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A No BS Objective Guide To Love

Updated: Mar 13



What is love? No, like seriously...no BS, what is it REALLY?


You could ask a hundred different people this question and get a hundred different answers, most of which are vague and confusing.


The actual definition of love is: an intense feeling of deep affection. Super vague, right? What does that even mean?


I didn't know, so, I decided to do a Google search for "what is love really" and these are some of the "answers" that I found:


"Love is a challenge."

Ummmm...ok???


"Love is not needing, but wanting."

Ok, interesting???


"Love is not new, it is lasting."

Sometimes maybe???


"Love is accessible."

I seriously have no idea what that even means???


"Love is when you build each other up."

Awww, that's sweet by NO!


"Love means being dedicated to somebody,"

Well, not always???


"Love is having a deep bond based in commitment, respect, trust, and acceptance."

Oooooh, really close.


Ok, you get my point. Love is VERY subjective and up for interpretation.


BUT being the objective and pragmatic person that I am AND knowing that subjectivity and interpretation can cause major problems in relationships, I wanted to break down love and really....like really really understand what it means...no BS, no romanticism.


But PLEASE, do not mistake my objectivity for insensitivity. I LOVE love! Love is like my absolute favorite thing in the entire world!


I wanted to share my practical, real-world, unromantic definition and explanation of what love is, so that you will have a better understanding of love.


I want you to have a better understanding of love so that you can appreciate it for what it really is which is quite literally THE most important thing in the entire world!

 

WHAT IS LOVE?

 

Love is both a noun and a verb.


Love as a noun is a feeling. Love as a verb is an action.


In this blog post, I am going to focus on love as a noun or a feeling. I will go into love as a verb or an action in more depth in another post.


First of all, contrary to popular belief, love is not a team sport. Of course, it's much more enjoyable when you are playing with someone else...MUCH more, but love is an individual experience. You do need an "object of your affection" to feel love but the other person is not required to participate.


Love is also very interesting because of the vast array of experiences and levels at which we experience love. This was another reason I wanted to get to the bottom of what love really is. What are the shared or common experiences between all types of love and at every level?


This is what I came up with:


LOVE is a strong bond based on shared or evoked emotions that causes you to take someone or something as a part of yourself or your identity.


When we "bond" with something or someone, we are joined together with it.


And again, you don't need someone to participate with you. You can bond or join together with someone WITHOUT them joining or bonding together with you.


Some may call this unrequited love but I don't like this term because it implies that if you love someone, it is required or expected that they love you back.


When we love someone, we do, however, have a deep desire and even expectation for them to love us back. Why is this? What if we were able to just love freely, without any expectations?


Ok...I'm actually going to answer my own question. We aren't able to love freely and without expectations because we are human AND because we have been conditioned to view love in a certain "romantic" way.


So, let's start by looking at what makes us feel love.


WHEN we begin to feel love can vary greatly depending on the the person and/or circumstance but the THING that causes us to feel love is the same...shared or evoked emotions.


This can happen with people AND things. Let me give you a few examples.

 

You meet someone new at a party who is a friend of the hostess, let's call her Denise. Denise is not someone you are romantically attracted to, they are a potential platonic friend.


Almost the entire party you and Denise are sitting together...talking, laughing and sharing life stories with each other. It turns out that you have many similar life experiences and share a lot of the same beliefs and values.


After the party, your friend asks you what you thought about Denise to which you reply, "OMG, I love her."


Now, I know that the word love is thrown around a lot and not taken seriously but in this situation, do you really "love" Denise?


Well, if love is a strong bond based on shared or evoked emotions that causes you to take someone or something as a part of yourself or your identity, then yes...you actually do feel love for Denise.


You spent time with Denise and shared your emotions. She shared stories with you that evoked emotions in you. You began to "identify" with Denise and that caused a strong bond. That is love.

 

You are at a comedy club and the particular comedian you are watching is not only hilarious, making you fall out of your chair laughing but they are also telling stories that are really resonating with you and that you can relate to.


After the show, your friend asks you if you liked the comedian to which you reply emphatically, "I LOVED him."


