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
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.
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.
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
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. 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. 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
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.
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. 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 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
|||^||Mentalhelp: Unrealistic Expectations About Love and Marriage|
|||^||PsychologyToday: The Smell of Love|
|||^||Dr.JamesDobson: The Meaning of Romantic Love|
|||^||Dr.JudithOrloff: Tips to Identify the Difference Between Love and Lust|
|||^||Wikihow: 3 Ways to Differentiate Between Love and Friendship|
|||^||MindBodyGreen: Are You in Love, Or Are You Emotionally Dependent?|
|||^||PsychologyToday: What Is Love, And What Isn’t?|