The Four Types of Love
This year for spring break my mom and I traveled to Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage to the burial place of St. James the Great in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. Each year, thousands of pilgrims walk for days, weeks, or even months to Santiago. Some go for religious reasons, some go for the experience, others embark on the journey with the hope of personal revelation. There are several ways pilgrims can take. Over five days, my mom and I walked the last 118km (roughly 73 miles) of the way of St. Frances. It was my second time and my mom’s first time completing the pilgrimage. Because all of the pilgrims are walking the same path, and staying in the same villages, you often run into the same people throughout the journey. During the week, my mom and I were able to meet several incredible women. On the last evening, we had dinner with two of them. One of these women, while speaking about her experience, describe how the group we had formed represented the four types of love: self, platonic, romantic, and familial. As I listened to her, I was struck by the incredible lessons each type of love has to teach us. I would like to take a moment now to describe these loves and how they manifested through the fellow pilgrims I met.
The first type of love is self-love. The woman I met who represented this type of love was a solo traveler from South Africa. She had been happily married for years and, although she loved her husband, she had told him she needed to do this particular journey alone. During the pilgrimage her goal was to carve out intentional time to dedicate to herself and to reflect on her life.
Loving yourself is the foundation to all other types of love. It is necessary first and foremost to love and care for yourself if you are to successfully love and care for others. Self-love can be hard and can feel selfish. As a result, it often it takes the back burner, however; loving yourself is the best thing you can do for all of your relationships. When you feed into yourself, you have more love to spread and share.
The second type of love is platonic love. The two women I spent the most time with were life-long friends from Mexico. They met during their first job after school and years later were still close friends. Although one had moved out of the country, they stayed in touch and actively maintained their relationship. Throughout the week, they each shared stories of how the other, even thousands of miles apart, gave constant love and support when it was needed. They had decided to do this trip together to reconnect in person.
Platonic love is often viewed as secondary to romantic love. Society places overwhelming emphasis on romantic partnerships while discrediting the power and necessity of platonic relationships. When we give platonic love the same attention and worth as romantic love our lives grow in unexpected and incredible ways.
The third type of love is romantic love. The two women I met who represented romantic love had been together for twenty-four years. I met them within the first hour of my first day. Although it was my first day, they had started farther back and had already been walking for over a week. During that time, one of them had hurt her leg. She was determined, however, to reach Santiago. Her partner, who was on her eighth Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, was quietly and without any noticeable complaint helping her. They walked together, slowly and side-by-side, the remaining 100km to Santiago. In those moments, these women represented true love and dedication to each other.
Romantic love is about sacrifice. When you love someone, you will quietly walk with them, and support them however you can. When you love someone, you will put their needs above yours. True romantic love is rare, and it takes incredible dedication and patience.
The last type of love is familial love. On this journey, my mother and I represented familial love. Right before the trip, my sixty-five year old mother injured herself. She was incredibly nervous she wouldn’t make it throughout the week. Although she put on a brave face, I could tell each day her nerves grew. For five days, she walked slowly and carefully. At times, I felt my young legs aching to walk faster. With each step, however, I would remind myself of the immense kindness and patience she gave me as she raised me. She held me through every heartbreak and disappointment. She loved me through every mistake. She celebrated every achievement with me. For twenty-five years she has given me constant and unconditional love. If I could help her, even in the slightest, achieve her goal of making it to Santiago that would barely cover a fraction of what she has done for me. On the fifth day, when we finally saw the cathedral, we held each other and cried. That is a memory and a feeling I will treasure forever.
Familial love can come from the families we are born into or the ones we choose. Our connections to familial love change incredibly throughout our lives, especially as we grow from children to adults. Familial love can be one of the most difficult types of love, but can also be beautiful and fulfilling in a way no other type of love can be.
Each type of love is critical. Each type of love deserves equal effort and dedication. Looking back, I am immensely thankful for my experience and for the lessons I learned along the way. ¡Buen Camino!