You don't even know him, do you really have feelings of love for him? Well, yes. He evoked emotions in you that caused you to create a strong bond, even though you don't know him personally.

 

You are at the shelter picking out a new puppy and while all of the other puppies are jumping up and vying for your attention, there is one little runt curled up in the corner shaking.


Without hesitation, you point to the puppy and say, to the shelter volunteer "Can I see that one?"


They bring you the puppy and set him in your lap. He is still shaking but slowly lifts his head up, looks you straight in the eyes and gently licks you.


You look at the volunteer working at the shelter and say, "I'll take this one, I love him so much!"


You love this little guy because he evoked strong emotions in you. You maybe even identify with him. You truly do LOVE him!


 

You are out to dinner with a friend and the waiter brings you a plate of tacos. You're eyes widen with anticipation, you smile and even softly clap your hands together with excitement.


You pick up the taco and slowly put it in your mouth, making quiet moaning sounds as you savor every bit.


Your friend looks at you rather amusingly with a smirk on his face and says, "Wow, you really like tacos, don't you?" to which you reply, "Dude, I friggen LOVE tacos!"


You don't feel or act the same way when you eat a hamburger, but tacos...that's a different story. You love tacos because they evoke strong emotions in you.


You have created a bond with tacos so much that you even have a "Tacos are My Love Language" magnet on your refrigerator. Tacos have become a part of your identity.


You really DO love tacos!

 

Now, I have given you these examples to illustrate the basic fundamental of love and help you better understand what it really is.


I understand that when we think of love, we tend to think more in terms of the love that grows over time with people that are close to us as opposed to comedians or tacos. However, the same principles still apply.


These stories also illustrate the different "levels" of love. I am sure that you have more love for your puppy than you do for your tacos, but again, the basic principles and why we feel love are the same...the only difference is the degree to which we feel it.


The degree to which we feel love is in direct relationship to the strength of our bond.


You loved your puppy when you first got him but when the day comes, after 13 years of unconditional love and devotion, that you have to make the heart wrenching decision to put him down, the love you feel when he looks into your eyes and gently licks you for the last time is so deep it is indescribable!


Loss is a very unfortunate but necessary component of love. When we are joined together or bonded with someone, there is always the possibility that we could be separated from them, whether through betrayal, abandonment or death.


The stronger our bond, the greater the pain we will feel if we lose them.


Now, let's talk about the type of that love I mentioned that grows over time with people that are close to us. These principles apply to both romantic and platonic love.


The feeling of love that grows over time IS the same as the examples I gave you earlier with a few distinct differences.


First of all, the emotions that are evoked over time are often more subtle and build upon each other.


Second, we often feel expectations from the other person to love us back so we are more slow to allow ourselves to feel love OR to admit that we feel love.


We adopt a more "wait and see" attitude. We are careful not to "bond" with this other person until we can determine whether they are "safe" or not. Let me give you an example.

 

Let's go back to my first example I gave you earlier from your friend's party where you met Denise. Let's imagine that the entire experience was the same...talking, laughing, bonding, but let's say that this time, instead of Denise you were talking to, it was Dennis.


And, instead of a potential platonic friend, you see Dennis as a potential romantic partner and you suspect that he sees you the same way.


After the party, your friend asks you what you think of Dennis, to which you reply, "OMG, he's great!"


You had the EXACT same experience with Dennis as you did with Denise and he evoked the same EXACT emotions in you but, you don't feel or at least acknowledge that you feel love for Dennis like you did Denise. Why?


You don't acknowledge that you love him because first of all, people might judge you for feeling that way but the main reason is because you don't want to allow yourself to "bond" with Dennis unless and until you feel as though it is safe.


Because you have romantic feelings towards Dennis, it creates a desired expectation that makes it difficult to separate or even distinguish those romantic feelings from the true, pure love that you feel for Dennis based on your shared or evoked emotions.

 

Let's finally look at one more "traditional" scenario in which we grow to love someone.


For this particular scenario, I want you to imagine that this is with a completely platonic potential friend.

 

You meet someone new, they seem really great and it seems as though you might have a lot in common.


