Alright, we all know the song, but what IS love, really?
Recently I wrote about how love is an action, and I want to clarify what love means to me as an emotion, because I do believe it can be both. I view love as a space we can act from regardless of whether we feel that emotion, but feeling that emotion makes it much more likely we’ll actually act from that space, although it certainly doesn’t guarantee it.
I want to re-state how many feelings I believe can be misconstrued as love. Passion, lust, infatuation, admiration… I feel like love has become a blanket statement for feelings we don’t know how to express, and so often people jump to the conclusion that they’re “in love” when really, they’re just experiencing the rush of a new relationship or any number of other powerful emotions.
So what is love? I asked google and here’s what it came up with:
an intense feeling of deep affection.
a deep romantic or sexual attachment to someone.
feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).
Apparently the definition of love is in fact attachment. But is that truly what love is? Can’t any number of feelings invoke a sense of attachment to someone? The ones I listed earlier surely do. I feel like this only serves to prove how confused we are about what love truly is. I also feel that in our struggle to define love we’ve simultaneously over-complicated and over-simplified it.
It’s clear how we’ve over-simplified it. Love = attachment? Sure, loving someone will almost certainly lead you to feel attached to them, but again, is that really what love is? Defining love purely as a feeling of attachment only serves to cheapen it in my mind. I also feel like the reason we’ve chosen to over-simply the definition of love is because if we look beyond that feeling of attachment, it just seems so damn complicated.
For instance, how can we love and hate someone simultaneously? What is it about a person that really invokes that feeling in us? Why do we choose to stick it out with someone we love even when deep down, we know it will only hurt us in the end? Is it simply because love invokes a sense of attachment, or is it something deeper than that? Maybe it’s because when we love someone, we choose to see the best in them, and we choose to believe that they’ll strive to be the best person they can be for us if they love us back. When this doesn’t happen, we tell ourselves that love is complicated, when in reality, life is complicated.
Love is remarkably simple. Love is something that can bring out the best and the worst in people, because it shines a light on parts of us that aren’t used to seeing the light of day. For some people, love has a transformative effect. Love can motivate a person to be their best self — to get up every day, try their hardest to be the person their loved ones deserve, and keep pushing even when they feel like giving up. For other people, love shines a light on those spaces they shoved into the darkest recesses of their subconscious for good reason, and brings them face to face with parts of themselves or their life that they’d rather not look at. When this happens, love can tear a person apart and cause them to deflect their own self-loathing onto the person they love.
Love isn’t complicated. People are complicated, and people tend to over-complicate things. I met someone recently who’s turned my entire world upside down, and I’ve struggled night after night to formulate words to express how I feel for him. Not because it’s complicated — because it’s simple. I want to give him the world, or at least whatever is within my power to give to him. I want to strive to be a better person every day, because he deserves someone who will give it their all and never stop finding new ways to improve. We haven’t known each other long, but I know that I want to start a life with him, and I want to find little ways to put a smile on his face every day. It’s not a complicated emotion, because it’s strong enough to override all the bullshit. Life is complicated. In order to start that life together, I’ll have to move somewhere completely unfamiliar to me, and I’ll have to find a way to contribute to the vision of the life we want to create for ourselves, even when I feel like I don’t have enough to give. That’s going to take effort, and I know there will be stressors along the way, but I also know that we care enough about each other to work through those stressors and create the life of our dreams.
What is love? Love is an emotion with the power to make or break a person. Love shines a light on our darkest spaces, and sometimes, the darkness fights back against the light. But sometimes, if we allow it, love can light up our soul in a way we never even thought possible — clearing out the cobwebs around our heart, fueling a fire within us, and illuminating the path to a brighter future.