If you would like to receive an enlightening assessment of how your relationship is doing in these six essential dimensions of love, go the bottom of the home page Relating with Heart to order your FREE copy.

You will receive a FREE copy of the assessment by return email.


What does friendship mean to you? Affection and support, loyalty and companionship, feeling friendly, all seem to be part of this picture for most of us. In other words, sweet righteous companionship—the love and support of a loyal friend. Knowing I can pour out my heart to you, let you see me as I am, and that you will be there for me.

We are translating the Greek word philia here. When the American Quaker, William Penn, founded Philadelphia in 1682, he named it after a city mentioned in the Bible, meaning “the city of brotherly love.”

The Greeks felt this type of love involved getting on well with someone and experiencing mutual liking. However, the original meaning goes beyond merely liking someone to include acting out of concern for them for their own sake—being willing to act on what is best for them. Philia was used to describe the love that members of a military platoon feel for each other. Such groups can only be successful if each individual places the survival of the group above their own.

This quality is the bedrock of healthy relationships. How often have you heard someone say with pride of their partner, “we were friends first”?

Relationship partners that reflect this value are able to:

Consider and share—how often or how well do you experience the following? Each reflect and journal on your own. Then set aside some relaxed time for a meaningful conversation. Do not interrupt each other. Have one person answer a question completely before switching.

Here is a story that illustrates this quality:

Come with me to a third grade classroom. There is a nine-year-old kid sitting at his desk and all of a sudden, there is a puddle between his feet and the front of his pants are wet. He thinks his heart is going to stop because he cannot possibly imagine how this has happened. It’s never happened before, and he knows that when the boys find out he will never hear the end of it. When the girls find out, they’ll never speak to him again as long as he lives.

The boy believes his heart is going to stop; he puts his head down and prays this prayer, ‘Dear God, this is an emergency! I need help now! Five minutes from now I’m dead meat.’

He looks up from his prayer and here comes the teacher with a look in her eyes that says he has been discovered.

As the teacher is walking toward him, a classmate named Susie is carrying a goldfish bowl that is filled with water. Susie trips in front of the teacher and inexplicably dumps the bowl of water in the boy’s lap.

The boy pretends to be angry, but all the while is saying to himself, ‘Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord!’

Now all of a sudden, instead of being the object of ridicule, the boy is the object of sympathy. The teacher rushes him downstairs and gives him gym shorts to put on while his pants dry out. All the other children are on their hands and knees cleaning up around his desk. The sympathy is wonderful… But as life would have it, the ridicule that should have been his has been transferred to someone else—Susie.

She tries to help, but they tell her to get out. ‘You’ve done enough, you klutz!’ Finally, at the end of the day, as they are waiting for the bus, the boy walks over to Susie and whispers, ‘You did that on purpose, didn’t you?’ Susie whispers back, ‘I wet my pants once too.’

—Found from many sources. Excerpted here from the ebook “Please Forward: Do Not Delete—Book Two” by Lynne Gleason (4/19/12)

Interview your partner to deepen the conversation:

Here are two suggestions on how grow this quality:

1) Take a few minutes every day to express to you partner the little things and big things that you are grateful for and appreciate—with eye contact and touch if possible. If you don’t see each other, you can send text, emails, voice messages, or leave written notes for each other. This can be a great dinnertime activity with family or friends.

2) Make a point to stop and celebrate your partner’s successes and achievements, little and big! Make it a special moment—use your imagination: cards, confetti, special meals, Facebook, decorations, flowers, etc.

In the Relating with Heart—Basic True Love retreat, tools for building empathy and good feelings are emphasized. It is essential to our growth and happiness to cultivate a solid ground of friendship and the ability to generously include our partner’s wishes and desires into the fabric of our relationship. Trying to resolve problems without this background of healthy connection is very difficult.


Enjoying light-hearted, energizing and renewing times, having fun together. Experiencing each other as sources of entertainment and delight—laughing, dancing, playing, finding humor and good times.

