Whether it’s the subject of songs and poems or movies and TV shows, love is one of the most universal and complex emotions we experience. It has a super power to transform and change people, relationships, and our world. However, what exactly is it? Throughout the centuries, philosophers and writers have debated the concept of love.
Even the dictionary definitions can vary widely. It can be defined as a feeling of strong affection for another person, a sense of attachment to a person or place, or an emotion of loyalty and devotion. We can also find it in our non-romantic relationships with family and friends, or in a spiritual sense. In fact, it can be felt for non-human animals or even principles like freedom and God (see wiki: Love).
But love is also hard to define, in part because there are many things that can look and feel like it. For example, lust and infatuation can give us that rush of adrenaline and heart-pounding excitement. But they may not last or lead to the long-term happiness that true love offers.
In fact, psychologists only started defining love as a specific emotion within the past 75 years. Before then, scientists just described a range of emotions that could include feelings of attachment and warmth, along with protectiveness, desire, or commitment.
When we think about what it means to love someone, it might be helpful to ask ourselves if the relationship is a good fit for our values and expectations. This might mean determining if the person can meet our needs for safety, respect, closeness, and trust. In a healthy relationship, we can also foster a sense of love by caring for the well-being of each other.
Lastly, we can practice love by living out our values in our personal and professional lives. We can see this in the selfless acts of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Maya Angelou, or Oprah Winfrey, who have dedicated their lives to promoting well-being for others on a global scale. This type of love can be very challenging, but it’s often more rewarding and meaningful than other types of love.
The next time you’re in a relationship, try thinking about how you can show your loved one that you care by listening to them and sharing their passions. This will help you to bond over shared interests and may lead to the long-term happiness that we associate with true love. Paige Ahern is a writer and actress who looks great in hats, loves Game Of Thrones and stays up to date on the latest news.