It’s a mystery to most of us.  What is love?

Ask a thousand people and you’d likely get a thousand different answers.

Love is caring, love is sharing, God is love, love is eternal, love should be unconditional. The list goes on and on. Love, love, love, love, love. We throw the word around all the time. We think we know the answer, but we can’t ever come up with a concise explanation of what it is.

We know it when we feel it, or at least we think we do, right? We know it when we see it, especially in the movies, because it blossoms right before our eyes with all the thrilling music, soft focus and passionate embrace. And we certainly spend a great deal of time and money in the pursuit of love. All that headache and heartache for something that can’t be defined in a sentence.

Well, drum roll please… Here’s my thought on it. I’ve been running with this for almost 20 years and it seems to hold true, more true than anything else I’ve heard.

Love is an attraction to someone or something that makes you feel good about yourself.

20130315_172214When something makes us feel good about ourselves, we want a repeat encounter. The more often, the better.

This pertains to people, pets, inanimate objects, and social constructs like jobs, not just the drippy stuff.

We feel love for a person because he or she makes us feel good about ourselves.

Romantically, we find another person attractive for any number of reasons: maybe they’re considered good looking, or have great sex appeal  They could be strong and protective or soft and in need of protection.  Maybe they have charisma or powerf or famous. Regardless of the angle of approach, it’s about how the other person makes you feel about yourself.

When we’re with someone who is very good looking, say, an 8 on a scale of 10, we consider two things, whether consciously or subsconsciously.

A) “This good looking person is attracted to me, so I must have value to a commensurate degree.”

B) “When others see us together, I will be regarded as being socially on par with this attractive person.”

Shallow, shallow, shallow. Yes, it is! But it’s true. There are many exceptions to this, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Someone considered a 10 would not likely seek out a romantic relationship or encounter someone who is a 2. They would feel…

A) “Of course this person is attracted to me. Everyone is. I’m a 10!  I can do so much better. I’ll wait for a 10.”

B) “OMG If my friends and family saw me with this 2, they’d be thinking I was crazy, or that this 2 must have tons of money.”

Conversely, while a person who is a 2 might fantasize about being with someone who is a 10, they’d think

A) “This is so amazing to be with this gorgeous person. All my life, I’ve felt unattractive, but this person being attracted to me makes all those memories just a bad dream.”

But, if in an actual relationship might think…

B) “Obviously, this person is way out of my league, and everyone who looks at us together would think that right away. Rather than feeling uplifted to the 10’s social status, it draws attention to my own 2-ishness, if not mockery.”

Unless, of course, the 2 had great wealth and/or power, and therefore, it would be a double bonus.

We can feel other varying degrees of “love” or attraction for other people, such as parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, mentors, teachers, and so on. We don’t really want to be romantically involved, but those individuals somehow make us feel good about ourselves, and therefore, we label that as love, and feel remorse when they die.

Now is a good opportunity to contrast love with hate. Hate is a revulsion to someone or something that makes you feel bad about yourself. Sure, sure, our mother’s told us not to use the word hate because it’s an awful concept. But we sure feel it.

We might hate a person who, just last week, we thought we loved. People can mock, mistreat, beat, embarrass, humiliate, discourage, make you feel incompetent, and so on… sometimes in an instant. Sometimes, a person doesn’t have to say or do anything at all. They might be obviously rich and attractive, while we feel poor and ugly.

Back to love… Ah, that’s better. We can love pets because they pay attention to us, they want to be around us, and it doesn’t matter if we’re poor and ugly. Goldfish? Eh…

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My wife LOVES her Fiat

We can love inanimate objects, like cars, because they might reflect on our rising social status. Even an old beater can be a step up for someone who’s never had a car at all.

We can love a home, or a community, or a region because they all make us feel different things that feel good.

We can love a job because it makes us feel vital, important, needed, intelligent, and results in rewards of sense of accomplishment, or money. Again, the job doesn’t have to be CEO of a giant business or sports team. It could be a modest job, but something that plucks all the right strings and makes us feel good about ourselves.

We can love doing charity work because we help people that are less fortunate, and therefore make us feel lucky in life.

We can love a song or a movie because it resonates with something deep inside us that makes us feel good.

Each of the examples above have an easy contrast. A big dog that bites, A broken down, embarrassing car. A home or community that makes you feel trapped when you wanted to see the world. A job where everyone treats you like a number, and you don’t see how your efforts matter, or the business is shady.

Love is an attraction to someone or something that makes you feel good about yourself.

Why is important to know and understand this?

A) Decision making – Having a rational understanding can help you make better decisions, both small decisions, and sometimes lift altering decisions, rather than making an impulsive decision because of “love”. Moments like these tend to be emotionally highly charged with high stakes, potential gains, or risk of loss of opportunity for validation of one’s life.

B) Sense of worth – It’s important to have your sense of worth come from within, rather than from the external world. The outside world is highly unpredictable, and other people can be irrational. Only you can watch out for and guard your sense of well being. No one else can really do that for you. So, if something happens like a break-up, or an insult, or a snub, you can deflect the external and defend your internal sense of worth. I know… it’s kind of a tall order, isn’t it.

C) Stability of relationships and life – It’s easy to get swept away in a new romance. But what about when those flames die down. Knowing what the other person does for you, how they make you feel, and why, is a pretty important thing to keep in mind, and to tell them. After all, they need to feel good about themselves too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALove is just an emotion, one of many emotions, and all emotions are some degree of attraction or revulsion to someone or something based on how it makes you feel about yourself. 

I understand how this might seem over analysed. But if you keep this definition in mind, it might simplify your life.

Now, go buy someone flowers!  You can thank me later!

 

 

 

 

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