At some point in their lives, every single human on the planet comes up with a definition of love. Some people think it over, others use their own personal experiences, and still others just develop an idea of it as their ambitions take them down the fast track of their lives. In the end, every one has their own definition of love. The problem with that is that love usually deals with two people being involved with each other, trying to show that they love each other with all they have. But when those two people are operating with two vastly different definitions of love, problems are born. The thing is most people don’t sit down and think about what they believe love should be and more importantly, why they feel that way about love. So as their lover asks questions in an attempt to figure out how to make them happy, they are incapable of explaining how they feel because the words just aren’t there. Due to my personal interests, experiences, and lifestyle, I HAVE thought about this particular topic and in an effort to get YOU to think about it, I’ll give you MY definition of what love should be. If you agree, then you can use my words as your own. If not, now you have something to start with.
Love, in its best form, enhances your strengths and renders your weaknesses obsolete. When I think of love, the image that comes to mind is two walls leaning against each other. I know, I know. Not exactly a romantic picture, but there's more to it than immediately comes to mind. In this metaphor, each wall represents a person. Just as a person, the wall has strengths and weaknesses.
Many people believe that they have a soul-mate, some perfect person, out there waiting for them, in order to make them complete. But if you think about that statement, romantic as it sounds, there are errors in it. Are these people saying that they (and by supposition, everyone else) are fractional people, that they are not whole and are dependent on some other fractional person to make themselves cohesive and effective? Can you imagine, dear reader, what that world would be like? Half-people walking around like zombies, not being able to do anything until they are completed by some other half-person.
Looking at it from the point of view of my metaphor, what kind of strength does a wall have if it's full of gaps & holes? How can it stand up to the trials & stresses of this world? Thank you, Jerry Maguire, but I find that belief idiotic. I prefer to see everyone out there as a full person, "actual and whole" (thank you Captain Reynolds) with all the attendant pleasures and pains. And that doesn’t go away or change just because you fall in love with someone. It’s a time tested fact that there is strength in numbers. You can look at any type of warfare or any assessment of computing technology for proof. Keeping that in mind, what sounds stronger and more capable to endure the trials and tribulations of life in the world of today, dear reader, a fusion of two halves into a single whole being attacked from all sides or two individuals standing together backing each other up? That's why my metaphor has TWO walls leaning against each other, you don't stop being an independent person when you fall in love.
And let's not forget that love (and a relationship) happens over time. Which is why I’ve always found it hilarious when people who believe their lovers "complete" them say later on down the line, "They’re just not the person I fell in love with." Of course not! Over the course of their relationship to you, they’ve fused with you to become something else! Everything that made them (and by supposition, YOU) interesting and different, not to mention appealing, is gone and you willingly participated in its destruction. Now, here’s a question to all of you out there waiting for someone to "complete" you. Assume, for a moment, you find someone to complete you. What happens when your "other half" is taken away, as in a car accident? Do you revert into this half person, forever doomed to being an ineffectual zombie since your soul-mate is no longer part of this world? How are you to survive? There’s no one else to save you and make you complete since you only have the ONE soul-mate, right? What then?
This brings us to another aspect of my metaphor: there are two SEPARATE walls working together to stay up. I’m sorry, but I’d prefer to rest assured in whatever afterlife there is that my lover will survive and move on without me. The only way to do that is to make sure she has a life separate from me that can sustain her through the pain of my death, and allow her to heal and move on to the next man she chooses to be in her life, if that’s the path she takes. That is something that only an individual can do, not a fractional person. The question is then, how does that work in the day to day dealings of a relationship? That part is easy. Make sure that no matter how close the two of you get, there is something that THE BOTH OF YOU HAVE that is independent of the other. They have their love of performing jazz music and you have your love of working on cars or something. Does that mean you can’t participate in your lover’s interest? Of course not, show up at their jazz gigs and let them know it’s okay for them to ask you to work on their sister’s car. But don’t take up saxophone and insert yourself into their band or let them start reading up on cars and helping you out. The idea is that while the two of you are going to be sharing the bulk of your time and activities, there should be some things in your life that are just YOURS and same goes for your lover.
