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What Is Love and What Is Not

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.

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

What Makes a Relationship Boring and How to Avoid It How to Know If You’re Really in Love or Not (Yes It Can Be Confusing) Why You and Your Partner Don’t Need to Speak the Same Love Language to Stay Together Why Worrying About Losing a Friend Is Unnecessary No.1 Relationship Killer: Your Good Intention to Advise Your Partner When They’re Upset

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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