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My Definition of Love

As you know, we therapists like to give our clients homework to do between sessions. For Valentine's week my own therapist asked me to journal about my definition of love, in particular romantic love. When I shared my homework with her during our session this week she encouraged me to share it, so I decided to write a blog post about it. I hope you enjoy what I wrote. Please share it with others if you like it!

First, there is Love in the absolute: Universal Love - the creative force, that which generates and animates everything. This is what people refer to as God, Allah, the Great Mother Goddess, Great Spirit, Source, The All That Is, Buddha Nature, Ultimate Bodhicitta, Luminosity. It is the Universal Nature of Everything - that which connects all and is beyond any sense of separation.

On a relative level, the level of human relationships, love has multiple aspects:

  • Feelings/emotions

  • Intentions

  • Actions (of body, speech, and mind)

  • Commitment

There are the universal aspects of love that pertain to all types of love (romantic love, familial love, parental love, love for friends, etc.)

  • The feeling aspect: warmth, affection, gentleness, care, tender-heartedness, openness, curiosity, kindness, and goodwill towards the one you love.

  • The intention of wishing the person you love well, wanting things to go well for them, wanting them to be safe, happy, healthy, cared for, prosperous and abundant, and wishing them to be free from suffering and any kind of difficulty or harm.

In romantic love there is also the aspect of desire. There is a difference between love and desire. Love is selfless and focused on the other person and their happiness. Desire is self-serving and focused on the pleasure and satisfaction of the self. Love is unconditional. Desire is very conditional and can be short-lived and fizzle out as soon as the novelty wears off. Love endures.

For me personally, the aspects of feeling and intention are the unconditional parts of of love. I have feelings of warmth, tenderness, and affection towards someone I love and wish for their happiness, wellbeing, and freedom from harm and difficulty regardless of what their actions and feelings are towards me.

In romantic love, what is conditional to me are actions of body, speech, and mind. What is also conditional is the commitment I make to a romantic partner. In these aspects of love, for me there has to be reciprocity, mutual respect, kindness, and consideration.

The aspect of action is too broad to define in this context (many books have been written about this) other than that the intention for the wellbeing of the other person would ideally be the driving force of all actions within the relationship, provided that there is balance and reciprocity. There is also a need for clear boundaries around and within the relationship that both partners agree on and support. There is a need for a balance between togetherness and space to be an individual. What this looks like can shift and change based on circumstances and the developmental arc of the relationship. There should be mutual respect and trust. There is so much more to be said about actions that I will leave it at that for now.

In terms of commitment, for myself I have always believed that if you truly commit yourself to a romantic partner, especially in marriage, you vow not to give up on that person or that relationship. Stick with them through thick and thin, fight for the connection, and don't give up just because things get difficult. Difficulty and conflict are an inevitable part of relationships. Therefore, it is important to be cautious and take time to really get to know the other person and examine the relationship before entering into such a commitment, to make sure the commitment can be kept and maintained.

Commitment, however, is not unconditional. When one person's rights, bodily integrity, or autonomy are violated, when there is abuse of any kind going on, or when the relationship becomes toxic or harmful, it is no longer in the partners' best interest or benefit to maintain the commitment. At that point loving someone means releasing them and yourself from a situation that has become harmful to both. Letting someone go an be an act of love as well.


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