At the end of the day, you want to see your lover happy and they want you to be happy. Not because of some magical altruistic quality that love imbues the both of you with, but because, at its best, love is a form of enlightened self-interest. You want your lover to be happy because it makes YOU happy to see them that way and vice versa. Basically, you’re doing it to make YOURSELF happy. Think about the two walls for a sec. If you’re wall A and you’re interested in staying up, you’ll do whatever you can to make sure wall B is at it’s best since they’re holding you up. The best part? Wall B is thinking the same thing about you. Now, developing your own interests (or maintaining ones you had before the two of you got together) does give you things that your lover can take away. And because you love them, you’d stop those interests, but because they’re interested in you being happy, they won’t ask that of you and vice versa. It’s a choice the both of you make in order to make each other happy. And that brings me to my next point.
Love, in its most enduring form, happens because two people choose to be together. It’s a wonderful thing, and it should happen more often. But love is a human conceit and like all things human, it is mortal and can die if not maintained. (The tried and true method to kill love? Apathy. It takes time, but it’s 100% effective.) It starts with the choice of the two of you wanting to be with one another. Then it continues with you saying every day, all day, that you STILL want to be with this person. Out of all the options available to you, staying with your lover is what you DESIRE. It’s not something you need, like food or air. Romantic as it might sound to tell someone that your love for them is the food of your life, that also means that your love for them is crap that you flush down the toilet. Does that still seem romantic? Not to mention the fact that "need" has a nasty habit of turning into "obsession", and that is no longer love. Glenn Close did not love Michael Douglas at the end of Fatal Attraction. She was obsessed.
Staying with your lover because you desire to also helps reinforce the individuality of both you AND your lover, because both of you are mutually desirous of being together. As a fringe benefit, it also gives you a way out of the relationship. When either you or your lover don’t desire to be together, walk away. Several friends of mine have asked me what I would do if I found out my lover was cheating on me. My answer is really simple. I would ask her to choose who she wants to be with, right then and there. If she chooses the other person, I’ll let her go. If she chooses me, we work together to find out what was wrong that led her to cheat and fix it. No games, and no drama. Why? Because as the object of my love, I want my lover to be happy. That doesn’t necessarily mean that she’ll be happy WITH ME. That’s where the ENLIGHTENED part of enlightened self-interest kicks in. I can’t say it’s easy, but it IS simple.
Throughout this essay, I’ve made references to the "forms" of love. That’s because there isn’t just one kind of love. The point of this essay is romantic love, but a great deal of the points I’ve made here work towards all other types of love. Most people have an idea of the different types of love: the love a parent has for a child, the love someone has for their siblings, the love someone has for their friends, etc. But few think about the different forms each of those types of love can take.
For example, there’s "tough love", where someone forsakes a measure of closeness to harden the person they love in order to prepare them for a harsh world. Or "fairy tale love", where nothing else matters but that the two lovers are together, everything else will take care of itself as long as they stay together. This is a type of love that can never exist in the real world, but can provide an exceedingly effective respite from a bad situation. Other forms of love include: un-requited love, where you’re in love with someone who doesn’t share that love. (My speciality!) Sacrificial love, when you give up yourself and your desires and ambitions for the one you love. This is most often what feeds parental love, but other types of love use this form as well. Jealous love, where someone chooses to make sure the person they love is isolated from any threats to that love. Zealous love, where someone subsumes their interests and beliefs in the interests and beliefs of the one they love. And there are more out there.
Love is extremely complex, and I am by no means an expert on the subject. But, if you’re in a relationship or thinking about getting into one, I do recommend you think about what love means to you and make sure you communicate that to your lover. And if you don’t know what love is to you, start with this question: do you agree with this essay? Why or why not?