Monday, September 15, 2014

What Love Really Is

 I think love is the most misunderstood term on earth. There are so many definitions of love, one can't help but wonder which is right. Many people are aware that love is not just about the butterflies in the tummy that soon die off as you get to know Mr. or Miss Perfect is not all that perfect. However, many people are still unaware of what love itself is! I've heard definitions like "love is a decision", "love is more than just a feeling", "love is an undeniable magnetism between two people"....well, so is lust.

After reading an interesting blog post titled "Love Is Not Enough", I got thinking. The writer of the post highlighted correctly that taking just the way we feel about someone as the determining factor as to whether or not we should be with that person is a recipe for disaster. A fellow blogger posted on his blog that there are other factors that come to play if we want love to be enough; factors such as respect, care etc in addition to the emotions we feel make love enough. Having carefully read the two posts, I came to my own conclusion. Love is an umbrella under which the constituent factors for a successful relationship/marriage are found.

What is the difference between love and lust? They both give you butterflies in your tummy, they both last for as long as you are both willing to make things work and they both make you feel like you are walking on air when things are going well. Some people say "love lasts longer" I don't know about that. I know of pure lustful relationships that have lasted for decades. What then differentiates love from lust? The constituent factors which are not found in a lustful association.

Respect: Respect is a key constituent of successful relationships! There is no love where there is no respect for each other's feelings, dreams and aspirations. If you are in a relationship with a person who doesn't respect your time, your dreams, and your contributions to the relationship, you are in a relationship with someone who is definitely not in love with you! Butterflies in your tummy will make you giggle, blush and eventually get you into bed together but respect is one of the factors that will make you stay together. Respect for each other's feelings will prevent you from cheating or making decisions that are only in your best interest. Respect for each other's aspirations will make you a person that builds his or her partner up and not tear them down to satisfy desires fueled by a low self-esteem. Respect means arguing without yelling and generally presenting your argument in a confident, yet not confrontational manner. People who respect each other don't throw threats around during an argument, or aim to win every argument. They understand that their partner's opinions are just as important and sometimes, it's best to agree to disagree and move on.

Tolerance: Many people believe their partners will be so perfect they will not have to tolerate any bad habits. If you are one of those people, wake up now and smell the real world! Your inability to tolerate or overlook certain things will eventually frustrate you and lead to a bitter relationship. Tolerance is one of the key constituents of love because it allows for unity instead of uniformity. Many of us don't want to date people that are exactly like us! I love myself to bits but I think if I married a man that's exactly like me, I may walk out of my skin. This means, like many other people in the world, I am open to being unified with a person that's different. This means I can't escape the differences that may be annoying but tolerable. A friend of mine once pointed out that the reason we had such a good friendship was because we were able to celebrate each other's differences instead of look upon them with criticism.

Freedom: This is one aspect of our lives we are willing to trade the moment we feel love is what we have. The bitter truth is, when love is true, you don't have to sacrifice your freedom for it. This includes your freedom to express yourself the way you always have, freedom to pursue the dreams you've always wanted to pursue, freedom to bare yourself without any hint of judgement or unsolicited criticism...freedom to be yourself, and not become half of someone else.

Forgiveness: Funny enough, forgiveness can be found in lustful associations too. People who are undeniably sexually attracted to each other will forgive each other just like people in love will. However there is a difference. Love does not go back to revisit all the wrongs during an argument. I've seen and heard some women argue and the moment they utter the words "It's just like last time when you...." I get a banging headache! That's not love! Think about your parents and the many horrifying things you've done that made them wonder if they truly gave birth to you; in spite of all that, they are ready to laugh with you as soon as possible. They don't remind you constantly of what a horrible child you've been when you try to make things right, and they don't seize every opportunity to tell you they'll never forgive you. True love forgives and though may not forget, doesn't remind the other person that it has not forgotten.

Care: There is an irrefutable level of care that can be observed between people who truly love each other. I don't mean buying flowers or chocolates...that's giving gifts, though they may be very thoughtful ones. Caring for someone means looking out for that person in every way. It means being considerate, being helpful and generally being willing to tie up loose ends so your partner can have a few extra minutes of rest. Where love is real, care is real and selfishness is a temptation, not an intrinsic characteristic. I once went home with a friend who's married with two kids. It was one of those long days and all she wanted to do was take a bath and go to bed, but she had two kids who were waiting for her to come home to cook dinner. As we arrived home, we greeted her husband who was watching TV with the kids and proceeded to the kitchen. Her husband called out and said "Dear, don't cook tonight. I ordered pizza so you can rest." Tears fell out of her eyes in a mixture of gratitude, exhaustion and relief. I was touched! The whole time she had been slaving away at her school work, he had been thinking of her! He knew she'd be tired by the time she got back, he knew she needed her rest for the next day and well, no child hates pizza.

Love is not just an individual term that we can use to explain things the way we deem fit. It is an umbrella term under which core factors are grouped. To say we truly have love means we have the core factors in our relationship! If we stop concentrating on just how we feel which may simply be a result of lust, and instead concentrate on what the core foundation of our relationships are built on, then we can truly start to embrace relationships the way we should, and even encourage others through our actions to do the same.


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