What is Love?

Valentine’s 2019 is upon us, time to celebrate love!

What is love? What does it mean to you? What is romantic love, as opposed to the other kinds of love that humans have for each other? What makes romantic love unique?

In contemporary English, the word “love” describes a whole bunch of different things–

  • a feeling, an emotion that is felt towards people, objects, activities or events, e.g. “I love Oregon”, “I love my job”

  • the interpersonal bond between people, the mutual loyalty and commitment, which is found in romantic love as well as with family, friendships, and can also be extended to the bond between a pet and its owner

  • the state or status of being “in love”, e.g. “we are in love”, “she fell in love”

  • a virtue representing human kindness and compassion

  • “An act of love” describes the behaviors that result from any of the things above

In Greek, there are different words that describe different kinds of love–e.g. “eros”, “philo”, “agape”, etc. (refer to Wiki article) In Chinese word that means love is “ai” (Mandarin) or “oi” (Cantonese) which is used similarly to the English word love, but there are other words that describe the bonds and loyalty between spouses, friends, and family members.

In the movie “Dan in Real Life”, Steve Carell is told that love is an ability. As a therapist, I say that love is made real through actions and choices, or else it is just an abstract, empty concept.

What does “love” mean to you?