The Romans, borrowing from the Greeks, referred to public games as ludi and elementary schools (as well as various board games) as ludus. The idea included anything having to do with sport or play, and especially the kind of playful, flirtatious love and affection children experience for each other, which can be intense.

Those who manifest this quality consistently:

Keeping childlike innocence and fun active in your life and your relationships keeps you young and juicy. However this is not only just about playing and recreating together. It also includes bringing a spirit of fun and play even to mundane activities.

Interview your partner to deepen the conversation:

Then together reflect on the following:

  1. How many hours per week do you typically enjoy relaxing or having fun together?
    Do you have specific times set aside for this?
  2. When you are together, what percentage of the time are you experiencing something
    other than enjoyment? How could you make your time together more fun?
  3. Which shared activities leave you feeling connected and renewed?
    Which ones leave you feeling more disconnected, numbed or checked out?

Activity to cultivate fun and play

Set up a weekly Follow the Leader Date where you take turns initiating and planning something creative, playful, entertaining and fun—not something you normally do together. Schedule in advance so you have at least several hours set aside for the experience. The Follower goes along as cheerfully as possible (it is a good idea to model the enthusiasm you would like to see from your partner when it is your turn). This can also be a fun family activity where each of the family members take turns as the leader and everyone else agrees to follow good-naturedly.


Sexual passion and erotic desire—physical and emotional intimacy. Deepening sensual generosity and open communication about needs and desires.

The Greeks had mixed reactions to this form of love. On the one hand, they mistrusted the ways in which erotic passion can lead to excess and a loss of rectitude—which they held dear. In his play, Phaedra, Seneca says that Eros “smites maids’ breasts with unknown heat, and bids the very gods leave heaven and dwell on earth in borrowed forms.”

On the other hand, there was also the idea that by deeply experiencing the beauty in another, we can come to witness the essential beauty within them and, ultimately, come to a deeper understanding and appreciation for beauty itself—opening us to new dimensions of spiritual depth. Thus the mythological tragedy and ultimate triumph of the love of Eros (beauty) and Psyche (the human soul).

One could happily aspire to such love-making.

Longing is at the heart of this experience. Longing and the courage to truly desire another knowing that life is uncertain. Seeking, questioning and continuing to desire a passionate relationship and deep connection to love and beauty is the essence of eros.

How do you know if you are on the path? Consider—are you consistently:

Interview your partner to deepen the conversation:

This is a repeating question exercise. Find a private time and place (although a quiet corner in a romantic restaurant can also work well). Ask your partner the following question and have then respond briefly with a single observation. Say thank you and repeat the question. Continue until you both feel complete and then switch roles.

What do you find beautiful about my face?

Some suggestions to bring eros more fully into your life:

1) One of the conundrums about being in a committed relationship is that, on the one hand, most of us need consistency and the trust that comes from knowing you will be there for me in order to feel safe in fully letting go into my passionate and erotic feelings. On the other hand, newness is a turn-on and mystery is exciting.

Here is a great way to have it both ways: Witness your partner interacting with other people. This is especially useful if they are engaged in an activity where they really shine in the eyes of others. This could be musical or another artistic performance like dance, an opportunity for them to exhibit leadership, attending a class together, social situations where they are at their best—anything where their natural gifts and talents are being appreciated by others.

One of the things that can go wrong in modern relationships is that we sometimes fail to cultivate friendships and connections with people outside our immediate families. Thus our impression of our partners is limited to how they are with us, when in fact we are all more multi-dimensional than we appear in any one relationship. Go witness your partner as they are appreciated by others. You can gain a whole new perspective, one that might just turn you on.

2) Consider and share—how often or how well do you experience the following? Each reflect and journal on your own. Then set aside some relaxed time for a meaningful conversation. Do not interrupt each other. Have one person answer a question completely before switching.

