Okay, I guess I should have added “in my opinion” to the title. But everything on this blog is my opinion. I searched online for a definition of love and the results were muddled and confusing. Some even stated sexual desire was love. Really?
The reason there are so many varying and contradictory definitions is because love is not being studied. It’s been explored in countless poems, musical lyrics and other artistic endeavors, but there has been very little hard research, investigation or analysis of love.
There’s an accepted mindset that love is indefinable. I find this beyond weird. Love! One the most extraordinary and satisfying experiences we can have as human beings. We’re like engineers who never bothered to study math. It doesn’t make sense.
Taking off from Brene Brown’s work, let’s start the discussion and answer the question…
What is love?
“An intangible connection between two people that feels exceptionally good.”
The strength and depth of the connection is determined by two conditions.
- The level of self-acceptance each person has for themselves.
- How open, honest and exposed each individual is willing to be.
Qualities always present with these connections are:
- Trust – believing in their integrity and good intentions towards you.
- Respect – concluding they are good and worthy of appreciation.
- Affection – demonstrating your good intentions through your actions.
Love is not an emotion. Love is the connection. Your feelings are a reaction to the quality of that connection.
Loving Yourself First
The part I find most interesting in this definition is the conditions that make love more powerful. First, self-acceptance. You’ve heard the phrase “you can’t love someone more than you love yourself.” What exactly does that mean and how does it work?
Here’s how it functions in your relationships. If there are aspects of yourself you reject, these issues are your hot buttons. They’re a source of discomfort. When someone hits or gets near one your buttons, you’ll unmindfully react to the discomfort with blame, shame, disrespect and withhold your affection until the discomfort dissipates. So even if you are a parent who profoundly loves your child, you will not be loving towards them when they tickle your insecurities.
If this is true in a parent-child relationship, considered by many the most intense version of love a person can experience, you can imagine what it’s like with a friend or lover. If they trigger something painful inside you, you’ll react with fear, hurt or anger, not love. That’s why accepting all of yourself, creates ideal conditions for experiencing more and deeper love. There’s less button-stuff to get in the way.
Letting It All Hang Out
I bet one of the common denominators in both relationships is – you have let them see who you really are. They have witnessed you be strong, capable and exceptional, but they have also seen you be scared, neurotic and weak. You’re honest with them about what you’re facing and feeling. You let it all hang out. It’s not surprising the love is palpable, it’s real! Love is genuine when you take off the masks, otherwise it’s a ruse. All of us crave truth and relationships that are real.
With most everyone else, you hide your imperfections. When you don’t let someone see the icky parts of you, you question their love. Would they love me if they knew I was [ fill in the blank ]? This unanswered question lingers between the two of you as an impenetrable web. Open up to them and the barrier easily splits in two. The more you let them know your shortcomings, AND they stick around, the more powerful the love.
Being honest and open is not easy. Working at being at peace with the things you wish weren’t a part of you is hard work. Not only is it a tough internal process, but you’re also working against a culture that doesn’t understand, appreciate or support these changes. You’ll need to be Don Quixote, fighting dragons only you can see and tilting at windmills as far as anyone else is concerned. Be prepared, you’re going to get bumped around.
In the end, the love you experience will make it all worthwhile. You might end up having less relationships, but the ones you have, will be infinitely more precious. Try it and see for yourself.