Problem Point: What Is Love, And How Do You Know When You’re ‘In Love’?

Image by congerdesign

Question. Being only 16 years old, I just wanted to know what is love is. If I felt I was in love with someone, I would have to know what love is in order to be certain, and truthfully, I have no idea what it is.

A. Being a romantic ideal, Love can mean all kinds of things to different people. But on the most basic level, Love is simply the care, value and appreciation for another. That person becomes precious to us for whatever reason we feel – like the love for our family and relatives, those who are significant to us; the platonic love for our friends and those whose company we enjoy, and the intimate love we share with our dates and partners.  Thus Love appears on various levels, but the one that seems to occupy most people is the intimate romantic, emotional or sexual love.

Romantic love can be difficult to explain, or even be defined, because people have their own individual reactions to it. However, falling in love appears to be triggered by four major factors: attraction (physical, emotional and intellectual), a feeling of comfort (which encourages security, trust and happiness), a feeling of value (that the person respects and cares for you; that you really matter to them) and a feeling of excitement (that triggers the sexual and affection part of a relationship). It follows that if any of those aspects are missing there really isn’t any ‘love’ per se, it would mainly be just a crush or infatuation – a phase that would soon pass. 

For example, if you meet someone and there is no feeling of value (perhaps because he/she is mean in appreciating you, or they even abuse you) there is no love there at all. Or if you do not feel completely comfortable and happy in their presence, that’s not love either. If you cannot communicate together, or feel any emotional bond, it is really difficult to love in those situations. Furthermore, if you really don’t feel any excitement when you think of that person or share their company, it’s likely that you would be just platonic friends, not lovers, because the sexual attraction would be missing.

Someone also has to love her/himself first before they can love another. That takes maturity and understanding which a younger person usually doesn’t have. That is why relationships among teenagers rarely last a long time.

Photo by Elias Maurer

How do you Know you’re ‘in Love’?

Love is always determined by feelings and emotions, and early attachment. The feeling of love might be difficult to describe but it is an overwhelming one. You think about the person a lot, you want to be with them as often as possible, you tend to think only pleasant things about them, you feel both passion and fulfilment when you are in their presence and you feel joyful most of the time. You just want to smile when you are in their presence or when you think of them. That’s how love makes us feel, totally light headed and very happy. If you don’t feel happy when you think of that person, you are not in love with them. You might love them like a relative etc., without much passion, but being in love is a different happy feeling.

Love is also totally unconditional. It does not need to be proved in any shape or form, nor does it need to be validated by anything else. True love stands on its own, always. We either feel it or we don’t. We might do little things to express it openly, but they are not necessary. They are just forms of expression that demonstrate how we feel. For example, when we love our children, they do not have to be good to get that love, neither do we have to prove it to them that we love them. That love simply stands on its own. It just is. In a nutshell, when we truly love, we really value the presence of that person and they become very significant to our lives.

People who desire proof of love tend to be very insecure in themselves for whatever reasons. Love is probably something they don’t quite understand or appreciate, which perhaps make them feel uncomfortable. Depending on their upbringing, they probably know how to care for someone and value him/her as a partner, but to actually ‘love’ them, in the actual sense of the word, might be another matter. That person might not have been loved in a demonstrative way before and does not know how to deal with it, or she/he might doubt their own love for their partner, and thus put their guilt on to them. 

One way of dealing with such insecurity is this: when someone asks you to ‘prove’ your love to them, ask him/her if he really loves you. If they say ‘yes’, ask them how they prove it to you? What does love mean for them? You could both be interpreting ‘love’ differently. The responses should give you a measure of how they see love and what they expect from someone who loves them. People are obviously, different so perhaps you have to learn about each other, and how you both perceive love, before you can fully understand and appreciate one other.



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