You see them on occasion, maybe for a drink or dinner. You guys share stories and have a great time together but you are both slow to really open up to each other.


Over the course of several weeks or months, you continue to see each other and talk on the phone. Mostly discussing day-to-day goings on but occasionally, your conversations will go a little deeper and you begin to discuss your beliefs, values and life experiences.


You slowly begin to let your guard down and start opening up to this other person and they then begin doing the same in return.


Typically after you talk or spend time together, you feel as though it was pleasant and you had a really great time but now that you have begun to open with each other, things change. You begin to feel a little differently after you see each other or talk on the phone.


The feelings of, "That was nice." turn to, "Wow, that was really great!"


You are bonding but it's a slow gradual process until you suddenly seem to come to the realization that you really love this person, you are bonded!


Sometimes this feeling will come on strongly after a more intense emotional connection. Maybe one particular night when you were out to dinner, this other person really felt safe to be vulnerable with you and share a deep, personal story.


You get in your car after the dinner, sit there for a moment thinking about your dinner and have a sudden and very strong realization that you love this person. You are bonded.


Or, sometimes, it can sneak up on you for no particular reason.


You get in your car after the dinner and go home. The next day when you are talking to a friend at work about your dinner the night before, you begin to recognize the familiar feelings of love. It isn't a sudden and strong realization but more of a calm knowing.

 

Now, this is where things really get interesting.


I want you to go back and read the scenario again, only this time, I want you to imagine that the person is a potential romantic partner. How would you feel in reaction to your love for this person? Would you act any differently towards this person after you had the realization that you loved them?


Is your reaction to your realization that you loved this person different based on whether they were a platonic friend or a potential romantic partner?


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say...Ummm, YES!!!!!

 

WHY WE ARE AFRAID TO LOVE

 

Your reaction was different based on the person and the nature of the relationship because of fear!


Feeling truly loved and feeling true love for others is the strongest positive emotion we can feel. The strongest negative or unpleasant emotion we can feel is fear. It's no coincidence that with love almost always comes fear.


The two main components to all unpleasant emotions is our expectations not being met (we wanted something to happen that didn't happen or something happened that we didn't want to happen) and the feeling of being powerless (I have no control over this person or situation).


In any relationship, we are opening ourselves up to the possibility (or more accurately, the probability) that our expectations won't be met and that we will feel powerless. The stronger the emotional bond that we have with someone or the more we love them, the more vulnerable we are to being hurt. This level of vulnerability is in direct relationship to our level of fear.


There are certain relationships in which we feel more inherently "safe" than others.


It is obviously very easy to love tacos. We don't have too many expectations from tacos and we have all the control. Of course, we expect tacos to be delicious and if we get a bad batch of tacos, we may be dissapointed but it's something that's easy to get over and doesn't cause us a lot of pain. Basically, there's not a lot at stake.


It's easy to love puppies because it is more likely than not that they will meet our expectations and we have control over them. They may poop on the carpet and that may annoy us but it's kind of expected and not a big deal.


Things and animals are very easy to love because they are safe!


This is often why people create unhealthy bonds or inappropriate love for things.


There is literally a word for this, objectophilia. When people have strong feelings of love and commitment (and sometimes sexual attraction) to certain items.


That's obviously at the extreme end but we have all heard people say things like, "I think they love their work more than me." or "They love that damn car so much, they should have married IT!"


We ALL need emotional connection and when we don't perceive people as safe or available, things become well...the next best thing.


I know that I am guilty of this on occasion. When I am feeling lonely or I have had a conflict with someone I care about, I often throw myself into my work. My work makes me feel valued and appreciated. I am emotionally connected to it.


This is, of course a defense mechanism and not healthy when it is used as substitution for human connection. Sometimes, however, people AREN'T safe and there comes a point in any relationship when we need to determine this.


I want to clarify this before I go on.


We don't actually need to determine whether it is safe to love someone else. Everyone is safe to love because we have complete control over OUR ability and willingness to love OTHERS.


What we need to determine is...do they have the ability and willingness to love us back?


