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What Is Love and What Is Not

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What Is Love and What Is Not

Love is a 4-letter word that has probably crossed your mind one time or another. It either strikes fear in the hearts of some or motivates others. Its existence and meaning has been a topic of discussion and debate for centuries. Just what is love?

This age-old question has been asked by everyone from love-struck teens to romantic poets and philosophers to curious scientists. Guess what? We have the answer to the “what is love” question. And the answer is….. (drumroll please)…..

It depends on your perspective. Let’s look at a few first:

Different Definitions of Love

From a Romantic’s Perspective: Love Is Perfect

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What is love to you? Do you think it should be easy with no disagreements, ever? Or maybe you think that romantic partners should always just understand each other? If this is your idea of love, you might be a romantic at heart.

I hate to break it to you, but true love at first sight is unlikely. It actually takes work to maintain that feeling. According to Sally Connolly, a relationship therapist with 30 years of experience, insisting on the idea of perfect love can actually make your relationship pretty unhealthy.[1]

From a Scientist’s Perspective: Love Is About Our Sense of Smell

If you’re a more analytically- oriented person, you might believe that love is related to biology. This idea about what is love, is actually backed up by scientific evidence. Researchers at the Swiss University of Bern have conducted research on the connection between our sense of smell and our attraction to another person. They discovered that major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes in human DNA may cause us to feel love for another person.[2]

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From a Realistic Person’s Perspective: Love Is Like the Ocean

A realistic perspective of love is to know that love is like the ocean, full of ever-changing waves and tides. Feeling this way about love is having a more balanced and normal definition of this elusive emotion. Understanding that question about what is love exactly, isn’t easy. Love takes hard work, which in the long run, will prepare you for a healthier, more fulfilling, and longer lasting relationship.

What is Love Not?

While the definition of love might depend on your perspective, there are some very clear things that are definitely not love. What is love not? Take a look:

Infatuation VS Love

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Infatuation is that feeling we have at the beginning of a relationship. The love that keeps us awake at night, distracts us during the day, and makes us feel exhilarated – that love, is actually infatuation. Because this is what you feel while falling in love with somebody, it’s easy to mistake infatuation for love. Being infatuated, instead of actually in love is a trap all too many of us fall into time and time again.[3] You ask yourself, “what is love?” and then convince yourself it must be this feeling. If that is what you believe, the first time your relationship is challenged, it isn’t likely to survive. Real love, however, is long lasting.

Lust VS Love

It’s possible to confuse love for lust, but the 2 are not the same. How can you tell the difference? Well, if you’re more interested in the bedroom than conversation, or you’re focused on your partner’s looks, or you don’t like to sleep over after intimacy – you’re probably feeling lust rather than love.[4] This can be an easy trap to fall into because it’s our natural response to always hope for the best and sometimes we do so much hoping that we end up convincing ourselves of something that simply isn’t true. It’s always easy to ignore when something isn’t quite right about a relationship, because saying goodbye to people you care about is just too difficult. Responding to “what is love” with lust, can get you caught up in a fantasy relationship instead of letting you find the real thing.

Friendship VS Love

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Friendship and love often feel similar, which can be confusing. This is because we can feel love for a friend or feel like our romantic partner is also our friend. It’s easy to mistake friendship for love because we often spend so much time with our friends that we can’t imagine a life without them by our sides. This, of course, is the same feeling we have about our significant others. The lines can sometimes be blurry. So, if you’re feeling confused about your relationship with somebody, try focusing on your chemistry, level of intimacy, and intensity of your feelings. Generally speaking, the more intense your feelings about another person, the more likely it is that you are actually in love rather than in a friendship.[5]

Emotionally Dependent VS Love

Sometimes we might think we’re in love, but it’s actually an emotional dependency. How can you tell? Well, there are a couple questions you can ask yourself. Do you tend to idealize your partner? Or do you have a deep fear of losing them? Or is the way they treat you more important to you than who your partner is? If you answered yes to these questions, you might actually be in an emotionally dependent relationship, which is not love.[6] If you discover that you are really experiencing emotional dependency instead of love, don’t be hard on yourself. It’s easy to become emotionally dependent. A lot of the traits of emotional dependency, like idealizing your partner and being afraid of losing them, are normal. These feelings are even expected in romantic relationships, but sometimes we can take it too far. Remember, you are your own person and so is your partner. Love lets us be who we are.

What is Love?

Ok, so now we know what love is not. But, that still leaves the unanswered question: What is love? Love is intangible, independent, universal, caring, unpredictable, and natural. It is far from perfect and gives us the flexibility to experience all of the other emotions, including: anger, fear, grief, and pain[7] Love isn’t something we can go out and buy, something we can hand out as a reward for a job well done, nor is a something we can count. Most importantly, love is something that is given freely without prior conditions put in place. Understanding these things is the first step toward finding true love.

