Monday, August 4, 2008

The Meaning of Love

Love. A four lettered word that can seemingly make life sweeter or cause your life to be an unmitigated hell. Weird thing for a romance writer to be saying, right?
As I love starting with definitions, says love is:

1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.

3. sexual passion or desire.

  1. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.”.

That and about 17 other meanings for the word “Love”. But these definitions don’t seem to accurately describe the feeling of love.

We’ve all heard the lines:

Love makes the world go ‘round, and

Love’s a bitch.

The line between love and hate is thin.

It would seem that we’re very conflicted about love. And love seems to be different things to different people, so how do you know if your definition of love is compatible with your sweetie’s definition of love?

According the the New World Encyclopedia:

The romantic love of knights and damsels, called courtly love, emerged in the early medieval ages (eleventh century France), derived from Platonic, Aristotelian love, and the writings of the Roman poet, Ovid (and his ars amatoria). Such courtly love was often portrayed as not to be consummated, but as transcendentally motivated by a deep respect for the lady and earnestly pursued in chivalric deeds rather than through sexual relations. (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Philosophy of Love). Well, chivalry sounds sort of nice but very frustrating for the individuals involved.

Romantic love distinguishes moments and situations within interpersonal relationships. Initially, the concept emphasized emotions (especially those of affection, intimacy, compassion, appreciation, and general "liking") rather than sexual pleasure. But, romantic love, in the abstract sense of the term, is traditionally referred to as involving a mix of emotional and sexual desire for another person.

And what about those cultures in which you don’t even meet your spouse until the marriage ceremony? Do these people learn to love each other? Tolerate each other? There doesn’t seem to be any data that suggests that arranged marriages are more prone to divorce than love-based marriages. Or is that a cultural thing as well? Are people in these cultures less likely to seek divorce/estrangement because it is not as accepted, as it is in the predominant cultures of America, Canada, Europe and Australia.

And then there are sub-cultures such as BDSM, D/s, DD and TiH relationships where, in some cases but not all, the participants insist that they love their partners despite the fact that there’s physical, emotional and mental pain involved.

I think love must go back to your childhood experiences. That’s where you first learned about love. Or hate. Or abuse. If you grew up in a basically loving environment where there was no physical, sexual, verbal, mental or emotional abuse, then you are probably likely to relate to other people (who you love) in a healthy manner. But if, like most people, you grew up in even a somewhat dysfunctional environment, then you might need to examine your desires and needs more closely. Know what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it.

I guess it comes down to this: if the person in your life fulfills your needs and you fulfill their needs and you are happy with each other, then that’s love. If your needs or your partner’s needs are not being met and one or the other or both of you are not happy, then that’s just misery. And you both deserve something better.

But who am I to say? I just write romantic fiction. I’m still trying to figure out the reality of it.

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