What is the True Definition (or Meaning) of Love?

Love is one of my favorite things to think about, because I find it so fascinating. I’ve polled some of my friends and gotten a limited range of answers. Most often, I get a classic answer of, “You just know,” or, “It’s the most wonderful feeling, I can’t describe it.” This response is incredibly insufficient to me. I cannot attribute a mere “feeling” to something as powerful as “love”.  So how do you know when someone really loves you? How do you know when you are really in love yourself?

Additionally, we use the one word in so many different ways. The same core meaning, and yet a different meaning, depending on who you are saying it to. You love your friends, your family, your significant other. Yet, you love each individual a different way. How can you love your family, love your friends, and love your significant other, even though you are romantic with your significant other, which varies from how you love your friends, or family. On a side note, have you noticed how sometimes friends are treated with more respect than family or even a significant other?

That said, I have separated definitions for what I attribute to being “love”, being “in love”, and what I feel is “not love at all”. Yet only today, I realized that I actually am not entirely clear on some of the aspects of love myself, in spite of having thought about it so much and so often. For example, how does one know they feel loved? How does one express love? I haven’t even defined those things for myself, but I have figured out my definition (which still gives insight into how I would both express and receive it). I feel that a person’s definition of love matters greatly, especially in the context of a relationship. To me, too-different definitions of love can, do, or will have a similarly adverse effect of complete communication failure.

Person A may love person B in ways 1 and 2, but person B feels loved by ways 3 and 4. Thinking from the way they feel, person B shows love by ways 3 and 4, but person A would feel loved by ways 1 and 2. In that scenario, neither person A nor person B would ever fully feel as loved, and both person A and person B would get frustrated by attempting to show love with the other person never feeling fully loved. Granted, that’s based on significantly different ways of expressing and receiving and feeling love, not ways that are almost alike. But this is how it happens for some people.

Without any further delay, I have provided my own personal breakdown of “love”, “in love”, and what I deem to be “not love at all”. (Technical terms!)

Love – Love to me is an action, not a feeling. Love to me is something that you do for people. It is not sexual. It does not require any action on their part. You can love someone without ever being loved back by them. To me, love involves showing another person how you feel about them through your care, concern, and desire for their wellbeing. You want them to be happy, you want them to feel good about themselves, you want the best for them. In a relationship, true love is when you want the best for someone else, them to be happy, even if it’s not with you.

In Love – I do not use “love” to describe the feeling because I tend to interpret “in love” to be more a term used to describe infatuation. If you think a person is perfect, you are blind to any fault, then you are not staying level-headed. It creates an illusion. Eventually the feeling begins to fade and is replaced by reality. If you are blind to the other person’s faults, and there are many, it comes crashing down on you. But generally I would use “in love” to describe the romantic feelings you feel towards someone. Love can be shown toward parents, siblings, friends, and partners. But you aren’t “in love” with your relatives. (If you are, there’s something very wrong!). “In love” can to me describe infatuation but only when there is something more behind it. Generally I can “love” someone easier than I can be “in love” with someone. If I had to describe the infatuated “in love” feeling, I’d say it’s the part that most people describe as love. “You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you can’t do anything but think about that person. The sky is bluer. The clouds are fluffier. The grass is greener.” (etc, etc.) Everyone I’ve asked, and I’ve asked a number of people, seems to describe love as being this “indescribable feeling” and many people will say, “I can’t describe it. You just know. You’ll know when you’re in love.” But again “in love” seems to be a description of infatuation, which is rather deceptive. I think that’s why I am highly reluctant to opt to be with a person who “makes me feel good”. Yes, you do want someone to make you feel good but to me that should be the icing on the cake, not the sole or even primary reason.

Not Love At All – This should be self-explanatory, right? Unfortunately it’s often not. I posted the comments from the forum because well, they sum it up quite well. There have been times when need replaces love. If you love someone, you love them because, well, you do. You love them because you think so well of them. You love them because you want the best for them. You don’t love someone out of need for them. If need equaled love, there wouldn’t be the ever-so-popular saying, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours.” If you need someone, you don’t want to ever “set them free” because you need them. I mean, no one says, “Hey, let me go without oxygen for an hour and see where it gets me.” Another not-love-at-all is lust. Love is not sex. Granted, love can be expressed through sex, but sex does not make love. Lust does not make love. Physical attraction, no matter how intense, does not equate to genuine, heartfelt love.

I am always curious to hear how other people think of love and being in love. To me, another way of putting it is that I equate love to a decision. Love to me is a choice. As I consider it something you do, not just a feeling you feel, to me you have to choose to love someone. Your feelings sway and when you’re mad at someone it’s hard to feel loving toward them. However if you love them, you love them no matter what. Even if they’ve hurt you, even if you’re angry with them, even if they don’t offer anything in return, you still want the best for them.  What do you think? Have you ever been in a person A/person B situation?


Posted on May 19, 2008, in Life, Love, Relationships and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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