Excerpt from An online Course: Where God puts two hearts in a home
Phileo admires a person‘s strengths, often those that you personally lack. But this produces one of the possible pitfalls of phileo love. As a newlywed, Carrie might excitedly say, My husband, Carl, is so self-controlled, not like me, however her esteem for his qualities might over the years deteriorate to be echoed in exclamations of …Carl is so stuffy! I just don‘t understand him. Then, she might see a new set of characteristics which might begin to seem more admirable leading to …Bob is so sensitive and really understands me.
If that stray branch is not quickly pruned away by resisting the temptation to talk to Bob intimately, phileo can develop in the wrong place and turn Carrie‘s heart from her husband, Carl. It is healthy for both husband and wife to develop phileo friendships with others. But if the friend is also physically attractive, phileo can lead to romantic, sexual love. The workplace, where shared projects naturally feed phileo, is a good place to make friends, but is also often where adultery begins.
Who is your best earthly friend? The person you can talk with for hours or say relatively little and yet feel that he/she really understands? This person may have characteristics vastly different from yours, but you admire those strengths and chuckle affectionately at the weaknesses. When you are together, you experience a sense of pleasure and delight in the other‘s companionship. That is Phileo love.
How Phileo develops… Phileo begins by recognition of a common point of view or interest. It grows on shared communication and pleasant or meaningful experiences. It is the least jealous of all the loves, and it can grow to include a tight-knit group of friends. It often develops in the following ways:
- When two people enjoy a recreational activity together
- When a person tells another all about his/her childhood and the other understands and shares similar experiences
- When two people bravely help each other through a harrowing adventure
Phileo in Marriage… Many married couples started off as good friends…a friendship which led to a spark leading to a marriage. However, because of phileo‘s need for specific conditions for a friendship to grow, it takes work to maintain phileo with your spouse, especially once you have children, or if you live in an extended family. The springs of phileo in a relationship are intimate, thoughtful conversation and shared projects. In marriage and parenthood, the togetherness of a couple is challenged when different roles and responsibilities overtake the activities once enjoyed by a couple. As individual activities take the place of shared activities, they extinguish the conditions needed to sustain phileo…leading to the death of phileo in one’s marriage. Often neither one knows how it disappeared.
Phileo is a feeling in response to an admirable person. It cannot exist by one‘s will alone. Phileo requires conditions based on mutual actions for it to grow such as :-
Shared ideas… Once ignited, Phileo craves time talking together, just as fire looks for something new to consume. That is why new friends and those newly in love can hardly wait to be together and spend so much time talking. But these are not the mundane or stressful discussions about the rent, the in-laws, or the children that are part and parcel of storge. Phileo thrives on enjoyable discussions about ideas bigger than your lives together. Be a good conversationalist by listening attentively and asking pertinent questions. Whenever you are apart, try to spend time in conversation …through phone calls, SMS, emails. While together, speak alone daily, at least before arising and before falling asleep each night.
Shared activities… A staple diet for feeding Phileo love is spending time in sharing enjoyable or satisfying activities. Choose to engage in fun or worthwhile activities together. If you have few interests in common, how do use this opportunity in your marriage? How about when one’s inclination is having fun with friends or relatives? You may need to sacrifice activities you do with other phileo friends to make time for things you can do together with your spouse. The thing a couple does together creates a fertile ground to have something in common for a couple to muse over.
Practice mutual respect… Another essential for Phileo is equality. Treat your spouse not as a master or servant but as a brother or sister in Christ who will someday reign with Him. Seek his/her advice. It helps to learn to discuss objective things in a safe and respectful way.
Touch affectionately… Affectionate, nonsexual touch is essential between husband and wife to develop and sustain phileo love. What kind of touch? Think of the touch of parent to a child such as holding hands, caressing the face, brushing the hair, hugs, pats, backrubs, and affectionate kisses. This kind of touch is absolutely essential in marriage.
Behave admirably… Phileo needs not only to understand but also to admire and approve of the beloved. Therefore, it will thrive when one exhibits characteristics which a partner respects. Do you know what those characteristics are? Empathy, sympathy, kindness, self-sacrifice, strength, courage, and faithfulness are often at the top of the list, but you will need to find out what characteristics your partner admires and work to develop the admirably characteristics.
Think kindly … In what ways can you safeguard your thoughts in friendships with the opposite sex and strengthen your appreciative thoughts about your spouse?
Phileo grows by thinking about the good aspects of your spouse. It is decreased by thinking about the things you dislike. Everyone has negative characteristics, but the Bible instructs us to dwell on the good ones (Phil 4:8). Similarly, discipline your mental admiration for others so that they remain in a proper perspective. Do not compare your spouse to anyone else‘s spouse. Especially do not compare your spouse‘s weaknesses to the corresponding strength of someone else‘s spouse. That is opening a door for the enemy and he will destroy not only you as an individual, but also your marriage.
A married couple must invest time in shared enjoyable activities to keep Phileo strong throughout the life of their marriage. The growth of other Phileo friendships must not usurp the marriage friendship‘s primary place.