What is love?
This is a heavily debated topic. People often try to define love in terms of romantic euphoria; however, the word “love” generally is used so loosely that its meaning can become diluted. The truth is, “love” often is used to describe other emotions or strong feelings. Using the word “love” just saves us the trouble of having to figure out what we’re actually feeling. We can say we “love” anything, but what does love really mean to us?
Let’s take a look at the various ways that we label “love.”
1. I LOVE chocolate.
This is “food tastes yummy” love. When we eat something that tastes overwhelmingly good, we get a physical and emotional satisfaction and that keeps us present as we eat.
Food could be love of a sort, but chocolate won’t text to say it misses me during the day.
2. I LOVE this song.
This is auditory love. These sounds and melodies bring us back emotionally to significant memories in our lives. Music is sort of like a bookmark that opens an emotional portal to our past. Music can also be emotional in the present and help us feel or release emotions.
Though music can be very moving, I don’t really want to talk about my day to my iPod.
3. I LOVE your shirt.
This is visual love. We see something that resonates with us and we relate to it and enjoy it — somewhat like a painting or a nice view. We may become emotionally moved by something we see.
I certainly enjoy a beautiful view, but I can’t bring it with me to the movies.
4. I LOVE my new iPhone.
This is the world’s newest love — “techno-love.” This is the feeling of comfort, excitement, and convenience when we can be connected to our friends, email, Facebook, games, music, etc., all in one little electronic object that fits in our pockets. We sometimes develop attachments to these gadgets because of what they give to us.
I enjoy my phone, too, but when I need a hug the phone can only do so much.
5. I LOVE the smell of chocolate chip cookies.
This is the olfactory love (or love of scents). It also includes things such as perfume, cologne, pizza, freshly baked bread, etc. Our senses of taste and smell are attached. Scents can be comforting and relaxing, and may also be an emotional portal to the past.
While I love the smell of cookies, I can’t have a meaningful conversation with the smell of cookies.
6. I LOVE (insert sports team here).
This is vicarious love. It also includes TV shows and anything else that involves a bit of fantasy. These bring us entertainment, but we also develop attachments and a “rooting” factor. We begin to identify with players or characters or the storylines or competition, and it attracts us with great anticipation and excitement over what’s going to happen next. There’s often a part of us that wants to be in the shoes of the people we’re watching, living in the roles they play and having an impact on the outcome.
Sports and TV are wonderful entertainment; however, it’s hard to imagine making love with a TV.
7. I LOVE my mother.
Family love is the care, comfort, bond, and other emotions that we feel with family members. It’s a different form of attachment from love with a significant other, even though there are many similar properties.
Family love undoubtedly is important in our lives, but most likely we won’t be sharing any romantic dinners with our mothers.
8. I LOVE YOU!
This is the love we search for in a partner — romantic love. This love often is sensationalized in movies and in real life (and is somewhat understood to be the “original” love), but these attachments still can be very strong and real. There is a pretty deep psychology to what romantic love actually is and where it comes from (and, as always, it’s debatable). But either way, this is the love where we feel we’ve found a partner we want to share our lives with.
This love makes us go the extra mile to make the other feel special and cared for, while we hope to receive mutual caring and sharing. Going the extra mile doesn’t only mean doing something special for the other, but it’s also accepting the other for who they are, including their positive characteristics as well as their limitations.
These examples aren’t advocating for saving the word “love” only for situations involving romantic love, but understanding our personal definition of love is important for finding romance and relationships. We often go from one relationship to another, not understanding what our needs and values are. If we become more attuned to ourselves and gain a deeper understanding of what it is that draws us to something, or someone, we’ll have that much more of a chance of finding what we’re looking for.
And for extra credit, while we’re playing the emotional labeling game, see if you can define “love” for those other situations in your life where “love” is used in place of a more specific feeling.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jul 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Feiles, N. (2012). Is Love Losing its Meaning?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 11, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/07/30/is-love-losing-its-meaning/