In an earlier blog post I discussed various relationship types and how they are handled in stories. Well, I'm mostly taking that same subject but going on a deeper perhaps more philosophical method. And by philosophical method you know I'm going through the 3 loves. Knowing the three loves can help in the understanding of relationships between characters and people.
Now the 3 loves are a very Western Philosophy rooted subject. Being as most of my education in philosophy is western based, I can not vouch for any Eastern or New Age Equivalent.
The three loves are: Eros, Philia, and Agape.
There are also other philosophic and sociology based love types or styles including: Stoge, Ludus, Pragma, and Mania.
In this I will first start with the classic three and make notes on the other styles. Because they're all important when considering love between two characters.
Plato was the one who wrote down the philosophy behind the 3 loves. (Based on Socrates teachings.) Eros was considered the initial love for beauty. It has since come to mean lust or erotic love. It is a sensual style of love and very focused on the physical aspect of things.
What sort of relationships come out of this? Well, it could be considered classic romance. Beautiful couples, physically attracted to one another. The sensuality of the relationship holds it together. Of course, eros does not always equate "a sex only" relationship, although that is common.
The basis of this love type is beauty ergo attraction. Whether it be chemistry or physical beauty, that is the draw for this type of love.
Brotherly love is what this Greek word translates to or more commonly "friendship". Philia is not considered a "love style" since it is rarely used to describe "lovers" in the same sense as eros. The point of "friendship love" is not really affection, attraction, or desire for that other person in a physically intimate way.
When a friendship love is felt between members of the opposite sex it is called "Platonic". However, a personal belief of mine, there is no fighting biology. Especially if they are attractive. On the other hand, now that I think about it, my friendships with the opposite sex were always based on a common interest or activity. (In my case making video games and comics.) The gentlemen I hang out with that I think are attractive, sure I get that notion of something beyond philia but then there are others that it is only the interest in a subject that keeps us friends.
This is important I think to comics. If you think about it, usually characters are designed to be attractive. It is a little jarring if two pre-teen - adults that are good-looking and they're just friends. It's a slight stretch of reality to believe that there are no "feelings" beyond friendship. There has to be a reason for one or the other to repress that attraction. Usually one party in a serious relationship with another, different sexual orientations (although, she could want to straighten him out. :D), fear/shyness, or something. Usually if characters are young there is no attraction like there would be in people past puberty.
My last point about philia is this that once a couple goes beyond that, it's really difficult to going back to being "philia". (aka "just friends"). I really respect people who can still be friends with ex-boyfriends. It IS possible, but it does take a certain personality type. For a hopeless romantic or someone very naive, it's not just going to go back so easily.
This was considered the highest form of love in the philosophy of things. It's also a very Christian virtue. That's because Agape is self-sacrificing love or unconditional love. Said to be the love that God has towards his children. Or to use more earthly examples the love of a mother/father for their children. (Well...good parents/ideal parents. I feel its what we all want our parents to love like.)
The main quality of this love is self-giving. It can be considered very intimate or very basic such as being generous. Usually in a story, agape is shown through a character ultimately sacrificing themself for their beloved. (Which can be children or a lover). Supposedly this is the ancient magic protecting Harry Potter.
If going with romantic relationships, agape lovers can be seen as the naive lover that can easily be taken advantage of. Because they are so willing to give up anything for their beloved, they can be manipulated by a selfish lover for their own means. Like very bratty children that take advantage of their doting parents. However, usally Agape love is idealized in the self-sacrifice way.
Other Love Styles
Storge is the classic best friends become lovers situation. Long time friends of the opposite gender (or the same gender if that's their preference) grow together over time to the point where it just makes sense to stay together and be a couple. The word storge means "natural love" and is often used to refer to family love or love between friends.
Ludic is Latin for "game" or "playing". And you know what..."Players" are ludic lovers. Love is a game and it's all about the fun in a relationship not about the commitment. It's all about the sex or the challenge of having many relations.
Pragma refers to "practical lovers". These are couples who measure how the relationship best values them. It's more like shopping and comparing items in a store. (Like internet dating!) Pragma can also refer to business partnering and not just romantic encounters. I like to think of them as the mercenaries of the romantic world.
Mania is teenage love...or that crazy possessive love that a person usually NEEDS to validate their existence. They just can't LIVE without their beloved. You could say it's "fangirl" or "fanboy" love. :)
Putting all together
People are complex and can relate or act on various love styles or types. They can be combined in various ways but should make sense for your character's personality. For example, a "Mania" type person is more likely to be a teenager or a very disturbed adult. It's often seen as unhealthy, BUT two people with SIMILAR love styles are most compatible together.
However, a relationship's situation also play important roles in the ways the love styles portray themself. In an arranged marriage, a pragma lover will see the advantages and be more likely to accept the situation. An agape lover will also probably accept the situation. Eros, Mania, and Ludic would not accept the situation. Stoge and Philia don't really apply unless the couple become friends after marriage.
Even if your character is a nymphomaniac, their love style can differ. An eros nympho is very different from a ludic nympho.
It's not necessary to think about "love styles" specifically but recognizing what they are and how they work helps build more realistic relationships or rather more believable relationships.
For further reading and better examples:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Loves (or you can read his book)
http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/symposium (or the SparkNotes version.)