They say that familiarity breeds contempt but who are “they” anyway? According to the Greek, familiarity breeds our third type of love, “Storge,” generally defined as “fondness through familiarity, especially between family members.”
I was blessed to grow up in a large 7-person family on a large acreage in Canada. There was no need to watch Little House on the Prairie because we were living it every day. Since we lived 40km away from “the city” I spend a lot of time with those 6 other people and built a lot of familiarity. While we weren’t always reciting uplifting poetry to each other, there was something about living in a full house that encouraged a shift away from an instinctual, selfish version of love.
A legendary figure known for his ability to bring clarity to complicated topics is C.S. Lewis. On the topic of Storge he says: “…it is described as the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emotive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and most widely diffused because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed “valuable” or worthy of love and, as a result, is able to transcend most discriminating factors…Ironically, its strength is also what makes it vulnerable.”
I think that a good measure of Storge is whether you call a family member because you have to, or because you want to. This type of love brings such a freedom in your life when you don’t feel an ounce of guilt-laden pressure to check-in, catch-up, or report about your life. I want to get a phone call from my sister at the exact moment where she truly wants to talk to me. I try to call my parents when I miss them, not when I have a guilty, strange looming feeling that they are missing me. Storge is all about motives, the “why” behind the loving actions.
There is a confidence that is built up in your spirit when you live in the freedom of this type of love. Many people are familiar with that feeling you get when you see an old friend where you “picked up right where you left off.” That’s Storge. It’s the sensation of being on solid ground with your family and close friends. It is knowing that their love for you is completely disconnected with the things you do for them or accomplish. It’s the confidence that if you don’t text them back in 3 minutes they won’t disown/un-friend you.
A simple way to grow in this kind of love is to extend a large amount of guilt-free grace to those closest to you. When you don’t hear from a friend or family member in a long time, don’t make a snarky comment that lets them know you disapprove of their silence. Instead, just be grateful for their place in your life. No-one likes being loved conditionally or having the feeling of being “in trouble” with a loved one.
Another way to develop this fondness is to communicate. There are so many unspoken conversations that happen within a family and too often the thought “it’s ok, we’re family” let’s people get away with too much bad behavior. Unspoken and un-agreed to expectations are a killer in all relationships. Storge is all about being truthful about your feelings, because after a while, that leads to the rock solid love that we all desire.
Storge may be the most unknown type of the 4 loves, yet if developed, it can serve as a firm foundation to build the other types of love upon.
Photo Credit: Michelle Kim Photography