Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Is Love?

It's ok if you just did the Night at the Roxbury head bob. Because so did I. Every time I thought about the title of this blog. And I liked it, so I kept it. But, moving on...

Love. The biggest and most significant four letter word in the language, at least to me. And trust me, I say a lot of four letter words. People throw it around. I love pizza, I love my new iphone, I love this band. But what does love really mean? According to Merriam Webster:

A feeling of strong or constant affection for a person. 

First, I feel this is downplaying it. I feel a constant affection for a lot of people.  Some of my long time friends, for example. But I wouldn't say that I love them all. My best, closest friends that I've been through hell and high water with, yes, we have a (platonic) love.  But not everyone. And yet it fits this definition. In addition, I feel this doesn't nearly capture the full effect of love. I've been in relationships in which I had a strong affection for the person, but didn't love them. Not in the "three little words" sense. Not the type that suddenly somehow magically moves the relationship into another unspoken category. 

So what is love? What does it look like? 

To me, love is... 
  • Them being the first person you want to tell when something great, difficult, curious, etc happens, because you want to share it together. 
  • Wanting them to be the last person you talk to and see before you fall asleep and the first person you talk to and see in the morning. And, wanting to fall asleep next to them even if it's just falling asleep (get my drift here, gentleman?).  *Exception: one of you has a communicable illness that the other can catch by being close in proximity. If I have a contagious stomach flu, I get if you want to not cuddle up until it passes. 
  • We do things that aren't necessarily right up our ally (assuming no moral, ethical, or legal objection) because the other person enjoys it. And we do it willingly, without them having to beg and plead, not as some big sacrifice that we complain about later or make problematic throughout. 
  • If it's not something we can necessarily do together, we express an interest in their doing it. For instance, if you're writing your dissertation, I probably won't be of much help with the actual task at hand, but I can still ask how it's going and be proud of you when you successfully defend it. 
  • We TRUST each other. And we don't give each other a legitimate reason not to do so. That word is capitalized for a reason. It's critical. It's also a choice. We choose to trust others, and we choose to act in a way that draws trust. 
  • We're open with each other. This goes with the point above. Easiest way to get me to mistrust you? Act all sneaky. Overtly hide texts, calls, emails, your whereabouts, your company during such whereabouts. Be open with me, and I'll trust you much more. 
  • We're vulnerable with each other. People don't love robots (movie Her might be an exception here). We love people. With real emotions, feelings, fears, hopes, dreams. Share them. 
  • We respect each other. This doesn't mean we agree on everything. But it means that when we don't, we agree to disagree, while not thinking less of the each other (again assuming no moral, legal, ethical concerns involved).  And when possible, we try to see things from the other person's point of view instead of standing our ground for the sake of it or because "we know we're right". 
  •  We know how to love each other best and work to do so (this is family friendly, folks, keep reading this one). Ever heard of the five love languages? Each person has their own language - i.e. how they best feel loved. Ours might be very different, but it's important to try to speak each other's language, as opposed to trying to impose your own. If your language is Quality Time, and I never have quality time for you but try to show you love by buying you expensive presents (Gift Giving is another), you'll probably feel unloved. And I'll feel unappreciated for all the "love" I show you. 
  • We communicate effectively, and as kindly as possible, with the common goal of furthering our relationship in a positive manner. Which means that even when we have a disagreement, we talk through things (or text, or write, or however we best communicate) to come to a positive conclusion, as opposed to trying to win, or get the person to see it our way, or, worst of all, make the other person feel bad about themselves so that we feel triumphant. 
  • We say "I love you" with words and actions. I know actions speak louder than words. But not always. Actions can be mis-interpreted. "Oh that person must love because they did xyz..." But maybe they're just like that. Maybe they do that kind of thing all the time. So TELL them. Literally. Say those words. At the same time, we can say it all you want, and if we don't act it, the other person won't believe you. Personally, I believe in "I love you" before you go to sleep each night, before you leave the house for the day, before you leave on a trip, especially if you're flying (this is actually an unspoken rule in my family). 
  • We do things for each other (things we know they'll appreciate, not just things we personally would) for no reason other than to make the each other happy. It's not because it "gets us points", or because we can say "but look what I did", or because we expect anything (other than hopefully an expression of gratitude) in return. Not because we messed up or we hope to butter them up to get something we want or because it's a special occasion (or because we forgot it was a special occasion). Just because we love them and it makes us happy to see them happy. 
  • We want to scream to the world that you love this person.  I'm not afraid to show my friends and family how I feel about a person (this does not require making out in public, but some appropriate affection is nice); they're in my profile picture, they're my relationship status, I post about them not just as it relates to me, but because I'm happy for them or proud of them. I talk about them. Probably even brag about them. Not just on social media but in person. This makes you annoyed?  Too bad. Because I believe in yelling your love from the rooftops. I know this isn't everyone's thing. But to me, it's incredibly important. It's also how I feel loved (see above with the "do things they'll appreciate even if it's not your thing). 
  • Our lives is better because the other person is in it. And at the end of the day, this is the person we want by our side. 
So, what does love look like to you? 

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