We’ve all experienced the gut wrenching, plot flipping, sweaty palm emotion that we’ve come to know as love. But love is much deeper than these panicky reactions. In fact, once you have a chance to get comfortable and let those feelings pass, you’ll know if it was truly love; or something else.
So, what does love mean?
The concept of love is very easily mistaken for its similar counterparts; lust and infatuation.
The feelings we experience during the beginning stages of any of these tend to blur our judgment; mistaking something casual for something very deep and meaningful. But there are a few very prominent distinctions that can help you to decide what it is that you’re actually feeling.
Love: an intense and constant feeling of deep affection.
- Happens over time.
- Lasts, gets deeper with time.
- Accepts the person as a whole, flaws and all.
- Deeper than physical attraction.
- Improves overall deposition; brings balance to your life.
- Survives arguments.
- Considerate of the other person.
- In love with the actual person.
Lust: very strong sexual desire.
- Happens instantly.
- Tends to be fleeting.
- Completely superficial, only involves an individual’s personal appearance and performance.
- Very fickle; won’t last in the face of conflict.
Infatuation: an intense but short-lived passion for someone or something.
- Occurs instantly.
- Powerful but fleeting.
- Idealized image of partner, only showing them your good side.
- Focus on physical attraction.
- Emotionally draining.
- Brings out jealousy & possessiveness.
- May cause you to neglect other relationships.
- Avoids arguments.
- In love with the feeling of love.
The Greeks answered the question “what does love mean” with 7 types of love.
“According the Greek Mythology, humans were originally created with two heads, four arms, four legs, and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate beings, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other half” — Plato
The Ancient Greeks had strong theories and explanations when it came to love and how we love. The quote above is in relation to soul mates, if only we could all be so lucky as to find that one person who we feel truly completes us. Unfortunately, you’re on your own in that department. Luckily, we are all capable of deciphering the type of love that we are, or the lover that we happen to be at the moment, as it tends to change. The Greeks broke up the different types of lovers and love into seven categories.
1. Agape: Known as the unconditional love, but also a universal love. A love for your fellow man, children, God, nature, whatever it is that makes them swoon. This love is accepting, regardless of flaws, in fact the flaws are embraced. They can still love without liking the object of their affection at the time. It is a unselfish love, sacrificing without the intention of receiving. It is a translation of love in the verb form; it is love being demonstrated by another.
2. Phileo: An affectionate kind of love. Warm and tender. Typically a platonic love. Phileos desire friendship, and strive to make deep bonds with their acquaintances. It is translated as love in the noun form.
3. Storge: The love of family and friendship. It is the love that parents feel for their children. It is the love that causes best friends to fall into a romantic love, and for lovers to transition into best friends. This love is unconditional, and accepting of flaws. This love is committed, sacrificial, secure, comfortable, and safe.
4. Eros: A passionate and intense love that arouses deep romantic feelings. This love triggers feelings of euphoria, and makes you want to profess your love to your partner. (Perhaps sometimes a bit too soon.) It is deeply emotional and sexual. This love tends to be fleeting and fizzle out quickly. It is more infatuation that it is true love.
5. Ludus: Playful, uncommitted love. A lustful love. Acts of this love may be through dancing, teasing, flirting, and seducing. This love is noncommittal and requires absolutely no strings attached.
6. Pragma: Practical love, focused on duty or long-term interests. Sexual attraction takes a back seat while variables such as personal qualities, compatibilities and goals are the priority.
7. Philautia: Self-love. A person with high self-esteem and a deep respect for themselves.
Falling in love can make you feel neurotic and strung out, almost as if you’re coming down from drugs- because technically you are.
According to Anthropologist Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, who studied 166 societies and found that the concept of romantic love was prevalent in 147 of them. She deciphered this information by comparing MRI scans of individuals who were very newly but madly in love. She broke down the similarities into 3 stages of falling in love based on our brain chemistry. Although love may on some level have some deep and spiritual elements that are not tangible enough for study, one thing is for certain.
“Love is kept alive by something basic in our biological nature.” — Richard Schwartz, Harvard Medical Professor
In other words, these emotions are nature’s way of encouraging procreation.
Lust: The initial attraction.
You’ve just met someone, and you’ve decided that you’re into them. This is where the hormones estrogen and testosterone have come into play. You’ve decided that they make a suitable mate.
Attraction: This is when you start to experience the butterflies in your tummy.
And this is when the excitement to see them but the overwhelming anxiety as well. That’s because the neurotransmitters in your brain are firing off some pretty powerful stuff.
- Adrenaline: activates your stress response, increase blood levels of adrenaline and cortisol.
- Dopamine: simulates desire and reward, triggering intense pleasure, is comparable to the effects of cocaine on the brain.
- Serotonin: alters your thought process, this is why you can’t stop thinking of your lover.
According to a study conducted by a Dr. Donatella Marazziti in Pisa, Italy involving 20 couples who are very newly in love, she found that the serotonin levels of the individuals were the same as someone who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Attachment: The bond that keeps couples together long enough to procreate.
Here, two of the strongest love drugs are released, rendering you physically addicted to your partner.
- Oxytocin: a very powerful hormone that is released during an orgasm. It deepens the feeling of attachment after sex. The more sex you have with your partner, the deeper your bond will be because more of the chemical has been released.
- Vasopressin: also released after sex. This aids in the feelings of long term desire.
Richard Schwartz and Jacqueline Olds, Harvard Medical School Professors and long term lovers found that we have two neural pathways that decip her the judgment of negative and positive emotions. When the “love drugs” are administered, the neural pathway for negative emotions is hindered, thus proving that love is actually blind.
They also found that if the love lasts for two years, the emotional roller coaster will eventually steady itself out. The serotonin and cortisol levels drop and normalize once more. Dopamine, the reward and pleasure hormone is still very prevalent and can stay the same even after 30 years of marriage; although the craving and desire for your lover does lessen. Love no longer is the stress, but becomes a defense mechanism against the stress. The love transitions from passionate to compassionate.
Don’t go looking for love. Let it come to you. Make yourself magnetic.
The best way to find love is to let it come to you. Sounds a bit unrealistic and incredibly counterproductive, but hear me out. If you put out the right vibe, it will attract the sort of energy that you want in your life.
1. Love yourself.
Let’s face it. You’re awesome. And just because you’re “alone” right now or haven’t met “the one” doesn’t change a thing. Commit to yourself to be the best that you can be. You can’t rely on anyone else to make you happy, and this practice will seriously hinder your personal growth.
So take the initiative. Get out there and be the boss that you know you can be. Instead of searching for a lover, search for your best self. You will be happy. You will radiate confidence and people respond positively. What you put out there has a huge impact on what you’ll eventually bring in.
2. Get to know your lover before taking the plunge.
Sure, these new emotions are so exciting and you want to jump right in and take this thing to the home stretch. But just one second. You’re glossing over all of the good parts. You’re missing out on the intimacy, which will eventually cause the destruction of your relationship in the long run.
Really get to know your prospective partner. Take the time to know their interests; see if they match with yours, or inspire you to expand your interests to encompass theirs. Build a genuine connection with someone before you let those three little words slip out. It will be all the more satisfying when you truly deeply feel it, and you know those feelings are reciprocated.