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Featured photo credit: ANAMORPHOSIS AND ISOLATE via anamorphosis-and-isolate.tumblr.com

Reference

More by this author

Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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Last Updated on January 24, 2022

21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

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21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

Having texting and video conferencing at our fingertips, it appears that maintaining a long-distance relationship is easier than ever. Long-distance calls are no longer a luxury; the days when they needed to be rationed are long gone.

Long-distance couples do not have to depend on 3 p.m. postal delivery, waiting for news that is at best four days old.

Now we’re no longer even in the days of waiting for our loved ones to check their e-mail when they get home from work. Instant messaging keeps us hooked to each other even when we are out shopping, working, playing, watching a movie and doing much more.

Technology, however, cannot compensate for everything in a long-distance relationship, as anyone with a long-distance relationship will tell you.

Many long-distance relationships still seem emotionally difficult despite the lack of regular physical proximity.

People often think long-distance relationships will never work. It may be discouraged by your family, and some of your best friends may tell you not to take it too seriously in case you end up heartbroken.

Many things are not possible due to the extra distance – no one can promise it will be easy. Things could get complicated, and you might feel lonely and sad at times.

Still, many of us try them.

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However, the extra distance also makes the simplest things the sweetest. Being able to hold the other person’s hand, eating together at the same table, feeling each other’s touch, taking a walk together, smelling each other’s hair… these small wishes could suddenly mean so much more in a long-distance relationship.

Long-distance relationships may be tough, but they have their own surprises too.

Here’re 21 tips on how to make a long distance relationship work:

1. Avoid excessive communication.

It is unwise to be overly “sticky” and possessive. You two don’t really have to communicate 12 hours a day to keep the relationship going. Many couples think that they need to compensate for the distance by doing more. This is not true. And it might only make things worse. Soon you would get tired of “loving.”

Remember: Less is more. It is not about spamming — you are only going to exhaust yourselves. It’s really about teasing at the right moments and tugging at the right spots.

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2. See it as an opportunity.

“If you want to live together, you first need to learn how to live apart.” – Anonymous

View it as a learning journey for both of you. This is an opportunity for you to prove your love for one another. According to a Chinese proverb, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.” Instead of thinking that this long-distance relationship is pulling you two apart, you should believe that through this experience, the both of you will be bound together even stronger.

As Emma says it to Will in season four of Glee,

“I would rather be here, far from you, but feeling really close, rather than close to you but feeling really far away.” – Emma, Glee Season 4

3. Set some ground rules to manage your expectations.

Both of you need to be clear with what you expect of each other during this long-distance relationship. Set some ground rules so that none of you will do things that will take the other party by surprise.

For instance, are you two exclusive? Is it all right for the other person to go on dates? What is your commitment level? It’s better to be open with each other about all these things.

4. Try to communicate regularly, and creatively.

Greet each other “good morning” and “good night” every day — this is a must. On top of that, try to update your partner on your life and its happenings, however mundane some of the things may seem.

To up the game, send each other pictures, audio clips, and short videos from time to time. By putting in this kind of effort, you make the other person feel loved and attended to.

5. Talk dirty with each other.

Sexual tension is undoubtedly one of the most important things between couples. In a way, sexual desire is like the glue that keeps both parties from drifting apart. Sexual need is not only biological but also emotional.

Keep the flames burning by sending each other teasing texts filled with sexual innuendos and provocative descriptions. Sexy puns work pretty well too.

6. Avoid “dangerous” situations.

If you already know that going to the club or going drinking with your group of friends late at night will displease your partner, then you should either 1. Not do it or 2. Tell your partner beforehand to reassure them.

You should not let this sort of thing slip by because it will only make your partner extra worried or suspicious – and of course, very upset because they will feel powerless or lack control over the situation.

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You can fall victim to your traps by going out with eye candy from work after work or dating someone from your past who has been flirting with you without realizing it. Before entering a dangerous situation, you need to recognize the dangers.

Listen to your heart, but don’t just rely on it. Make sure you also listen to your mind.

7. Do things together.

Play a game online together. Watch a documentary at the same time on YouTube or Vimeo. Share a song on Skype while another plays the guitar. Video-call each other and go for a walk together. Together, go online shopping – and buy each other gifts (see #13).

You really have to be creative and spontaneous about it.

8. Do similar things.

Recommend books, TV shows, movies, music, news and etc., to each other. When you read, watch and listen to the same things, you get to have more topics in common to talk about.

Even if you live apart, it’s nice to have some shared experiences.

9. Make visits to each other.

Every long-distance relationship is enriched by visits.

After all the waiting and yearning and abstinence, you finally get to meet each other to fulfil all the little things like kissing, holding hands, etc. These are typical for couples in long-distance relationships but more special and intimate for long-distance couples.

The atmosphere will be filled with fireworks, glitter bombs, confetti, rainbows, and butterflies.