3) Make eye contact—the eyes are a specialized form of brain tissue. I like to think that gazing into another’s eyes gives us access to their mind and heart in a way we don’t get otherwise. Do this when you are making love. Do this when you are experiencing orgasm.

4) Ask your partner to tell you the kinds of affectionate touch they like most during the day—small acts of connection that only take a few moments. Then practice doing these.


The Greek word for self-care is philautia, from the same root as phileo. In other words, being a friend to oneself. The Greeks believed that those who practice self-interest solely for the purpose of getting ahead are bad, however, those who focus on bettering themselves in service of virtue are the best kind of good.

Aristotle even suggested that love of others is simply an extension of healthy acceptance of oneself (as contrasted to narcissism, which goes inward with self-love, rather than reaching out). You cannot share what you do not have inside yourself.

It is also difficult to receive what you do not have inside yourself. We naturally tend to deflect the love of others when it is incongruous with our own self-image. We end up ripping off our partners in their desire to express their love for us if we cannot accept ourselves as worthy of it.

If this speaks to you, do this the next time you receive appreciation or a compliment:

Take a moment to reflect and consider what led the person to feel that way about you. What does it mean about you and your positive qualities that they would be moved to say that about you?

Maintaining my health and well-being, physically, emotionally, and spiritually is one of the greatest gifts I can give to those who love me—self-love in the sense of being mentally and emotionally healthy, as well as self-aware. Self-neglect in service of others is a toxic gift. Becoming solid in your sense of self-worth is important to being able to fully love others.

Reflect on how you are doing in the following four areas. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 for each item. Where are you doing well? Where could you improve in service of your well-being and availability to love and be loved? If you really want to add value for yourself, share your results with people who know you well and ask for honest feedback.

Physical Well-Being

Good nutritional habits

Enjoying regular exercise for strength

Enjoying regular exercise for endurance

Enjoying regular exercise for flexibility

Regular physical check-ups

Regular dental care

Maintaining my appearance

Enough regular sleep

Daily time to relax

Free from addictions

Spend time in nature

Sexual fulfillment

Emotional Well-Being

Good balance of social and alone time

Meaningful sense of belonging

Receiving and giving frequent acknowledgment and appreciation

Able to be aware of and express your feelings and needs

Can identify and appropriately communicate your personal boundaries to others

​​Able to self-regulate your emotions so you can stay calm and present, even under stress

Experiencing abundant affection and touch

Sense of humor

Having mentoring relationships

Able to seek and find support

Capable of listening with empathy and attention

Experience happiness frequently

Have several close friendships

Mental Well-Being

Stimulating career

Enjoyable hobbies and activities

Ongoing learning and personal development

Effective time management

Responsible handling of finances

Investment and retirement plan

Clarity of life purpose and effective follow through

Good self-discipline

Free from excessive worry

Generally positive outlook

Resources you can turn to for practical guidance

Embrace feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow

Spiritual Well-Being

Frequent experience of awe and appreciation

Feel a connection to a larger sense of meaning and purpose

Part of a spiritual community

Giving back and being of service

Regular spiritual practices

Aspiration to live congruent with higher values

In integrity with family and friends

Fulfilled in work and career

Experiencing belonging to community you treasure

Satisfied in your relationship with country and planet

Having inner peace and serenity

Capable of unconditional love for self and others

Take action. Identify key areas for improvement and take action. It is best to work on only a few at one time. Master them, create new habits, before trying to do too much at once. Ask for help and support.

Reflect on the following questions:

  1. Do you like yourself and enjoy the way you look and feel
  2. What is one thing you need to do for your physical health?
  3. What is one thing you need to do for your mental or emotional health?
  4. What practices do I have to help you manage stress and emotional challenges?
  5. In what ways do you challenge yourself to grow and learn new things?

