Love is something we all have an opinion on in one way or another. The opinion is most always swayed by experiences in love and you’ll always hear a different definition from person to person.
Objectively, what is love? To me, it’s an overwhelming mental and emotional connection towards something. This connection causes you to yearn for the presence of that something in order to feel more secure and validated as a person and to experience untold levels of protectiveness towards it. It evokes base emotions like happiness, sadness, and anger in a way nothing else can.
To me, love in itself isn’t an emotion as such, rather something created from a mixture of emotions. It is, if you will, a secondary emotion. I have done no research to back this up, but I think the reason it’s not a core emotion is because it isn’t natural in the strictest sense of the word. It’s learned in a way, likely through dependency as a child. Most of us will experience it on the birth of a dependent too, though not all sadly.
Whether natural or secondary, love is prevalent in all of our lives, It’s super important. We spend the better part of our lives chasing it, craving it, trying to keep hold of it. As a species, I say we humans value love above all other things. To borrow a phrase from Hugh Grant, love actually is all around. It affects the way we live: where we go, what we do, and how we do it. It helps us to do good; it causes us to do bad. It invokes extreme reactions. It changes us as people. Love is extremely powerful.
Isn’t it amazing to think how much power love possesses? Something that isn’t even physical, essentially just an idea, manipulates us all in myriad ways. The beauty that exists in love is matched only by the danger. It’s a creator and a destroyer.
Love has had a massive impact on my life. As a child, no love compared to that which I felt for my mum. She was my sun, moon, and stars. A lot of it was the dependency I mentioned earlier, but it was more than that. She understood and protected me like no other person did or could and there wasn’t a person I wanted to be around more. As I grew older, I realised love could be felt in various ways and for various people.
In my mind, there’s a significant and palpable difference between the love you feel for family, friends, etc. Love isn’t one universal thing. I’ll break down what I think the different levels of love are:
- Unconditional love–This is the love you feel for a person that cannot be broken by anything. It’s the love most will feel towards their offspring, parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. It’s exactly as the word describes: completely unconditional. It doesn’t matter what that person does, whether good or bad; you will love that person no matter what and nothing can or will break that bond.
- Aesthetic love–This is the kind of love you feel for something like an object, a song, a place, etc. It’s not only possible but common for people to feel heavy emotional attachment to things rather than people. For example, I love The Matrix trilogy. I really love it. Those movies affect and move me in ways that no others have. I love Prague. It’s a stunning city that did nothing but bowl me over with its charm, beauty, and distinctiveness. Aesthetic love is something you feel towards something that can’t return the sentiment, but no less provides untold joy.
- Self-respect–This is love so few people seem to feel nowadays. Most of us have been conditioned to feel loathing for ourselves thanks mainly to the ceaseless campaign by the media to tell us what is beautiful and acceptable and what isn’t. Others take it a step beyond loving themselves and become egotists. That isn’t love for oneself as much as obsession and is probably masking a core of self-loathing if said egotists were being honest with themselves. Self-respect is easy to hypothesise; it’s extremely difficult to achieve. Part of the reason for that is the human mind is wired to think more negatively than positively, so it stands to reason that we’ll only ever fully focus on what we perceive to be bad about ourselves. It’s hard to love something that you don’t like. This love is arguably the most important of all; with it, you have greater mental capacity and drive to achieve things in life.
And there they are. The three kinds of love that I believe exist.
Did you notice something missing? I’d be very surprised if you didn’t. A fourth kind of love. A love to which mounds of attention is paid. The love that the large majority of people will experience at least once in their lives: the love for another person in a romantic sense.
There’s a reason I didn’t include this. You see, I’ve done a lot of thinking in recent months and have come to the genuine conclusion that romantic love doesn’t exist. It’s not a thing at all. You have attraction, lust, and dependency, perhaps even companionship, but I don’t think they equal love no matter how strongly you feel all or a combination of them. Why do I think this? It’s because romantic love is nearly always conditional. It’s nearly always centred around ownership. It’s nearly always built on rules. Those principles negate the very idea of love for me.
In my mind, when you love a person, you want to see them grow, flourish, and be happy. You want that more than you want anything. You most certainly want it more than you want anything for yourself. When you love a person, you’ll put yourself second to that person whether it costs you or not. It took me becoming a father to realise this. It also made me realise that romantic love is stupendously rare. Nothing on this earth or off it could ever stop me loving my son; there are things that could stop me loving a romantic partner (and have). The way I see it is that if there are things that could stop me from loving someone then I surely never really loved them to begin with. How could I have done? I don’t think love is what a person feels when there are conditions attached.
I know people will argue with my point and I can agree it’s quite contentious. You could argue that there are levels of love when it comes to romance and that it is possible to genuinely feel and then fall out of it. That’s fine. I’m not saying anyone’s idea of love is wrong or right. All I’m saying is I have my ideas of what love is and I don’t believe romantic love is real. I think it’s either unconditional love you feel for another person or it isn’t love at all. It’s something else.
For that reason, I approach love with a very suspicious mind; not because I’m wary of how I’ll feel about them, but because they might end up saying they love me at some point when I’m not convinced that they do.
Of course, experiences change our beliefs and thoughts about things all the time, so maybe I’ll have my opinion altered one day. I’m never afraid to be proven wrong. For now, though, this has been my summary of love and it’s delivered with every ounce of sincerity.