10. Have a goal in mind.

Are we going to be apart for a long time?” “what about the future?” These are the questions you should ask yourselves.

In fact, a couple cannot stay in a long-distance relationship forever. Eventually, we all need to settle down.

So make a plan with each other. Set up a timeline, mark down the estimated times apart and times together, and draw an end goal.

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It is important that you two are on the same page and have the same goals. So that even if you are not living in the same space and the same timezone, both of you are still motivated to work together in the same direction towards a future that includes one another.

That’s right, you need some motivation to make a relationship last too. Find out more about what motivates you here.

11. Enjoy your alone time and your time with your friends and family.

You are alone, but you are not lonely unless you choose to feel like it. You don’t have to let your world revolve around your partner — you still have you, your friends, and your family. Take this time apart to do more with your friends and family. Go to the gym more often. Get a new hobby. Binge-watch shows. There are plenty of things for you to do that don’t involve your partner.

12. Stay honest with each other.

Talk about your feelings of fear, insecurity, jealousy, apathy, whatsoever. If you try to hide anything from your partner, that secret will sooner or later swallow you up from the inside out. Don’t try to deal with things all by yourself. Be open and honest with each other. Let your partner help you and give you the support you need. It’s better to look at the problem during its initial stage than to only disclose it when it’s all too late.

13. Know each other’s schedules.

It’s helpful to know when the other person is busy and free. So that you can drop a text or make a call at the right time. You wouldn’t want to disturb your partner when they are in the middle of class or halfway through a business meeting. Make sure you are aware of everyone’s small and big events in their lives, i.e., college midterms and exams, important business trips and meetings, job interviews, etc. Particularly if you live in different time zones, this becomes more important.

14. Keep track of each other’s social media activities.

Facebook and Instagram photos of each other. Send each other tweets. Tag each other on Facebook. Post stuff on each other’s wall. Let them know you care. Be cool with stalking each other.

15. Gift a personal object for the other person to hold on to.

Memories have power. No matter what it is–a pendant, a ring, a keychain, a collection of songs and videos, or a perfume bottle. Everyday items and things have meanings to us, whether we realize it or not. We all try to store memories in material things so that when our minds fail, we will still be able to look at or hold onto something that will help us recall our memories. This is why something so simple can mean so much to a person when others may see little or no value in it.

16. Get a good messaging app.

This is extremely important because texting is the most frequent and common way of communication the two of you have. You need a good messaging app on your phones that allows interactions beyond words and emoticons.

Personally, I use this messaging app called LINE. I find it highly effective because it has a huge reserve of playful and very funny “stickers” that are free for its users to use. You can also go to the app’s “Sticker Shop” to download (or gift!) extra stickers of different themes (e.g., Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Snoopy, MARVEL, etc.) at a low price. Occasionally, the app will give out free sticker sets for promotions. This messaging app is cute and easy to learn to use.

17. Snail-mail your gift.

Mail each other postcards and hand-written love letters. Send each other gifts across the globe from time to time. Flower deliveries on birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day. Shop online and surprise each other with cool T-shirts, sexy underwear, and such.

18. Stay positive.

You need to constantly inject positive energy into the long-distance relationship to keep it alive. Yes, the waiting can be painful, and you can sometimes feel lonely, but you need to remind yourself that the fruits at the end will be sweet as heaven.

One good trick to staying positive is to be grateful all the time. Be thankful that you have someone to love — someone who also loves you back. Be thankful for the little things, like the hand-made letter that arrived safely in your mailbox the other day. Be thankful for each other’s health and safety.

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19. Keep each other updated on each other’s friends and family.

This will help you two to know each other’s culture and values. Knowing small habits of each other helps in developing an understanding and building mutual trust.

Talking about family and friends gives you more matters to talk about. The best thing to talk about is gossip and scandals.

20. Video-call whenever possible.

Because sometimes looking into each other’s eyes and hearing each other’s voices can make everything feel alright again.

A video call is though nothing like being together, but it’s the best thing and the most to do for coziness in a long-distance relationship.

21. Give each other pet names.

Because it’s cute. It keeps the lovey-dovey going. Having special names for each other reserved only for one another are heart-warming. Hearing that one word with love lifts our spirits up, and we feel assured all over again.

Chaos seems to fade away just by hearing that special word from someone special.

With the best wishes…

Love (or like) is a force that is beyond your control. Love just happens. The same goes for turning off those feelings, even when you get the perfect job halfway across the country.

Neither one of us expects to be long-distance in a relationship. But if you’re in a relationship like this, you’ll just have to make the most out of a difficult situation. These advice for long distance relationships will hopefully help you stay strong and cheerful when living apart from one another.

More Recommended Relationships Experts on Lifehack
  • Carol Morgan —  A communication professor, dating/relationship and success coach
  • Dr. Magdalena Battles — A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault
  • Randy Skilton —  An educator in the areas of relationships and self-help

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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