Poets and authors have tried to define love for centuries, whereas scientists have only recently started. Many of us know intuitively that love is a major purpose for living; that connection is inherent in all that we do, and without love, we cannot survive as a species.
But what is love, and how do we know when we're in it? First, let's start off with what love isn't.
What Is Love? It Definitely Isn't...
- Manipulation. "If you loved me, then you would..." isn't love, but rather infatuation.
- Compromising who you are. If someone asks you to do or say something that isn't in your nature, that isn't true love. Although love does involve compromises between partners, someone who is in love with you will never ask you to change who you are in order to be loved.
- Violent. Passions can definitely become inflamed with someone you love, but a relationship with physical or emotional violence isn't true love. (More: Dating Violence)
- Just lust. Yes, chemistry and physical attraction are important, but true love also includes commitment, trust and respect. (More: Is It Lust... Or Love?, Test Your Chemistry)
So then, what exactly is love?
True Love Is...
- True Love is Caring. The ancient Greeks had many different names for different forms of love: passion, virtuous, affection for the family, desire, and general affection. But no matter how love is defined, they all hold a common trait: caring.
- True Love is Attractive. Attraction and chemistry form the bond that allows people to mate. Without this romantic desire for another individual, a relationship is nothing more than lust or infatuation.
- True Love is Attached. Like the mother-child bond, attachment comes after the initial attraction. Attachment is the long term love that appears anywhere from one to three years into a romantic relationship (sometimes sooner and very rarely after), and you'll know you've found it when you can honestly say, "I've seen the worst and the best you have to offer, and I still love you," while your partner feels the same way.
- True Love is Commited. When it comes to true love, commitment is more than just monogamy. Its the knowledge that your partner cares for you and has your back, no matter what the circumstances. People who are strongly commited to one another will, when faced with seemingly negative information about their partner, see only the positive. For example, a friend comments that your partner doesn't say a lot. "Ah yes, he's the strong, silent type," you reply. People with less commitment to their partner would instead say something like, "Yeah, I can never have conversation with him. Its annoying."
- True Love is Intimate. Intimacy is a crucial component of all relationships, regardless of their nature. In order to know another, you need to share parts of yourself. This self-revealing behavior, when reciprocated, forms an emotional bond. Over time this bond strengthens and even evolves, so that two people merge closer and closer together. Intimacy by itself if is a great friendship, but compiled with the other things in this list, it forms an equation for true love.