Skip to main content

What Is Love?*

Last night, a friend asked me, "Have you ever been in love?"

I have never been asked this question before.

In November, the same friend asked me if I'd ever had a serious boyfriend. I answered something along the lines of, "Well, none of the guys I've dated have been flings. But none of them have made it to the six month mark."

"So no," he replied, almost instantly.

It made me sad. Not because of what he said or how he said it, but because it rang true. (I think this is one of the things that makes me sad about my relationship history - I've yet to get into the nitty-gritty of relationship, the daily grind, the conflicts that are inevitable. Is it strange that I want that?)

This time around, I didn't have an answer very quickly. I scrolled through the memories in my mind. I umm-ed and uhhh-ed for a minute or so. Then I said something like this:

"I don't know. I really don't know. I have been giddy and crushing and so excited to spend time with someone I'm quite attracted to. I have been ready to commit to a person and a relationship indefinitely, to walk through the boring parts and the conflicts and the differences. Is that being in love? - I don't think I know what "in love" means."

I've been thinking about it all day. What is "in love"? What is the difference between caring deeply for someone, loving them, and being "in love"? Is it all about mutuality? Continuity? Is it simply the sexual attraction factor? Where's the line between self-centred desire and actual love?

In Love?

Please comment.
(Starting with you, Nadine.)

*Of course, I've had this song all day:


Nadine said…
Eek! Pressure to respond!

Um, okay. My comment: I don't know what "in love" is. Or how to define it, even though I claim to be "in it" even as I type. I'm tempted to say it's a construct of fairly recent generations, turning love into a passive thing that happens to us rather than it being an active choice. (Which makes it easier to walk away, claiming we're just not "in love" anymore as if we're helpless in the situation. People are dumb.)


I think "in love" follows "love" (and the two eventually become one awesome indistinguishable glob of goodness, like peanut butter and chocolate ice cream). I LOVED first. I chose to love. And then one day.... It was like the good, selfless, non-mushy love I felt was suddenly bundled with the desire to pursue a future WITH him. My choice to love sort of gathered its own momentum, and my investment in him turned into an investment in "us."

Does any of this make sense?
Tom said…
ooh, I like Nadine's comment, and I’m not sure if what I’ll type is adding to it or just affirming it. I wanted to say something about love being something you choose. I don't think the crushing and infatuation that typically ushers in a relationship is love, even though I think a lot of people would say it is, if it lasts long enough. I refuse to think love is just a feeling, because feelings are passing, and reactionary, and easily manipulated by circumstance. But love is better than that! Love endures, because it has will behind it. This is my lofty notion of love: the will to act for the better of someone else. You get more out of that than just being happy. Like a husband and wife who still love each other after 40 years, or a mom who loves her bratty kid, or a God who loves the world. I think “in love” is used incorrectly to describe the way someone makes you feel good, but used rightly describes your emotional response to actively loving someone (which could be euphoria, or it could be grief or many other things in between). I think love is rewarding because it draws us into relationship and that’s what we want most.

You know how there’s all those different types of love? I like how English forced it to be one word, because then you have to think about it.
Anonymous said…
Our generation has a very selfish view of love: love is what I can get from a person or how someone makes me feel. Love is, in part, acting for the best for someone else; it is other centered and self sacrificial.
Laura said…
I've thought a lot about this over the last few days. I LOVE (ha!) Tom's description. I would agree with him that choice is the most important aspect of being in love and loving. As fun as infatuation is, it is fleeting and, let's be honest, quite ridiculous. Love has so many more aspects to it. Sexual attraction, shared values, deep respect, holding that person above yourself, sacrifice of the individual for the sake of the union.

Here are a couple of quotes that summarize well:

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.”

Perhaps love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself” (or maybe to God)

I also believe it is nearly impossible to love another person without experiencing God's love. Our love is so imperfect. We must experience the perfection of God's love toward us if we are ever to have any hope of loving another.

So much more to say but I'll leave it at that!
Ariana said…
I agree with all of the above! I think for me, if we're discussing semantics, what makes the difference between "loving someone" and "being in love with someone" is that when you're IN love, you both love each other equally. You can love someone who doesn't love you back... but it usually sucks real bad. The IN love comes when they love you back just like you love them, and there is such deep security in that. Especially when you both have a reasonable understanding of LOVE the way God intends it (as described by previous commenters). :D
Anonymous said…
Eeeww, peanuts (especially peanut butter) and chocolate should never be mixed!!