Are they more likely than not to be able to give us what we need and want and care about our happiness and well-being as much as their own?


More importantly, are they WILLING to do this?


When we "bond" with someone or feel love for them, we are in essence taking them on as a part of ourselves. So to truly love someone is to make the commitment to invest in their happiness and well-being and look out for their best interests as much as our own.


Before we do this, we want to make sure that the other person's level of commitment and investment is equal to our own.


When we come to the point in the relationship when we need to determine if it is safe to "proceed" and our conclusion is that it is NOT or may not be, we often begin to pull back and withhold our emotions from the other person so that the bond will not get any stronger and possibly even weaken. We adopt a "proceed with caution" attitude, knowing that the weaker the bond, the easier and less painful it will be to seperate.


This is actually a very smart and healthy thing to do IF the danger is actually real. You should "proceed with caution" at least until you can gather enough new information.


One of the biggest problems in relationships (particularly romantic relationships) is that we often suspect and even know that it is not safe to proceed yet we do so anyways. We will even acknowledge this but, only after the relationship has turned to shit. "I guess there were red flags." or "I saw the warning signs, I should have known."


Ironically, the second biggest problems in relationships is the exact opposite.


Oftentimes when we fear that it is not safe to proceed, it is not because we have any evidence that the person is unsafe, it is because we don't want to risk ANY potential harm or pain even if the potential is insignificant. They have not given us any reason not to trust them but we don't trust ourselves.


Once there are expectations involved and a potential that we could lose control and therefore be hurt, we leave the relationship OR what is more likely to happen is that we begin to try and control the relationship in an effort to achieve our desired outcome which is to have the other person love us back.


We start to act differently, we are now operating from a place of fear. There is a lot at stake and a lot to lose and it scares the hell out of us!


We are terrified to show or even feel their emotions BECAUSE, there is nothing we are shamed for more in this society than our feelings and emotions and yet, there is nothing that is more paramount to building meaningful relationships and combating loneliness than the willingness to be honest and vulnerable with our feelings and emotions.


It's quite a dilemma!


So what is the solution?


I'm glad you asked!


The solution to this dilemma is a combination of authenticity, courage and empathy!


We HAVE to be willing to be authentic. If you are bonding with someone from anywhere but a place of true authenticity then the bond is based on pretense and it is completely delusional. The relationship is built on lies!


I want you to really think about that.


I know that this is a hard pill to swallow but the truth is that any relationship that is built on lies is doomed to fail. In these situations, the biggest lies we are telling are often to ourselves.


We KNOW that we are doing and saying whatever we think will be most likely to get us what we want or need. We KNOW we aren't being authentic.


We HAVE to be willing to be authentic if we want any hope of creating true, deep, honest and meaningful bonds with others. We HAVE to be willing to be authentic if we want any hope of ever truly being loved by others.


If the concept of authenticity is confusing to you or you aren't quite sure what it means to be authentic, it may help to read my article What Does It Mean to Be Authentic.


Once you take the time to figure out exactly what it means for YOU to be authentic, you have to be courageous enough to live and love from a place of that authenticity!


Remember that if you aren't coming from a place of authenticity then you aren't actually creating or forming authentic or REAL bonds with others. The love others will feel for you is not really for YOU but for the you that was created to gain their love and approval.


Finally, we HAVE to be empathetic towards each other.


Where there is no understanding, there is absolutely no room for love! To have understanding and empathy for one another is to recognize and acknowledge our shared humanity.


We ALL have the same fears. We ALL want to be loved. We ALL want to be accepted for our true authentic selves.


When you have the courage to be vulnerable and authentic, it allows others the space to be vulnerable and authentic. When you show empathy towards others and seek to understand them, it gives them the courage to feel and express their emotions.


We are emotional beings. Emotions are at the heart of everything we do!


Until we start to recognize this AND we stop judging, shaming and rejecting people who are brave enough to be vulnerable with their feelings and emotions, we will never have a chance of stopping the exponential rise in loneliness, sadness, anxiety and depression!


I get it....it's really hard to be vulnerable and authentic!