Interview your partner to deepen the conversation:


The Greek word here is pragma. The essential pragmatism, acceptance and consideration that can develop in long term relationships. The willingness to adapt, show patience and tolerance. Being able to work with differences and resolve conflicts. The ability and desire to get along with dignity and respect.

I was delighted to find that pragma is the root word for “pragmatic.” This fits with my own experience of this dimension. Pragmatic not in the sense of resignation, compromising what matters, or giving up. Pragmatic in the sense of learning what is appropriate to accept, refining my approach and timing regarding the things that do matter, and honoring my partner in all their quirks, foibles, and glory.

The underlying quality is harmony, peace and contentment, fought for and won over time—recognizing that love is about maintenance, as well as seeking.

In order for enduring love to thrive it is essential to have sufficient skill and commitment to be able to:

Interview your partner to deepen the conversation:

  1. Think of someone important to you, other than me with whom you have (or have had) a long term relationship. What is their name?
  2. What do you value most about your connection that has had it last and endure?

Consider and share—how often or how well do you experience the following? Each reflect and journal on your own. Then set aside some relaxed time for a meaningful conversation. Do not interrupt each other. Have one person answer a question completely before switching.

There are many ways in which the Relating with Heart—Basic True Love and Relating with Heart—Passion and Purpose retreats support enduring love. Two important methods are:

The Art of the Apology—Learning to apologize generously, using these distinctions:

Making Effective Requests—A big subject for learning and practice that has potent applications at work and with other family members, as well.


The original word here is agape, the universal love that transcends and persists regardless of circumstances. It refers to being loved by God and reflecting that love back to God and others. Thomas Aquinas described it as “willing the good of others.” In this context, we use it to mean a sense of shared mission—a connection to some greater purpose or calling. A commitment to service, community and giving back.

A clear sense of mission and purpose allows you to focus on what matters, so you can speak and think positively and act with more kindness and consideration, in a manner that is congruent with your values and desire to be of service. As a result, you are guided by principled direction and are not merely by reacting to the crises of the day. Unless we consciously take charge of our life direction, something or someone else will.

While keeping everything functioning from day to day, it is easy to miss the kind of planning and course-setting that can make all the difference in where you end up over time, individually and as a couple and family. What do you stand for and where are you going together? The process to get clear on this provides an opportunity to have deep, meaningful conversations with your family members about the things that truly matter.

In the Relating with Heart—Passion and Purpose retreat we devote ourselves to this work using a number of creative processes that evoke our highest ideals and aspirations and then ground these in well-conceived practices that support our best selves.

Take the following steps:

Consider and share—how often or how well do you experience the following? Each reflect and journal on your own. Then set aside some relaxed time for a meaningful conversation. Do not interrupt each other. Have one person answer a question completely before switching.

  1. What contributions have I have made to some larger purpose, goal or cause that I feel particularly good about?
  2. What is my experience as regards being part of a larger community? To what extent am I regularly nurtured and fulfilled by these types of connections?
  3. What is the legacy I most want to see endure when I am gone? Speak to both your individual legacy and also to your shared legacy with your partner.
  4. Name the things that light you up the most
  5. Do you have any regrets about how you have used your time in the past?
  6. What are your core values?

Interview your partner to deepen the conversation:

If you would like to receive an enlightening assessment of how your relationship is doing in these six essential dimensions of love, go the bottom of the home page Relating with Heart to order your FREE copy.

You will receive a FREE copy of the assessment by return email.

Relating can be a hassle
Even though you love them a passel
You start off real nice
But then you think twice:
Did I make a mistake?
Is there no give and take?

Joy’s hard to find
When you’re losing your mind
It’s hard to know
Which way to go
Things are so fraught
My efforts are naught
How can I make things better?

I heard about this class
And figured… I would pass
But then, I thought again
If there’s any chance to win
I oughta give it a try
There’s lots of reasons why

Much to my surprise
I found love in my partner’s eyes
Now our life’s so sweet
At last I feel complete