What Is Love?

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT

How would you answer that question ..."What is love"?

Is love something that you just “know” when you have met the right person?
Can you make love?
Do you fall in love?
Is love a feeling or a verb?
Is it possible to love more than one person at a time?
How do you know if you are really “in love”?

Love is hard to define and so easily confused with infatuation or lust. While lust and infatuation can be a part of early love, deep and abiding love is so much richer than those intense and early feelings.

Often we meet with people who believe that they have found their “soul mate”. This can be a good thing … if they are not already married to someone else.

In our counseling sessions, when we try to help people answer the question “What is love?”, we often spend time talking about ways to sort through these initial feelings to determine which feelings are real and which are more about a strong reaction to a new person. This experience can lead to an actual change in brain chemistry and bring about unbelievably discombobulated thinking and poor decision-making.

Here are some of the ideas that we use to help clients sort through their answers to the question “What is love?“

What is NOT love …

Love is not what you feel in an initial attraction.            
There is something amazing that people feel in those early stages of attraction. We all have had those feelings … and they are addicting.

Scientists and researchers know that there is truly a change in brain chemistry that produces the euphoria and thrill that some get from drugs.  As with all drugs, those feelings do wear off so this is not a reliable meter of real love … even though it sure feels wonderful.

True love does not keep you awake at night, thinking about the object of your desire o
r send chills through your body when just the thought of him or her enters your head.

A change in brain chemistry does that.

Love is not just a feeling that you sense in your heart and soul and is so strong that you know you have found the right person.

There is so much more to true love than a feeling, especially one that occurs in the first few months of any relationship.

This does not mean that some don’t have a sense early on that they are with the right person. That certainly happened in my marriage; however, those feelings can very often be wrong and more a function of lust or infatuation than a deep, intimate understanding of another person.

Love is not looking for fulfillment in another person.

Each person has to look within themselves to be fulfilled.

What IS love …

Love doesn’t just “happen”.

While those initial feelings are intoxicating, real love does take “work” to keep it alive, interesting and exciting. Keeping love alive has to be a priority.

Love is kindness, giving and sharing. Love is an action and a verb.

Love is acting in loving ways. Love is saying positive things, spending fun times together, comforting your partner during hard times, standing up for your partner.

Love is acceptance, patience, carrying your partner’s hopes and dreams in your heart and in your mind. Love is an active way of thinking.

Accepting “imperfections”, thinking differently about habits, being patient with differences or annoyances and supporting your partner’s hopes and dreams.

Love changes over time.

Sometimes people feel more in love than at other times. People in love recognize that there are “ebbs and flows” and “ups and downs” and yet have the vision that all will even out in the long run.

Love is setting boundaries with other interesting people.

Lovers recognize that they can be attracted to and maybe even love someone else, however, the sanctity and special-ness of the marriage overrides any desire to pursue some one else.

Love is being at peace with yourself and with your partner.

A deep and abiding love involves thinking and acting in ways that support, encourage and honor the other person, as well as yourself.

Do you have any other answers to the question “What is love”? if so, we would love to see your comments in our forum.

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