It is SO hard to be authentic and vulnerable because we NEED to feel connected and when we love someone who doesn't love us back OR when someone we love hurts us or takes their love away, there is NO greater pain!


When this happens, we often experience feelings of intense anger towards the other person. We may even feel like we hate them. But the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.


When we have bonded emotionally with someone, that bond is not easy to break and we still have a deep desire to maintain a connection. It is just that now, the emotion that is binding us is anger and resentment instead of feelings of happiness and joy but, it is still a bond.


It is certainly not easy and it takes a lot of work to understand and process your emotions but you can come back to a place of feeling love for someone who hurt or left you. If you aren't able to return to a place of love then, at the very least, to a place of indifference.


You may even come to a place in your relationship where you both still love each other and because of this love for each other, you both recognize that it is not in either of your best interests to be in a relationship.


I have had both types of these kind of "relationships" in my life over the years.


When my husband passed away in 2017, we had been separated for about a year after 22 years of marriage. When we seperated, we both still had incredible love for each other but recognized that neither one of us was happy in the relationship and it was in both of our best interests to move on. After the separation, we became closer than we had been in years and when he died, it was the greatest loss and deepest pain I have ever felt in my life. I am so grateful that we were able to maintain that deep love for each other up until the end. The love that I still had for him helped me to process and heal from such a devastating loss.


I have also been in relationships in which I felt love for someone who didn't feel the same emotional bond (or love) for me. It is really easy in these situations to make the other person the "bad guy" because that helps to keep us from going down the rabbit hole of What's wrong with me? Was it something I did or said? Could I have done something different?


It is possible to process those feelings and come out the other side still feeling love for some and indifference for others and both of those places are much more pleasant than being in a place of anger and sadness.


If you need help processing your feelings, my article Feelings Process For Resolving Conflict may help.

 

LOVE FOR OURSELVES

 

People say that you can't love someone else unless and until you can love yourself. I am not sure if this is completely true?


If you are talking about feeling love for another person, I believe that you can absolutely feel love for someone else even if you don't love yourself. The act of loving someone or showing love, on the other hand, is much harder if you do not know, accept and love yourself.


The bottom line is that you can't give what you don't have and if loving someone means that you care as much about their happiness and well being as you do your own BUT you don't care about yourself or your OWN happiness and well being, that certainly makes it difficult to love and can cause serious problems in your relationships.


The reason so many people have a hard time loving themselves goes back to my original definition of love: a strong bond based on shared or evoked emotions that causes you to take someone or something as a part of yourself or your identity. .


We can't bond with someone emotionally if we don't know them and most people don't really know themselves. Or, it might be more accurate to say that most people don't know which self is their true authentic self.


People have many different layers and some might even say that we all have several different personalities living inside of us.


Your personality is the combination of characteristics or qualities that form your character but we all have the capacity within us at any time to be loving and kind as well as angry and spiteful so...which of these qualities and characteristics or "personalities" is our true authentic self?


The answer is all of them!


This is hard for people to accept...especially in themselves. We are incredibly hard on ourselves, even cruel at times. It is much easier for us to accept other people's character "flaws" or "bad" qualities because we have a much broader perspective when it comes to other people. Our perspective AND our margin of error for ourselves is much more narrow.


In order to begin to love yourself, you have to first seek to understand yourself. Begin to question your thoughts and beliefs, especially those ones that are self defeating.


Be kind to yourself. Remember that to have empathy for others is to recognize and acknowledge our shared humanity. This is also true for yourself...you need to give yourself the space to be human.

 

CONCLUSION

 

I hope that the pragmatic and objective way that I have defined and interpreted love will help you to cut through the confusing and complex array of emotions that are associated with love and see it for what it REALLY is.


My hope is that once you come to an understanding of what love really is, it will be easier for you to navigate it.


Whether you agree with my definition and interpretations isn't important but what IS important is that you clearly define what love is for YOU!


Once you know what love is for YOU, I encourage you to openly and honestly share your definition with those people in your life that you love so that you can begin to build stronger, healthier and more harmonious relationships.


xoxo

Gina

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