That dreaded, wonderful, powerful, intangible 4-letter word... what does it really mean? What does it entail? How do you define "love"? How do you define romantic love? How do you know when it is love vs. attraction or infatuation? How do you recognize it when it's the real deal? I'm looking forward to reading lots of opinions on the matter, since at the moment I'm drawing a blank...
I was going to put this on my own thread, but I thought it would be more appropriate here.
I believe the attempt to define love with language cheapens it. Love has a rational component to it, but the majority of it is emotional. So for the most part, like anger or grief, you know it when you feel it.
I'm someone who historically has been known to get carried away with attempts to define things that really can't be defined. Now I believe that life consists of how you build around the love you give and the love you receive. For example, a romantic relationship with no other foundations than love will almost always be a roller coaster ride, because love tends to have a natural ebb and flow. Buttress the love with trust, commitment, shared goals, and whatever else you feel is important, and you have something more like the proverbial house on a rock. (Typically, the other components of the foundation are more easily defined and measured than love, so they also tend to be more consistent.)
But the same principle can apply to the love we feel for our families, or our friends. Loving our parents can be challenging because the infrastructure around their love was built years ago, and it's not always the same as yours. So it can become like the puzzle piece that doesn't quite fit. Same with friends - the degree to which they are willing to alter their architecture to accommodate you directly relates to the strength of your friendship.
I've been asked the dreaded "Do you love me?" in past relationships, and now I know why I dread it. Either you feel it or you don't - the act of asking about love diminishes it with the constraints of language. Besides, being loved is very much in the eye of the beholder - after all, if I don't love you, does it really matter what I say when you ask?
All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience. -Henry Miller
Ha, Jim - for once I can firmly disagree with you!
I think love has MANY definitions - each one unique and important. It isn't just a feeling, it is an action, a choice, a commitment - to varying levels for each person, in each relationship AND at any given time! It can change, even within a relationship.
Attraction and infatuation are just feelings... and they do wax and wane and change too. Love is something that goes to a longer term commitment - life long even - even when the person isn't there. (Still love my ex, but never would have a romantic relationship with him again.)
Romantic love... that in and of itself requires definition. Do you mean partner love - the person you choose to spend your life with - or do you mean adding "romance" to the love? Can it be romantic love if it is one-sided? MY definition of romantic love is that it is kinda an idea of attraction/infatuation and not really what I want to think of in terms of partner love - since attraction/infatuation waxes and wanes.
My best idea of partner love is the person who works WITH you, on all things, so as changes occur you can adjust together. Of course this takes communication of some kind (not always verbal). The other stuff (romance, lust, infatuation, fun) are bonuses, and you need enough bonuses to keep you going - but those can be added by yourself as much as your partner - and CAN be "manufactured".
Love, to me, is itself about waiting through the bad times, because you care about the person underneath, forgiving and still caring when they hurt your or neglect you (because it will happen) - and that works for ALL the kinds of love - parental, partner, child, friend... and even for yourself.
I agree LOVE has many definitions and rings a different meaning to each and every one of us. As you go through life and mature...you will have different stages of love and experience different parts of it ... how it deepens and grows is entirely based on who and what you are and what you personally are looking for or when it comes down to it...what you are capable of.
Personally, I think the word LOVE is often over used -- People say it too quickly and too freely without really thinking it through. As Jim B. mentioned...he can give you the words but if he doesn't really feel it -- what is the point?
And why should such a powerful 4 letter word such as LOVE be the only word we choose to use to describe such emotions?
How can you be rational and love? That is the question... I think.