eros, "gives fully, intensely, and takes risks in love, it requires substantial ego strength" (Hendrick and Hendrick, 1986: 399). 

Some popular examples of Eros would be Romeo (Romeo and Juliet), 'Antar ('Antar wa 'Abla), Majnun (Layla and Majnun), Jack Dawson (Titanic), and Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars). This is also the most common depiction of love in the media.

2. Ludus: The Player. Originally termed by the Roman poet Ovid, love for a Ludus resembles a game, a sport, or a conquest. They are playful, flirtatious, fun, independent, nonconformist, and permissive (to the point of promiscuity). They go from person to person, often juggling multiple partners and romantic or sexual interests at once, and recover quickly from break-ups or rejections as they value quantity over quality. They do not follow the traditional rules of romance, love, and dating, and often break them. According to Lee (1977: 174), "The degree of involvement is carefully controlled, jealousy is eschewed, and relationships are often multiple and relatively short-lived." Moreover, they are incredibly non-committal (so much that they actively resist it), and they often do not place a high value on intimacy, nor do they expect it. This is very different than the quote, unquote "game" that people talk about with relationships. This is very different than someone exhibiting Ludic love, and in fact, someone who does either rigidly adheres to "game playing," or often breaks the rules of "the game" to maximize their own outcomes. These individuals also have higher than average self-esteem, and in fact, "[individuals] with very positive self-esteem were more Ludic than were either of the other two self-esteem groups...apparently, it takes good ego strength to play seriously at love as a game" (Hendrick and Hendrick, 1986: 399). Lastly, they are the most likely of the 6 Love Styles to commit infidelity.

Who is one of the best examples of a Ludus Love Style? Suit up for this one:

Legen... wait for it... dary!

3. Storge: The Best Friend-Lover. These individuals exhibit high amounts of commitment, devotion, intimacy, and highly value compatibility, respect, understanding, and harmony. Taken from Lee (1977: 175), Storge is "a style based on slowly developing affection and companionship, a gradual disclosure of self, an avoidance of self-conscious passion, and an expectation of long-term commitment." For these individuals, friendship comes first, figuratively and literally. They value stability and long-term commitment. Moreover, Storgic individuals place a lot of emphasis on the companionship aspect of a relationship, and often will want the friendship to continue even if the romantic relationship does not. They are also the least likely of the 6 Love Styles of commit infidelity.

Famous examples of Storge love include Harry and Sally (When Harry Met Sally) and Zack and Miri (Zack and Miri Make a Porno).

4. Mania: The Infatuation. This is a combination of Eros and Ludus. According to Lee (1977: 175), "Mania is an obsessive, jealous, emotionally intense Love Style characterized by preoccupation with the beloved and a need for repeated reassurance of being loved." Mania carries the most negative connotations as these individuals are possessive, dependent, intense, and often appear insecure. In fact, Hendrick and Hendrick (1986) found that Manic lovers had some of the lowest self-esteem among their sample, and "in fact, one reason Manic lovers are Manic is because of uncertainty of self in the relationship" (Hendrick and Hendrick, 1986: 399). This Love Style is particularly common with teenagers and adolescents (Hendrick and Hendrick, 1986: 401).

One of the most well-known examples of a Manic lover is Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction). As you can see, it doesn't really bode well for a happy ending...

5. Pragma: The Practical Lover. The combination of Ludus and Storge. These individuals are pragmatic, practical, rational, realistic, and most importantly, have a very defined list of qualities they are looking for in a partner that emphasizes long-term commitment and high levels of compatibility, as well as "settling down." They make it a goal to find someone who exhibits most, if not all, of the desired qualities on their list. Furthermore, according to Lee (1977: 175), Pragmatic lovers take into account "conscious consideration of "vital statistics" about a suitable beloved. Education, vocation, religion, age, and numerous other demographic characteristics of the potential beloved are taken into account in the search for a compatible match."

Geeze LOVEanese, does this sound familiar? Here's your popular example of Pragma: ARAB CULTURE! And collective culture in general. In popular media, Charlotte (Pride and Prejudice) exemplified Pragma, but I'm sure so many of you can think of individuals in your life that also think about this (like say, I don't know, 3/4th of Lebanon?)

6. Agape: The Selfless Lover. The combination of Eros and Storge"Agape is altruistic love, given because the lover sees it as his [or her] duty to love without expectation of reciprocity. It is gentle, caring, and guided by reason more than emotion" (Lee, 1977: 175). Agapic individuals sacrifice often for the other person's happiness, sometimes at the influence of a spiritual power and at the expense of their own needs and desires. They also give their love unconditionally. Agape is one of the most rare Love Styles, but also one of the most successful (Prasinos and Tittler, 1984). 

The most well-known Agapic individuals include Forrest (Forrest Gump), Penelope (The Odyssey), The Two Lovers (The Gift of the Magi), and certain religious figures such as Jesus.


BE WARY about jumping to conclusions about individuals or groups of people because, according to Lee (1977: 174): "A lover may engage at different times, or in some cases concurrently, in relationships characteristic of quite different Love Styles. Moreover, a given relationship may evolve, over a period of time, from attitudes and behavior typical of one species of loving, to those of another species, from Mania to Storge, for example."

