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Agape vs Eros

July 31, 2011

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend about the aches of my affair. How is it possible, I asked, for my lover to be so in love with me yet not able to leave his wife? Rock brought up this same point in his comments yesterday.

My friend who seems to be able to put things in perspective said he once read about how men can love two women equally, but the love derives from separate areas; one driven by protection, the other from passion. It helped put my mind at ease.

As I drifted off to sleep I was reminded of a discussion my minister lead one Lent. I was in my early teens just beginning to date, so of course hormones were a ragin’. This particular Lenten discussion was just before Valentine’s Day and my minister took the opportunity to discuss two parts of love.

Agape love is one that is nurturing, caring, and sustaining. It puts the person, their soul, well-being, and best interests before itself. In the Christian sense of the discussion Agape love is the love God has for his creation shown by the ultimate sacrifice of Christ’s death.

This love, I believe, is the one which provides compassion and caring for those less fortunate in the world. The one parents provide their children. And the one which grows between two people in a long-term relationship. The give and take, ebbs and flows that are required to live with another whose drives and desires are sometimes in harmony and sometimes in disconnect. I imagine it much like a canoe trip. Both want to get to the shore and it takes practice and rhythm to learn to work together to move forward rather than give into tiredness and exhaustion which puts the tiny vessel into a tail spin.

I remember thinking as my minister, who did a much better job explaining this concept, discussed Agape love that this was the love I wanted. It was a beautiful description of safety and security even though it was never promised to be without momentary discourse. In my naïve 16 year old mind I was confident I could provide that type of love to the people in my life and my future husband. I made a mental note of how to forgive, accept, and embrace the vibrancy of life in another person.

He then went on to explain Eros. Now most ministers would most likely trash the idea of Eros being a part of Christianity. Well, at least the churches we hear from today. What I admired about my minister is he recognized that Eros was as vital to a healthy marriage as was Agape. Pointing out passages (which I can’t remember now dammit!) demonstrating the way characters in the bible had and dealt with Eros.

As I remember and understand, Eros is passion, sensuality, sexuality, and deep physical urges. Eros is just as powerful, but not sustaining. It might be what gets you into the relationship, but it doesn’t stay constant; it will heat up and burn out and takes more energy and commitment to have around. In other words, it will get you to the 4am after Thanksgiving sales, but it’s not spending the day shopping in the crowds.

The danger of Eros is it can be misleading. Pulsating with dopimine in the post-cloitus pleasure Eros can sweetly whisper how deeply in love you are. It’s not lying, but it’s going to be watching the Jets/Dolphins while Agape re-doing the bathroom.

With that said if you discount the need for Eros or dismiss it’s role, ones soul is left to feel isolated. Passion leads to intimacy – not just sex mind you, but intimacy which is a mixture of tender touch, deep desire, nurturing and vulnerability. Surrendering to your inadequacies and being embraced for them. Knowing that you can cry, give up hope, and fully know fear while wrapped in the arms of the one who cares is equally Eros as being able to tell him/her that you want to fuck on top of a building where everyone can see you.

In my opinion, trust is built from Eros. You are naked – emotionally and physically. There are no Spanx to keep your cellulite ridden stomach tucked away, nor push up bra to keep your breasts in place. You risk the chance your partner might giggle at your jiggle or stop short at your length. Emotionally you are asking this person to build you up, crave your perks and your curves. You need this other being to be in for the long-haul to reach orgasm or short-term explosion. Each of you exposed. Open. Honest. Trusting.

Allow me to make the justification or the rationalization for the particular affair I’m in right now. My lover has not had sex with his own wife for 10 years. He is dedicated to ensuring his kids have a two-parent home, they have shelter, food, opportunities to thrive. He still loves his wife and wants to ensure she is also provided for and her interests are looked after. She most likely still loves her husband and is an amazing mother.

My lover and his wife have mastered Agape love. What they have lost along the way is Eros. For what ever reason Eros was left behind at the truck stop bathroom as they drove off into chapter two or three of their life. I imagine they both probably had a weird inclination things were off kilter, but they were so focused on life neither checked in with each other to see if they’d forgotten something.

I’ve lived my life swearing to every person I meet that love has no foundation if built from sex. It’s too fragile to carry the burden of ever-after. Today, as I search the recesses of my mind, I’m convinced that love cannot survive the winter of passionless time. And passion cannot maintain its own energy force to propel across the great divide.

A long distance runner must learn to pace himself to go long periods of constant movement yet reserve enough strength to overcome the runner in front. Agape must endure and stay in tact while Eros flutters in ands out. Both necessary to a successful, healthy relationship.

