Love is one of the most profound emotions we experience as humans. It’s bigger than us, meaning, though we can invite it into our lives, we do not have the control over the how, when and where love starts to express itself. Sometimes, love truly does strike like a bolt of lightening to the chest, and you aren’t prepared for it.
Since love is inherently free, we spend nights tossing and turning in an attempt to understand what it is, and how to know if we have it. How do you define something so uncontrollable and versatile?
That’s the tricky thing about love, we can feel it in a variety of different states–when we’re happy, sad, angry, confused or excited–and our attitudes about love can range from affectionate love, to infatuation and pleasure. We even use love as an action, as a force to keep our relationships with partners, or friends and family, together.
The ancient Greeks used seven words to define the different states of love we can experience:
Though there are many different kinds of love to experience, the romantic and affectionate expression of love is what, on some level, we’re all seeking. The reason being that the majority of us find fulfillment through the comfort of a deeply committed and romantic relationship. In fact, 88% of Americans cite love as being the top reason they choose to get married, so it’s easy to acknowledge that the idea of love plays a pretty big role in all of our lives.
But, because love takes on different forms, we can each experience love in our own way, which is why defining the term ‘love’ is so complicated. And so we find ourselves lying awake at night, searching the Internet for an exact definition because our culture creates a need for one–we want to know how others perceive love so we can determine how our love stacks up against that definition. Think about it: if you say you’re in love with someone, but your friends or family don’t see the chemistry, you might be angry when they tell you that it “doesn’t look like love.” Are they wrong? Or are you? How does one know who to believe–thus, as we do in this age, we search the Internet, desperately seeking to know what, exactly, is love.
From the scientific point of view, love is a powerful and permanent neurological condition. Love is chemistry and it’s not something you can necessarily control. Take, for example, the difference between lust and love. Lust is a temporary desire fueled by an increased release of testosterone and oestrogen–it lasts for a little bit, then you normalize and it’s gone. But, when you feel true love, the brain can release a whole set of chemicals, allowing you to experience it in different expressions.
Love is so hard to define because it doesn’t exist as one thing. We can feel love for our significant others, our parents, friends, children and pets. Some of us direct our love toward God, or celebrities, and we can hold love for our neighbors, country and objects. Love can be blind, misguided, tragic, unconditional, steadfast and inconsistent. It takes on many different variants, yet, at its best, love is a passionate commitment that we constantly work to develop and nurture.
When you take away the aspect of commitment, love is infatuation. When you’re no longer passionate about someone, you’re simply dedicated to him or her. Love that is infatuation is not really good love because, well, we often let our obsession become the root of the relationship, which might mean you’re focusing more on the idea of being in love, or the idea of the relationship, than the actual relationship itself.
Lastly, when all is said and done, love is also about compatibility. When you break down and analyze different relationships, one of the key factors is how compatible two partners are. When you share the same values, likes and dislikes, interests, political or philosophical views with someone you are much more likely to be compatible and thus, are more likely to fall in love. Sure, there can always be situations where “opposites attract” but there will always need to be some common grounds for the relationship to grow roots on, or it might fall into one of the other categories of love. Love and compatibility work together to build a relationship, so at the end of the day, you want to find someone you know you know you are going to be compatible with, right?