How do we define love?
What is love?
Unfortunately, love is one of those overused words whose meaning has been diluted. We use the word love in so many different situations that even if there ever had been a precise meaning, it was lost a long time ago.
We use the phrase "making love" to talk about physical sexual activity. We often say we are "falling in love" when we are simply infatuated. We talk about loving someone when we really mean we just feel close to someone. We often profess to love someone but are more interested in how that person makes us feel than on letting that person be true to themselves.
I've given this question considerable thought over the years. It seems that love is one of the most difficult concepts to define, probably because we've been so careless with the word. Because we've given so little in-depth thought to it, we do not have a good working definition for love.
To define love, we need to narrow down and say exactly what we mean. For this definition, I'll exclude feelings relating to things other than humans. We might say that we dearly love our pet, and I certainly won't dispute the strong attachment some people have to their pets. All I am saying is that pets, material possessions, and places are all excluded from this definition of love.
What is love between two people? Most often, this question refers to a relationship between peers, not parent to child, because that area is where the most confusion lies.
If you spend much time observing people, you will find that lots of people who "love" each other are not totally accepting of the other person exactly as they are. You will often observe people who "love" someone but want to change some things about them.
My definition of love
My definition of love would be "Accepting someone just as they are and knowing enough about that person to make the acceptance meaningful." You might say you accept me just as I am, but since you know very little about me, your acceptance is really not meaningful.
If you accept someone just as they are, you allow them to be their authentic self. You honor who they are. You are not trying to change them. You support who they are and furthermore, you support their mission or purpose in life. If you truly accept a person as they are, there's no power struggle. You are not concerned with what they can do for you, you want and expect them to do what is best for them. You accept them as an individual, with their own wants, needs and desires.
I think it takes an awful lot of work to truly accept a person as they are. We must not confuse a person's actions with who they are. We all make mistakes -- after all, we are human. If we love someone, we have to accept their mistakes. Accepting that they make mistakes does not mean that we approve the mistakes. We simply accept that people make mistakes.
It is my belief that love is what would take over when the passion and the infatuation die. We cannot maintain that high degree of passion that exists at the beginning of the relationship. And we truly do not know enough about a person at the start of a relationship to fully accept who they are.
But once the initial fire cools, then we come to know, understand and accept that person. We can become soul mates. We can know enough about them and if we mutually accept each other, warts and all as the expression goes, then we can say we love the other person. As long as we honor that acceptance, maintaining each others trusts, then the love has a chance of lasting.