What Is Love?

What is love? Why do we love someone? What is it about her/him that makes our palms sweaty, our skin flushed, and our hearts beat faster every time we see/think about them? Do we love someone because they make us feel good about ourselves? Do we love someone because they enlighten us intellectually and make us better human beings? Do we love someone because they buy us extravagant gifts and shower us with endless luxuries? Do we love someone because we find her/him physically attractive, i.e.: handsome/beautiful? Or do we love simply because we are obsessed with the ideology of love and being in love?

I realize that there are people, who will say that they love someone based on all, or most, of the above-mentioned reasons (except for the last one), and more. And perhaps it may be the case for some. Yet, there are those who are still in the first stages of “romantic love” and have convinced themselves somehow that they are living in a perfect fairytale “la la land.” The reality, however, is usually far from the truth – very far actually – as the passage of time is the ultimate determinant of true love.

Of course, the illusion of “love” also takes form when the so-called couple are online “dating” or having a “relationship” online. I find such couples to be befuddled with the notion that they are “in love” when they’ve merely only seen pictures of each other and have never actually MET face-to-face, nor experienced what it’s like seeing/interacting with the person they claim “to love” on a daily basis. You can’t “love” someone simply through a computer screen, because not only is that terribly misleading, but it deludes the couple into thinking that they have found the perfect and ideal partner, when that’s not usually the case. Not at ALL, actually. And while the couple keeps insisting that they are “soul-mates” and that they love each other unconditionally, they clearly have no clue what love truly is or what it entails, for reality always proves otherwise.

However, this is not to imply that loving someone based on ideal qualities does not exist, for it does; surely it does! (I don’t want to brag, but my marriage is a prime example of that. And I also have personal friends who are so ideal for each other that it makes my heart soar.) Nevertheless, I often find myself asking the following questions: What exactly makes someone an ideal match? How exactly do our ideals take shape in the first place? Surely we are not born knowing exactly what we want in a marriage partner. It is not innate, rather, it is socially constructed and influenced by the women/men we know and admire in our lives. It’s like Freud’s theory on human behaviour and sexuality, where he explicates how children, who have strong attachments to parents of the opposite sex, often end up finding/marrying partners that are like their parents, in character, intellect, and behaviour. Moreover, there is always the media, as well as books, that further induce our romantic ideals.

On the other hand, what is the guarantee that we will find every single quality we so desire in the person we end up with? Perhaps we may find someone who possesses most of the ideals we want; yet, at the same time, it is also very true that ideals are never static, for they have a tendency to change, subconsciously, according to the individuals we fall in love with.

Although, I realize there are no perfect relationships, there are no imperfect relationships either. Many people have a tendency to define love according to their personal experiences. And many people love for different reasons as well. Love, on its own, is not as easy a concept as it is often depicted. Many times, in the past, people have told me how they were in love, how they’d finally found the “love of their lives,” and all that pretty jazz, only to find out later that they either broke up or divorced (if married). And then when I asked them what happened, all they told me was that “S/he wasn’t the woman/man I thought s/he was and fell in love with.” And then I wonder, was it *really* love all along? How can someone fall out of love so quickly? Perhaps there were way too many expectations that were left unfulfilled.

Ah, expectations. As humans, we have a plethora of expectations. And these expectations are especially enhanced a notch when it comes to the person we romantically love. So how exactly are these expectations measured? I know some people, especially women, are obsessed with the notion that the more presents/gifts men shower on them (and of course the more expensive and extravagant they are), the greater is their love for them. And when those gifts stop, all of a sudden, the relationship, too, begins to crumble. The woman EXPECTS her husband to buy her presents and shower her with luxuries, because she believes that that is how he expresses his love for her. However, what she doesn’t realize is that this is NOT true love, rather it’s what I would label as “materialistic love” – love that is based on material things, which is further emphasized through self-fulfillment. As a result, the woman does not love her husband for who he is, but rather for what he does for her. Hence, the whole relationship becomes so engrossed in this superficial play of “take-take-take” that the relationship becomes hollow, devoid of any real substance. And then I wonder, where does one draw the line? Are the overabundance of gifts necessarily a depiction of true love? Isn’t true love supposed to be unconditional, selfless, and without any expectations? I mean if my husband buys me something nice, do I *necessarily* have to go out of my way to buy him something nicer (and more expensive, mind you) in return, to prove my love for him and to further keep my relationship alive? What if he didn’t buy me anything for my birthday or didn’t shower me with endless gifts, would that imply that he loves me any less? Of course not!

However, my reader needs to keep in mind that when I talk about expectations, I am not only limiting it to material and superficial things. There are also other *types* of expectations – natural expectations – that goes without saying when a couple decides to commit. These include loyalty, devotion, compromise, responsibility, etc. that every person expects when they fall in love with someone. These are not material or superficial expectations, but rather expectations that may either make or break relationships, depending on how they’re instigated.

In addition to materialistic love and true love, there is also what I call (to put it bluntly) “sexual love,” or in other words, “superficial love.” This is simply an illusion of love, in which people have the tendency to believe that they are in love, when they’re not. It mostly focuses on lust and physical attraction, hence leading to infatuation/obsession that may last for a brief amount of time —  say a couple weeks to a month — or in more extreme cases, for many years. Closely tied to this notion of infatuation/obsession is the existence of people who are SO consumed with the idea of love, wanting to love and be loved in return, that they begin to fantasize about things that are not even there. They may even begin to fantasize about someone who may not even exist (except in their minds), just so that they could either reassure themselves, prove to the world, or show-off to particular foes that they are capable of being loved.

Anyway, to conclude, there is no set definition for love, as it varies from person to person and their personal experiences. However, I do know that there are many different *types* of love that exist. And, so, at the end of the day, we are the sole determinants of our adherence.

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