What is love?
Someone says, "I love you."
What does that mean? I think it can mean a lot of things, but I think there are two major motivations for the people who say it and think they mean it.
One motivation for saying "I love you" is the feeling.
people say they are "in love" I think that's the feeling that makes
your heart feel like it's expanding 10 sizes in happy times, and the
feeling in difficult times that makes your gut feel like it's tied in acrid knots. Being "in love" is the attraction that makes you want to touch
someone and be as close to them as possible. It's solely romantic love and it comes and goes against our will. Being "in love" has nothing to do with thinking, which is why it makes us fools.
Another motivation for saying it is the choice.
Whether explicitly or not, sometimes we make a choice to love. We use our brains and we decide to love. We make that choice and we stick by it as closely as humanly possible for better or for worse, so to speak. Choosing love is snuggling with your gross sweaty man and getting close to your sick girlfriend surrounded by slimy tissues. It is planning a birthday surprise. Ultimately, choosing love is showing up and staying present again and again over time through all the excitement, boredom, predictability, joy, hardships and surprises relationships bring. This kind of love can be for anyone in our lives, and at any moment we can choose to love. Love is an option we can choose, or not choose, mindfully and with purpose.
I think true and lasting love is the combination of the feeling and choice, and how we manage the balance of those over time.
The feeling is the part that changes for or against our will, depending on life. And hormones, probably. We can't bank on that part, which really sucks because it's still important. The feeling of love is like luck, it seems: Either it comes or it doesn't.
Because the feeling of love is chemical and ever flowing and changing, the choice we make to love is crucial to endurance.
Endurant love between two people changes over time just as our bodies do, just as all relationships develop and progress. Each choice made each day defines the relationship as a relationship of love, or one of something else.
Both sides of that choice can break your heart. These days a lot of people get divorced. They make the choice, for whatever reason, to stop loving this person in an intimate way. I'm a romantic and an idealist. It has taken me a very long time to even recognize that my views often take shape in either black or white. I always thought with a warrior's battlefield-like intensity that my marriage would be FOREVER!! Over time, my stubborn will broke down and I began to see the many shades of gray I previously had refused to allow even exist. I saw that we were married friends with almost zero non-verbal communication. I thought any obstacle could be overcome. Finally, after many years of managing our lives around severe incompatibilities, my strength ran out and the fiber of my will to surge ahead snapped. I had to make a new choice. I had to.
Choosing to stay is not the same as choosing to love. I think it's the opposite, and that choosing to stay is more harmful than choosing NOT to love. Lots of people just torture each other being sarcastic and nasty over time, cheating and belying their actions with words they don't mean and belying kind words with actions that hurt. That is choosing to stay. That is not choosing to love.
I don't think love has to be as intangible or elusive as we seem to think it is sometimes. I think if someone drops something in the street and you pick it up for them, that is an act of love. If you tell someone how beautiful they look tonight, that is an act of love. My Yogi tea tabs... do you know I collect these? The Yogi brand of tea puts existential quotes on their tea tabs. I really enjoy them. I collected a bunch and made a frame of them when I lived in Florida. I have my favorites clipped up in my kitchen here in Japan... anyway, my Yogi tea tabs say "When you grab opportunities, they multiply," and "Gratitude is the doorway to abundance." I think if we accept lots of opportunities to give love and feel appreciative of the small acts of love we receive, more love will flow into our lives.
But that's a different kind of love. What I really want is someone to share my life with. I want to look at my love and feel like a child, like looking up at a sea of stars or out at the vast ocean. I want to know I'm safe and adored. I want the healing and intimacy of touch. I'm a hopeless romantic and I want a magical love that will last for the rest of my life not because of my stubborn will to hold it together, but because our attraction (yes, feelings) and choices hold us together.