What is love?

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Love appears to be quite a complex term to define, which is why it is not unusual to come across people who have numerous misconceptions about this rather prodigious term. To some people, love is that emotion that makes them happy whenever they are with a particular person or people. And to other people, it could be perceived as a feeling of great affection that makes them want to care for or be kind to another person. There are common sayings such as ‘love always hurt’, ‘love at first sight exists’, ‘we are destined to be together’, ‘you are the right one for me’, and so on. And if you believe in any of these sayings, it wouldn’t be wrong for me to say that you have a wrong notion of what love truly is. 

If your relationship keeps your emotion oscillating from ecstasy to agony, back and forth, like a simple pendulum, you might want to understand what love really is. Like most terms such as philosophy, economics, existence, and wisdom, love is indeed a term that cannot be sufficiently defined in one encompassing sentence; simply because it can be defined too broadly or too narrowly. In fact, to define love, you may have to bullet/number all its characteristics, but I will try to make it as comprehensive and comprehendible as possible.

Have you ever wondered why we do not feel loved even if we are much loved by the people we do not love? 

Love is a currency we pay in exchange for the satisfaction of a certain need. One natural law is that mankind is motivated by feelings of fulfilment and pleasure. The nicest folk in the world is merely interested in being happy. Our feelings of empathy are selfless indeed, but if they weren’t comfortable experiences, we wouldn’t have those feelings. All of mankind are not absolutely selfish; some people emotionally connect with the struggles of other people. We have the capacity to show kindness and generosity. But all these actions are rooted in pleasurable feelings; pleasurable feelings that aren’t shared by all of mankind.

More so, it is irrational to abandon our basic needs just to make a stranger happy; we should only love other people as much as we love ourselves. The mere fact that our feelings of sympathy are not unconditional shows that these feelings satisfy a particular need (a need to shine a light into someone’s life). It therefore enables us to help others, while in return reaping off a sweet feeling (of ‘I am heroic’ ‘I am changing lives’, ‘I am healing the world, etc.).

Empathy is noble and humane, but it is an emotion that feels good to those who feel it. Love is a currency because pain is terrifying; we trade our love for something else that ranges from being loved back to making a difference in the world.

No one gives without a motive; although, not all motives are selfish. And what you want in return may range from other people’s money, favors, and provisions, to other people’s respect, acceptance, and attention. You may want popularity, recognition, or God’s blessing. You may want sex, friendship, or power. You may want fulfilment, family, or intimacy. You may want any of these things, or a combination of these things- but you certainly want something.

Most times, we are not conscious of the reason/reasons behind our loving actions, simply because our desire for pleasure often takes over. It is due to our love for comfort that we are incapable of showing the same intensity of love to all mankind; we will always love some people more than we will love others. We will move mountains just to ensure that some people are safe and secure, but may never bat an eyelid when we encounter a stranger going through a severe hardship. We have several psychological and physiological needs, and since we don’t want to be starved of these needs, we tend to be shackled to those who satisfy them (we don’t want to lose them); who else is going to satisfy these needs if we lose them? 

People sometimes fall out of love when they realize that their emotional needs are not being met. The desire to break up can be more convincing as they come across somebody else who seems to satisfy these needs. Combined with one or more other factors such as incompatibility, spousal abuse, or infidelity, this explains why most marriages crash. Love is therefore associated with our unmet emotional needs. Unless somebody satisfies our emotional needs, we do not really love them. If a young lady wants to be shown affection by a tall dark-skinned man, then she may not be attracted to short light-skinned men. And if a man is attracted to short fat ladies, he may not be able to fall in love with tall slim ladies. In other words, we have some criteria that stimulate our desires, and heightens our pleasure once these criteria are met.