What is Love?

It’s the question I’ve been trying to answer since I can remember. I’m kinda drawn to these kind thoughts, to explore a concept as complex as love and understand it at its core.

Merriam-Webster defines love as: strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.

But love, especially true romantic love is hard to grasp or even conceptualize. Is it like Jesus, a belief that comes from faith? How do we know love is real? How can we show our loved ones that we really DO love them?

I’m not just talking about romantic love, love can be experienced in a multitude of relationships including friendship and family relations.

So to help me understand this “emotion” and feeling, I’ve grouped love into 3 distinct categories that I’ve noticed in my life and in the lives of friends and family of how we experience the idea of “Love.”

False love

I had a friend that had a boyfriend every three months. Her relationships tended to be intense, full of hand holding, kissing, snuggling, and gifts.  I admit, younger me was very jealous. If only someone can love me like that.

But the thing was, that the love never lasted. Eventually there would be some irreconcilable flaw that caused her to break up with her boyfriends. Infatuation tends to look like this, that’s why it’s a false love. You’re kind of chasing an ideal. The person you’re dating initially seems to fit the ideal, they seem to fit what your ego says is a good partner. But people rarely are so two-dimensional. Eventually a persons flaws and shortcomings come together and cause the infatuation to end. And that’s when this type tends to “fall out of love.”

Then there are the people who are missing something desperately in their lives. Sometimes, they just didn’t get the kind of love they wanted from their parents or went through a breakup that broke them. There’s a lot of self-love that’s still needed for these people. As a result, their relationships are kind of on autopilot, without much thought.

We all know that one person that dates people to fill up their time. One date leads to another, then another. Suddenly, they are boyfriend and girlfriend. Months pass, even years but this couple has fallen into a routine of just filling each-others voids without really knowing or loving each other. Brunch on Sundays, Friday dinner dates with their phones, and silence in between.  Love is almost assumed and expected to be part of these relationships but whether love is truly felt is a different story.

You’d be surprised at how long these types of relationships can last. Relationships that are, in essence, toxic and mediocre. Comfort can be a strong substitute for love.

Conditional love, flawed love, broken love

Sometimes two people really love each other. It’s not just infatuation. They get to know each other and appreciate each other. They sacrifice and give for each other and appreciate the time they spend together. This is love! But how is this not perfect pure love?

The issue is, despite all that, there are strings attached to that love, there are roadblocks and obstacles, and there are indiscretions.

So it can’t be perfect.

A LOT of relationships fall in this category. Over time, life tends to bang us up, we get hurt and we start to put up walls that keep us from truly loving our partners.

I would describe my marriage as one of those conditional relationships. I absolutely adore K, for everything that he does for us and for his strengths. But would I still love him the same if for whatever reason, he couldn’t provide for our family? If he wasn’t able to be the person he’s always been?

If I had to be honest with myself, probably not. It would be a challenge.

At least I recognize this in myself and I’m working on trying to be more understanding, giving and flexible.

Sometimes two people get together and they are SO different from each other. It’s amazing at first but it also causes misunderstandings and difficulties. Maybe they love spending time together and love each other for who they are and their background but its hard to communicate. The constant fighting in between due to differences can take its toll. This love is flawed because the communication isn’t there. These types of relationships need constant work.

Imagine two people. Aaron and Kim. Aaron’s love language is physical touch. He likes to cuddle, kiss and all that. That’s how he expresses his love and how he expects love in return. Kim, likes acts of love. She thinks it’s amazing when Aaron gets her soup when she’s sick, or when he helps her around the house when she’s overwhelmed. They might love each other but if they can’t express that love in a way that works for the other partner, there will always be discord and difficulty in the relationship.

Your relationship can be perfect. You can be happy and truly appreciate your partner and what they bring to the table. You can communicate perfectly and understand each other. Life is good. But then someone makes a mistake. They cheat either emotionally or physically. Skeletons might reveal themselves from the closets. Financial indiscretions. What do you do? You love this person, their perfect for you and you can’t imagine life without them. But these problems are breaking the love you have for them and it’s becoming clear that these hurdles and trust issues will ALWAYS need to be worked on.

Broken love is the hardest, because it really requires you to look beyond the obstacle and forgive/accept your partner.  Not everyone can do that.  Not everyone can forgive their partner if they cheat or reveal they have a shopping addiction they’ve hid for 3 years that’s causing debt.  It’s hard.

All of these types of relationships aren’t 100% bad but they’re not 100% good either. I do believe that these problems can be fixed with time, honesty, and commitment towards a better relationship.

It takes so much personal growth to be able to accomplish a relationship based on pure true love. So in a way, these relationships are good since they can help us grow in that direction by forcing us to overcome difficulty.

True pure love

Is the hardest to attain and maintain. The best way to describe it is Love without boundaries. Like the paternal or maternal love for a child. You accept the person 100% for who they are and care for them without expectation.

Very few relationships, be it friendships, partners or even family, can reach this level of love.

It requires that you put your ego aside, at times get less than you give, and be selfless, honest and genuine.

I think it’s the type of love I feel for my daughter, and my parents for me. Unconditional, unwavering and free.

The truth is, not all relationships can maintain this type of love nor should they.

We should aspire for it though, as hard as it is to attain, because this kind of love makes us better.

I wish I had more to say about true pure love other than it’s special and work pursuing.  Unfortunately, the world doesn’t make that easy for anyone to pursue or achieve.  I’ve seen false love ad broken love break people’s trust so that their no longer open to a REAL relationship.

I wish you all the best in love.  In love we want to win but only when we’re willing to lose can we truly attain the type of love we desire.

Other Posts:

Why Dating Culture Doesn’t Work Towards Marriage

My Favorite Dating Book: Why Men Love Bitches

Dating in Your 30s vs Dating In Your 20s

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