(Otherwise I like the comments posted above!)
Beth said…
thank you all!

two thoughts/questions to continue:

a) how do my readers who don't factor Jesus in view love?

b) all of us (including myself in with all y'all who left comments) would say that chemistry/attraction is an important factor in romantic relationships...yes? but no one mentioned how that fits in. isn't that a major part of the "in love" experience?
Jess said…
Here's my recent/current experience:

I knew I had never been in love, because you're just supposed to KNOW, right? I knew I hadn't. Then I knew I loved him on a certain level because I was willing to meet him part way on things, I wanted to honour him and make sure I wasn't making him sin or whatever. Then it came to the point where I was willing to give up everything - living my glorious life in Montreal etc - to be with him. At that point I knew I was there -- it was that element of willing to sacrifice in combination with the mushy feelings & me laughing at his BAD JOKES that with anyone else I would have totally rolled my eyes. My sudden DESIRE to listen to country music with him because it makes him happy. It was attraction + desire + happiness + not even just willingness to sacrifice but almost looking forward to the opportunity if it meant I got to be with him. It's the infatuation + desire to give. But then again, what do I know. I'm still figuring this out.
Ariana said…
Beth, to answer your question... I guess I didn't mention it because I assumed it was a given in this situation, where I was discussing the difference between loving someone and being in love with someone. I was operating on the assumption that you are already attracted to this person and we were talking about romantic love, not friend love or family love. (Forgive me, I don't know the Greek words, hehe.)

I still didn't really answer your question.
Beth said…
ariana - i think i get what you're saying. and i think you did answer the question. :)

Popular posts from this blog

Fostering FAQ: How Can You Say Goodbye?

It seems I finally have something(s) to say... Here's the first in a short (or maybe long?) series on Fostering FAQs. If you've got a question to add, feel free to comment/email/text/message me and maybe the next post will be in response.


8:30 am on Day 4 of parenting. I woke up in a panic two hours ago because I remembered that there is a baby and I am responsible for her (at least at 6:30am, when the man beside me will snore through anything). Now, I have put on clothes and eaten breakfast. The dogs are walked, there is a loaf of banana bread in the oven. My tea is steeping. Most importantly, Dream Baby is already down for her first nap.

Despite my morning efficiency, I'm already beginning to see that even with the happiest, most easygoing, and smiliest baby, like we somehow managed to be given, parenting is a grind. On Friday night, I couldn't join friends for $5 pints at a local joint. Instead, I blearily washed the same 8 bottles again, and then made another ba…

Fostering FAQ: How Long Will She Stay/Will You Adopt Her?

Our first foster baby came with about 18 hours notice; it was respite care, which means we had him for a few days while his regular foster family had a break/dealt with a family emergency. He stayed 3 nights, long enough to come to church and have a dozen people cooing over his little sleeping cheeks.  With each new visitor to our quiet corner, I explained again that he would be going back to his foster family the next day.

Barely a week later, we got a 9am phone call with a fostering request and by the same afternoon, we were snuggling her. This time, we had her for 4 days before church came around. Again, our community was keen to see the little one we had in tow. Again, the question, "How long will she stay?" And this time, "Are you going to adopt her?"


Here in Toronto, when a child is placed in foster care, it is always for an indefinite length of time. It depends on the parents' situation, and whether they are able to make a safe home environment for th…

What About Travis!?

I just watched Hope Floats, the second movie in my I-really-need-to-vegetate night. Now that we have more than three channels, there are so many quality programs on TV! Like movies in the middle of the week. I enjoyed many of the lines in this movie, including:

"I went home and told my mama you had a seizure in my mouth."
(referring to her first french-kissing experience)

"Dancing's just a conversation between two people. Talk to me."
(the conversation in our living room then went,
Girl 1: Only Harry Connick Jr. could say that line without it being incredibly cheezy.
Boy: Without it being cheezy? That's all I heard. Cheez, cheez, cheez.
Girl 2: Yeah, but it was sexy, sexy cheez...sigh.)
"Better do what she says, Travis. Grandma stuffs little dogs."

Bernice: At home we had a pet skunk. Mama used to call it Justin Matisse. Do you think that's just a coincidence? All day long she would scream, "You stink Justin Matisse!" Then one day she just…