When Eros leaves and doesn’t return or at least make a Cameo appearance, Agape becomes stale. Yes, you can live a long while with just water and bread. It’s basil, cilantro, peppers, and mangos which make you salivate and your stomach rumble making you fully aware of what the meal has to offer beyond sustenance.

Will I ever have the chance to share this Agape love with my lover? On a limited scale because it’s who I am. Because of who he is. The love we have is driven by Eros, Agape taking a place between encounters. Try as we might to push for something more, it is simply not in the master design.

Agape awaits my lover as he walks in the door after experiencing a night of Eros. Agape sleeps with him and plans vacations, puts his mind at ease and works with him to make plans for the future. Eros awaits his call and pines for him head to be on the pillow beside it. Eros is eager and impatient.

Between these two loves or torn between these two loves a heart beats. A steam engine moving uphill, pushing with everything it has; fueled by two distinct sources which should, in all rights, come from one person.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2011 12:58 am

    Song of Songs(King Solomon)- the whole book is full. 🙂

    1:13-14: “My lover is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts. My lover is to me a cluster of henna blossoms from the vineyards of En Gedi.”

    2:5: “Strengthen me will raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.”

    5:3-6: ” I have taken off my robe- must I put it on again? I have washed my feet- must I soil them again? My lover thrust his hand through the latch-opening; my heart began to pound for him. I arose to open for my lover, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with flowing myrrh, on the handles of the lock.”

    Really- deeply poetic this book.

  2. Racer X permalink
    August 29, 2011 12:28 am

    Nice post…I like your distinctions between eros and agape!

  3. August 29, 2011 12:30 am

    “As I remember and understand, Eros is passion, sensuality, sexuality, and deep physical urges. Eros is just as powerful, but not sustaining. It might be what gets you into the relationship, but it doesn’t stay constant; it will heat up and burn out and takes more energy and commitment to have around. In other words, it will get you to the 4am after Thanksgiving sales, but it’s not spending the day shopping in the crowds.”

    Agreed. Eros is powerful, but you still need the agape for a sustained relationship.

  4. March 31, 2012 7:42 pm

    what about your agape?

  5. Ellen permalink
    August 18, 2012 4:18 am

    You are in a relationship based on sin though aren’t you? It’s a sin for him to cheat on his wife and a sin to lead him in to that sin… and I would venture to guess you are having sex also… This can’t be a healthy relationship, I’m sorry. You seem like a very nice person, and there is undoubtedly somebody out there for you… but how do you know it’s him?
    Additionally, I beg to differ that eros builds trust. Eros should be the starting point of a relationship, ideally with agape love coming after. Agape love should be just as passionate. The four indicators of agape love are faithfulness, fruitfulness, totality, and freedom. Because the man in your affair is not being faithful to his wife, he is not experiencing agape love. His love is split between you and his wife, so he is decieving both of you and not giving himself totaly to either of you, whatever he says. However, one important indicator that his wife is gaining and you are not is fruitfulness.
    GOD gave you your sexuality- it is a gift. A powerful gift. But He also gave you free will. This means that you can use the gift of sexuality in two ways. Sex either brings life or death. Life can be, quite literally, a new life, a baby. But it can also simply liven a married relationship. Sex can kill too. It can lead to the death/abortion of a new life. It can lead to STDs. It can cause guilt or lead to other sins- doesn’t your lover lie to his wife about where he’s been? In this case, it is leading to the death of your lover’s marriage. The parents love for each other is the foundation of a family. If they separate, your lover’s family will fall apart. Are you willing to do that to him? to his children?
    I’m sorry I had to tell you all of this. I probably sound like some Jesus-freak jerk. I sin just as much of you, and as sisters in Christ, we should help eachother out of sin, so that someday we will see eachother in paradise. I am praying for you.

    • August 19, 2012 12:37 am

      Thank you for your prayers.

      I understand how organized religion has empowered humans into believing we can determine sin and what qualifies as sin.

      It was written “thou shalt not covet they neighbors wife” it doesn’t say anything about being involved with a single woman. I personally believe that it’s because at the time of Jesus, there were harems. Look at Abraham and his children bourne by his wife and his mistress (in the sense that he was not married to the other woman). Harems were an acceptable practice. Even David had his share of flings with women who weren’t his wife.

      2000 years later we have a social structure which has changed through time and necessity. I agree, in large part, with monogamy. And I believe strongly in marriage. When I marry again, God willing, I will do everything I can to ensure it’s one of devotion between myself and my husband. I hope that he is fulfilled and satisfied within our relationship that he won’t seek sex outside the marriage.

      I won’t justify Steve’s actions. If he chooses to leave his wife then that’s his choice. He’s been isolated and alienated in his marriage which, in my mind, is just as sinful. But that is not my blog – that would need to be addressed with Steve.

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