Furthermore, according to Hendrick and Hendrick (1986: 393): "Lee's [(1973, 1977)] typology is exceedingly rich theoretically, both because of its multidimensionality and grounding in research, and because it encompasses less extensive love theories that have been proposed. For instance, exchange theory is probably a basis for Lee's (1973) Pragma (logical), whereas Clark and Mills' (1979) communal love is exemplified by Agape (selfless). Berscheid and Walster (1978) would recognize Eros as their passionate love, whereas companionate love is probably best represented by Storge (friendship). Kelley's (1983) Pragmatic love would seem to equal Pragma. Even Dion and Dion's (1973) factors appear very similar to Lee's (1973) constructs: Volatile = Mania, Circumspect = Storge, Rational = Pragma, and Passionate = Eros. Thus, Lee offers multidimensionality within a coherent theory."

Per the Hendricks' research (and others), there are certain generalizable trends that have emerged that are specifically geared towards their American samples. For instance, They found that men tend to be more Ludic, whereas women tend to be Storgic and Pragmatic. Relationships based on similar Love Styles were found to last longer. Eros and Mania are high in emotion, Agape average, and Ludus, Storge, and Pragma are low in emotion. Eros and Storge also tend to be correlated with better psychological health, while Mania and Ludus are correlated with worse psychological health (Taken from here). 

Research has also demonstrated that, like the Love Languages, individuals who exhibit or reflect characteristics of a certain Love Style (or individuals who have a dominate Love Style) tend to (understandably) look for someone or are attracted to others who also shares their Love Style. It makes sense that if, for instance, an Erotic lover is saturated with relentless passion, someone who fits their ideal type and also shares their level of passion would be a better match for them. Same with a Storgic lover, for instance, who values friendship and intimacy would also want to be with someone who places a similar value on their friendship and intimacy.

Moreover, Prasinos and Tittler (1984: 105) conducted research on the 6 Love Styles, finding that "The hierarchy of Love Styles...from most affirming to least, is Agapic, Ludic, [Eros], Storgic, Pragmatic, and Manic." Hmm, maybe that's why so many people's relationships in Lebanon--especially after the honeymoon stage/wedding--seem so dull, boring, depressing, and unhappy...?

If you would like to see how you currently fall on the Love Styles assessment, you can try this link. It's not the greatest assessment, but it's interesting nonetheless. And you can find more on the Love Styles here, and here.

So, what I want to know is:

1. What do you think of these Love Styles?
2. Are these applicable in Lebanon as well?
3. Which do you most identify with?

Spread the love,


Berscheid, Ellen, and Elaine Walster (Hatfield). 1974. "A Little Bit About Love: A Minor Essay on a Major Topic." Pp. 355–381 in Foundations of Interpersonal Attraction, edited by Ted L. Huston. New York, NY: Academic Press.

Clark, Margaret S., and Judson Mills. 1979. "Interpersonal Attraction in Exchange and Communal Relationships." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37: 12-24.

Dion, Ken L., and Karen K. Dion. 1973. "Correlates of Romantic Love." Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 41: 51-56.

Hendrick, Clyde, and Susan S. Hendrick. "A Theory and Method of Love." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(2): 392-402.

Kelley, Harold. H. 1983. "Love and Commitment." In Close Relationships, edited by Harold H. Kelley, Ellen Berscheid, Andrew Christensen, John H. Harvey, Ted L. Huston, G. Levinger, E. McClintock, L. A. Peplau, and D. R. Peterson. New York, NY: Freeman.

Lee, John Alan. 1977. "A Typology of Styles of Loving." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3: 173–182.

----. 1973. The Colors of Love: An Exploration of the Ways of Loving. Don Mills, Ontario: New Press.

Prasinos, Steven, and Bennett I. Tittler. 1984. "The Existential Context of Love Styles: An Empirical Study." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 24: 95–112.


  1. Interesting. As the first theory on your list, a good choice to start with: offers familiarity with solid knowledge. The popular culture references are an easy way for us to typecast the 6 types. I've been through at least three of them.

    I've a suggestion: check out psychologist/philosopher Erich Fromm's The Art of Loving.

  2. Thanks Ziad!

    I do know about Fromm, but I'm not that familiar with his work. I've tried reading more about the AofL, but it didn't really seem relevant to me.

    Thanks for the good feedback! And I'm glad you liked the pop culture references :)

  3. Yeah. I know what you mean. His love "philosophy" is an intricate developing of an agape kind of love (and applied to brotherly, fatherly, motherly and erotic kind of love. Oh and love of God). So it's a whole system explicating how to achieve and why you aim for selfless love through care, respect, responsibility and knowledge [in a very small nutshell].

  4. Thanks Ziad

    There are a lot of thing about love to learn. But it is funny that there are a lot of man that love without learning.

    Sorry about my english that so bad :P

    1. Thanks Ogie. Can I translate your entry to Vietnamese and share it on my blog :)

    2. Quang, I would be honored if you'd translate it to Vietnamese and shared! Please do, and then send me the link :)

      As far as what you said, I'm not in a position to judge if men never learn. I think a lot of people don't learn. I think it's more generalizable to humans as a whole instead of a specific gender.

      And don't worry, your English is fine :)

      Looking forward to the translation!

  5. it seems that agape is the perfect love?

    1. Hi Handy. Well, first of all, let me say that none of these styles are inherently better or worse than another per se. There's no inherent greater value given to any one of them either. However, as I said, agape is altruistic, selfless, and rare, yet also the most successful according to Lee.

      At the same time, there's always the possibility it could lead to resentfulness or another bitter emotion if that love isn't reciprocated in some way. Agape is the closest thing to unconditional love. But unconditional love is almost 99% of the time conditional on the idea that someone will love you back (e.g., a mother and a child--it's basically a fact that the child will love her back). So, I don't think it could be considered as a perfect form of love. Maybe it's the closest though.

      Overall, I don't necessarily think there is a "perfect love" that can be manifested, or at least classified using a framework like this one.

      Hope this helps!