To many people love is something beyond definition; something ethereal.
We know what it is, or think that we do, but when it comes to expressing it in words, mere words alone can often seem so inadequate.
Poets, artists, philosophers and musicians throughout the ages have tried to define it or to express its true essence but they usually end up falling into the one of three categories.
1. The Graphers
People like this think that you can break love down into graphs or neat diagrams like it is some kind of damn algebra equation.
They draw graphs and diagrams like psychologist Robert Sternberg who put forward the triangular theory of love which looks like this:
Other people like try to break it down not into graphs but into colours, styles or gods like John Lee who broke it down thusly:
• Eros – a passionate physical and emotional love based on aesthetic enjoyment; stereotype of romantic love
• Ludus – a love that is played as a game or sport; conquest
• Storge – an affectionate love that slowly develops from friendship, based on similarity
• Pragma – love that is driven by the head, not the heart; undemonstrative
• Mania – highly volatile love; obsession; fuelled by low self-esteem
• Agape – selfless altruistic love; spiritual; motherly love
2. The Misunderstanders
Others completely misunderstand or mislabel love like the otherwise very intelligent Neil Gaiman who said:
Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.
You build up all these defences, you build up a whole suit of armour, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life.
You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own any more.
Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts.
Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.
I hate love.
Clearly Neil is describing jealousy and unrequited romantic interest and not love. Neil is far from being the only one to make this mistake.
How many love songs have you heard telling you that “love bites”, “love is a disease”, that they are “addicted to love” or that “love is a drug”? How many times has somebody you know commented that “you always hurt the one you love the most”? Those could all be comments or lyrics about dependency, jealousy, envy, possessiveness or insecurity but certainly not love.
These recording artists are committing an even worse crime than Neil Gaiman because they are making a living out of broadcasting these false labels to the entire world, altering people’s maps of how love and relationships work in a truly unhealthy way that is often irreversible.
Personally my own definition of love is very, very simple. Love is the deep emotional need for the well-being of another person.
That’s all it means – nothing more.
When you love someone, to see them happy it makes you happy. Should somebody wish to do them harm then you would do anything to stop that from happening. Why? Not because it’s your ‘job’, it’s because you love them. You feel a deep emotional need for their well-being. It’s a feeling so deep that it is actually intrinsic to your own happiness.
During my research, the definition that I came across that came closest to my own was one by Robert A. Heinlein who said:
Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
3. The Immature
Heinlein made another comment which I think accurate about the nature of jealousy in light of this definition of love:
Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy.
When Heinlein is talking about the immature mind, this quote comes to mind:
A little jealousy in a relationship is healthy. It’s nice to know that someone is afraid to lose you. – Hermann Hesse
I have to agree with Heinlein and disagree with Hesse here. If love is the deep emotional need for the well-being of another person then being happy to see somebody you love suffering from jealously is absolutely the opposite of love.
It is not only not caring about the suffering of another – for you always suffer when you are jealous – it is actively enjoying the suffering of somebody you claim to love for no other reason than it appeals to your vanity and it calms your insecurity.
This is clearly the opposite of love and Heinlein is right, it is very immature.
The Added Realm
It is tempting to comment that defining love in the romantic realm as “that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” as too simplistic because, when it comes to sexual relationships people often comment that it is just “different” than love relationships with friends or family. That only love for friends and family fit the definition that I offered.
Of course it is different but the primary difference emotionally is that when you are in a sexual relationship with someone it fires off your “I must spread my DNA” emotional and hormonal programming.
Even if you have made the rational / logical choice not to have a child right now or even it’s not possible for you to have one due to some physical limitation, the “I must spread my genes” emotional / hormonal programming will still kick in.
Understanding this point is absolutely key because when this emotional programming kicks in, this is the exact moment where most people’s minds and hearts get hijacked by a terrible virus.
The virus is so potent and virulent that, perhaps not right away but eventually, often ruins everything that was healthy about a relationship.
This virus was given to them by their exposure to a cult called Sex 2.0; a cult so pernicious that it is a true global operation. It’s a cult so all reaching and ever present that most people don’t even notice its existence because it is able to hide in plain sight.
To uncover the true meaning of love it’s not a bad idea to turn to a group of people who are true experts, far more so than me.
People who are far too young to have been poisoned by ego, pettiness, jealousy, vanity, insecurity, envy or possessiveness when it comes to romantic relationships – kids.
This question was posed to a group of 4 to 8 year olds, “What does love mean?”
The answers given by these kids are not only far more accurate but also far more eloquent than any answer that most adults could possibly come up with. The first answer is particularly pertinent when you recall my last comment about the virus that is Sex 2.0; the one that comes in and ruins everything.
Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.
Charlie, age 5
Here are some of the others:
When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.
Rebecca- age 8
When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.
Billy – age 4
Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.
Chrissy – age 6
Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.
Terri – age 4
Love is when you kiss all the time.. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.
Emily – age 8
Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.
Bobby – age 7
If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.
Nikka – age 6
As an aside here, can you even imagine what would happen to conflict in the middle-east if people followed Nikka’s advice? If people start to a feel a deep emotional need for the well-being of their enemies? War would become completely impossible.
During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.
Cindy – age 8
My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.
Clare – age 6
Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.
Chris – age 7
Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.
Mary Ann – age 4
Love is when someone hurts you and you get so mad but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings.
Samantha, age 7
I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.
Lauren – age 4
Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken.
Elaine, age 5
Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn’t think it’s gross.
Mark – age 6
When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you’re scared they won’t love you anymore. But then you get surprised because not only do they still love you, they love you even more.
Matthew, age 7
Finally, a quote from a four year old boy; his next door neighbour was an old man whose wife had recently passed away. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When he later came back home, his mother asked what he had said to the neighbour, the little boy said,
Nothing, I just helped him cry.
Important Note: This post was a chapter from my upcoming course – Unfenced Relationships: advice on how to free sex, love and relationships from jealousy and possessiveness
It’s not released yet. If you want to know when it’s out, just join my mailing list by leaving you email address on the right hand side of the homepage.
When it’s ready, I will be emailing people to let them know