What is Love? – A Different Perspective
What is love? I know, most of you probably started humming the Haddaway song! Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more! I think most people have a black and white vision when it comes to love. They either think it is the solution to all of their problems, that it is unconditional, that it is a fairy tale emotion leading to a picture-perfect life. Or! Or they have given up all hope because they have been hurt in the past. But do you know what I think? I think love is more than just a feeling. We attach so much to the term, that we forget that it is actually more nuanced than that.
Why am I thinking about this today? My partner never says “I love you”. He has not said to me once. It is not something that I expect to hear from him ever. We discussed it in the beginning of our relationship. He doesn’t necessarily understand what the feeling of love entails, and when we got more into depth about it, I realized something. We use the term “love” for a variety of things, that is actually becomes difficult to pin down what love exactly means.
Love can mean romantic feelings for another person. It also points at certain kinds of needs. If you love someone, you want them to give you attention. You want them to touch you, to kiss you. There is a need to be close to them. This can also mean sexual needs, but doesn’t even have to include those.
Love also entails caring about someone. You want them to be happy, you want them to be well, you want them to thrive. For a lot of people, love also means loyalty and monogamy. It can mean being bound to someone. For some reason, love is also linked to a feeling of eternity, it is something that will last forever. Statements like “you complete me” or “you are my everything”, spring to mind.
I am not a romantic person. I don’t need grand gestures, I find them embarrassing. For me, love means caring for someone, doing your best to make them happy and to have strong feelings of fondness for someone. It means having a strong connection with someone, and to do your very best to keep that connection safe, enriching and growing. It doesn’t entail owning someone, or expecting a whole lot from them. That is where I often get confused. What does your feeling have to do with what you expect from someone? Just because you love someone, doesn’t mean that they owe you anything. Love is really the only feeling where people have this weird notion that their love entitles them to something.
If you love someone, you don’t suffocate them with your needs and demands. I have seen it so many times. Someone claims that they love another person but what they mean is that they are taking another person for granted and they get upset when their needs are not being met anymore. There is no self-reflection, there is no wanting the other person to be happy, or trying to understand the other person. I know that that is the concept of love in society these days. I call it egotistical love. An entitled love with high expectations.
“I love you” loses its strength if what someone does to you, does not reflect care, and a determination to make the person you love, happy. People just throw those three words around as if they have no deeper meaning. If someone hurts you on purpose, or if they are only demanding things from you, then that is not love. Love is more than a feeling. It is linked to actions, to care, to compromises.
All this has now led me to a place where I am happy that my boyfriend doesn’t tell me he loves me. Love’s general meaning is washed out, and has way too many expectations and demands glued to it. I have come to appreciate another kind of expression of loving feelings towards me: the way my boyfriend expresses his feelings towards me. He doesn’t say “I love you”, and that is fine!
Instead, he tells me that he cares about me and that he wants to care of me. He lets me know that he is fond of me. He shows me gratitude when I have made him happy. Through his actions, he shows me that he has only good intentions. He wants to help me, he wants to guide me, he wants to make me happy, he want to provide for me, safety-wise, but also emotionally and financially.
I have realized that feeling loved is way more important than hearing those three words, “I love you”. Someone might utter those words but their actions speak differently. But making someone feel loved, through actions and behaviour, that is the kind of love I have always needed. And although in the beginning of our relationship, I was miffed about when he clearly said he doesn’t understand the idea of love and is uncomfortable saying the three magical words, I now understand that what he does is show love in a much more convincing and reasonable way. He behaves lovingly and respectfully towards me. He makes me feel loved.