Updated: Feb 15
Written by Radonda Rowton, MAC, LPC
Today is Valentine’s Day. The Love Day. The day that we remember those in our life that have brought us our own definition of what love looks like and in our minds, what love is. This day never comes and goes without me thinking about what the definition of love really is. There are many definitions out there. I hear different definitions of love from different people in one way or another almost every day. Some of them healthy, and some of them unhealthy.
The most ironic of those definitions tend to be someone’s idea of the love that they deserve. I know that that last sentence sounds a little dark, but love is not what the movies and hit songs tell us it is. In our culture, many of us idealize love. We see it as some lofty cure all for all of life’s problems. Our movies and our stories and our history all celebrate it as life’s ultimate goal; the final solution for all of our pain and struggle. And because we idealize love, we overestimate it, and as a result, our relationships pay a price. However, if we understand that love is more than merely emotion, then we can also understand that healthy relationships require more than just pure emotion or lofty passions.
But what if we understood that there are things more important in our lives and our relationships than simply being in love and that the success of our relationships will hinge on those deeper and more important beliefs?
For instance, what if people understood:
Love is not simply desire. Desire is simple and often reckless. We need to manage it carefully to avoid causing harm. Desire is the intention to change something, to reject what it is without the understanding of what it could be — something better, more secure, more pleasing. Desire can happen at the same time as love, but it’s definitely not the same thing.
People who understand love may also understand the importance of loving themselves. There is a lot to be said for feeling comfortable in your own skin and realizing that you are enough. No one is enough for everyone or everything, but we are enough for our life and our world.
Love doesn’t always have to hurt. If it hurts, it’s likely coming from somewhere else that is less pure. If it stems from fear, addiction, possessiveness, or attachment issues, it needs to be seriously reevaluated.
Love is subtle and silent and delicate. Some may try to drown it out with their own attachment issues or lust or fear. But love must have space, and force is what crowds it out. Love is powerful but it isn’t forceful.
Love is all selflessness. It’s the opposite of need and attachment. To an individual it’s a sensation of allowing, rather than seeking. Letting go, rather than grasping.
Jealousy isn’t love, nor is it the evidence of love. Jealousy is fear. Love doesn’t drive people crazy; it drives them sane. Love never drives people to kill or steal or cheat or worry.
Love reveals itself when we release our need to dominate the object of our affection, because we don’t need to own anyone. That fact that love exists at all is enough. To love something is to disappear in its favor — to die to your own interests so that it can be what it is.
Love is bigger than us. To love someone is for their happiness to be the same as your own therefore, love is the dissolution of the borders between you and me and them. Those lines are conceptual and imaginary anyway. It is love that gives us vision clear enough to see the world would not be the same without them.
Your love can’t be reserved for just one person. If you only love one person you probably don’t love anyone. Love isn’t something you can aim. The truer your love is — in other words, the less you have it confused with something else — the more generalized it becomes. To love fully is to love all.
Defining it in one sentence is probably impossible. You can throw words at it but never really pin it down. Nothing is misidentified more often than love. I guess we realize it in the moment, when we know that we are accepted not for what we need to be, but for who we are