Ludus Love 101: 5 Signs You're In It + What To Do, From Relationship Experts
The love we feel for our partners, friends, and family all differ—and in the case of the lighthearted love you feel when you first meet someone? That would be ludus love.
Here's what to know about this type of love, plus how to navigate being in it, according to relationship experts.
What is ludus love?
As relationship expert Ken Page, LCSW, tells mindbodygreen, the direct translation of ludus to "game" can tell you a lot. "It captures playfulness and the joy of play, and it also captures 'playing games,'" he explains, adding that this type of love can have its upsides and downsides.
"This kind of love sparks that childlike desire to play, to laugh, to have fun and flirt—it brings out, like, a very wonderful, childlike delight. But it can also be addictive, and it can be immature," he says.
According to Page, ludus love can certainly evolve and become integrated into a long-term relationship but not if you are stuck solely in ludus. Ideally, he says, ludus love would remain present alongside pragma (aka enduring love) and philia (aka deep friendship) for a well-rounded relationship—but we'll touch more on that shortly.
5 signs you're in ludus love:
Your love interest is fun & exciting to be around.
We all know what it's like to have a new crush: You'll feel flirty, enamored, and giggly as the dizzying effects of ludus permeate your heart and mind. As psychotherapist Annette Nuñez, Ph.D., LMFT, tells mindbodygreen, "It's that energetic feeling you get, that euphoric high when you when you first meet somebody—and part of it is that you're feeding off each other's energies," she explains.
There's a lot of flirting and lightheartedness.
According to both Nuñez and Page, ludus love involves a lot of flirting. Again, it translates to "play" or "game," and that's what this kind of love is all about. As Page notes, you feel delight, enjoyment, novelty, and play, with Nuñez adding that the mystery and unpredictability of ludus love is what keeps you captivated.
You haven't experienced any heaviness yet.
Because ludus love is all play and no work, you'll know you're experiencing ludus love if red flags or relationship conflicts haven't reared their heads yet. Nuñez explains that this type of love doesn't yet involve any expectations that we might typically place on a partner, and we tend to keep things light in this stage.
And according to Page, some people struggle to get beyond this stage because any heaviness sends them running. (Hello, avoidant attachment styles!) "You might let relationships and people go when they become difficult or less fun, or you start looking for romantic fun elsewhere when your relationship either goes through hard times or gets a little more familiar," he explains.
In this case, he adds, "The gift in ludus love is the joy and the spontaneity, and the limit is the immaturity."
You're not quite being your fullest, truest self.
Rarely would we air out all our deepest secrets to a new crush, and that's a telltale sign of ludus love. Who needs to bare their soul when things are still so fun and easy? As Nuñez tells mindbodygreen, it's not uncommon to put your best foot forward when you first meet someone, but you can only keep up the facade for so long.
"Part of it is recognizing and questioning, Is this my authentic self, or am I putting on a show for this person?" she explains, adding that the object of your affection is likely doing the same thing to you. And again, the mystery of figuring each other out is part of the fun that makes ludus love so intoxicating.
You might be young.
Lastly, according to Nuñez, younger people are more likely to be enticed by ludus love because as we get older, we tend to have less tolerance for game-playing in relationships. Of course, this isn't always 100% true, but generally speaking, younger people have less dating experience, less responsibility, and fewer expectations, so having fun with a crush can be just that: fun.
"When people are older and they're dating, they're probably involved in their careers, have kids, or maybe they've already been married," she explains, adding that as we're dating in our 30s, 40s, and beyond, we tend to be much clearer on what we're looking for, and what we will—and won't—put up with.
What to do if you're in ludus love:
Ludus love is all about fun, so try to have it! If you are happy with where you're at in this stage of the relationship, there's no reason to rush through it or question it. After all, according to Nuñez, this stage of a relationship tends to have a roughly 90-day expiration date before evolving.
Eventually, the intense excitement and giggles will temper as the relationship grows (or doesn't), so she recommends embracing your ludus love and not reading into things too much. "Try to be in the moment, because oftentimes when people are in this stage, they question, and they're looking for red flags, which can be self-sabotaging for the relationship, instead of playing and learning about one another," she explains.
Ask yourself what you truly want.
If you reach a point where you're wanting to go deeper with this person or forge a more serious relationship, Page says it can be a process for the relationship to grow if you're someone who finds difficulty in getting past this stage.
Those early sparks of ludus love can be the foundation of a healthy long-term relationship, but not if you're addicted to the high of a new crush. "If someone who is stuck in ludus love wants to have happy, committed relationships, they'll really need to work on that," he says, adding that it's also not uncommon to beat yourself up for not being more lighthearted or carefree in the ludus stage (i.e., Why is he so chill about us when I'm not? or Why doesn't she ever open up like I do?)
According to Page, understanding what you want is empowering, and if you truly want to move beyond ludus love, there is nothing wrong with that. (Looking at you, situationships.)
Integrate it into a more long-term relationship.
Last but not least, if your relationship grows, that doesn't mean you have to completely lose aspects of ludus love. As Page tells mindbodygreen, ludus love in its mature form can maintain stability and commitment while still being flirtatious, seductive, and playful. "These are beautiful qualities that are often the very qualities missing in long-term love," he adds.
So, if you're in ludus love, ask yourself if this is the mature form of ludus or the immature form, which involves game-playing, manipulation, and general avoidance. And instead of seeing ludus as a static stage, he says, you can integrate it into the long-term big picture.
"When you get out of that first stage, other kinds of 'rocket fuel' are needed—and those include the more mature aspects of building bonds: truthfulness, transparency, vulnerability, honesty, and connection. So, you lose the entrenchment of ludus love, but you try your best to keep the fun part," Page explains.
What is an example of ludus love?
An example of ludus love would be meeting someone new and feeling extremely giggly, euphoric, playful, and excited around them.
What is ludus or playful love?
Ludus or playful love is the childlike, flirtatious love you feel when you meet someone new.
What is the meaning of "ludus"?
Ludus translates to "play" or "game" in Latin.
Ludus love is exciting, intoxicating, and a whole lot of fun. It's not built to last forever, but when integrated into a healthy, well-rounded relationship with other types of love built in, it can be one factor in the partnership that helps keep the spark alive.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.