Love – What Is It Anyway?

Have you ever had a discussion about love with your friends or family members? If so, it probably didn’t last very long. What is there to say about love? What is love anyway?

As a marriage and family therapist I often meet with individuals and couples who are struggling in their relationships. They will often describe the frustrations and difficulties they experience in their relationship, then they will end with this statement, “Even with all of the things I have just said, I want you to know that I still love my partner.”

At this point I ask them this question, “What is love?” While many of them come up with an answer, most of them struggle to tell me what they love about their partner. For example, one woman said, “I love my husband because he is the father of our children.” When I asked what else she loved about him, she struggled to come up with anything substantial.

This woman is not unique. The discussion of what love is has basically taken a back seat in today’s culture. Bell Hooks in her book, All About Love,” wrote, “There are not many public discussions of love in our culture right now…Nowadays the most popular messages are those that declare the meaningless of love.”

Yet, even if there isn’t a discussion about love there is an insatiable desire to find it in most people. Just listen to what your co-workers and friends are talking about. They are most likely talking about their relationships. They are discussing their relationship problems or they are talking about an exciting new relationship that they are trying to navigate through.

So if people are still seeking love, shouldn’t they be thinking about what a loving relationship looks like? How do two people in a “loving relationship” treat each other? Perhaps this is the question couples should discuss as they deepen their relationship.

I really like what Bell Hooks said about the ideas of what love looks like. She wrote, “We want to know love. We are simply afraid the desire to know too much about love will lead us closer and closer to the abyss of lovelessness. While ours is a nation wherein the vast majority of citizens are followers of religious faiths that proclaim the transformative power of love, many people feel that they do not have a clue as to how to love.”

I agree. We don’t have a clue as to how to love. Why? We are afraid of intimacy. We want it, but are too afraid to take risks, open ourselves up for hurt, and ultimately let someone into our inner sanctuaries. Consequently, many of us have surface-level relationships which leave us feeling empty and hurt.

I believe that many people want to find love, but their fears of not finding it scare them. In other situations people use love as a form of control or manipulation. What exactly does telling someone that you love them mean? What does it mean to you? What does it mean to the person you are saying it to? As we consider the answers to these questions perhaps we will gain a better idea of what love really is.

Epictetus a philosopher who lived around 100 A.D. said, “A man must think hard and live simply to do well.” I believe our society would do well to think hard about what it means to love and then act according to what they discover love to be.

Good luck in your journey toward finding true and genuine love in your life.