In an attempt to accrue information for articles, as well as satisfy my own curiosity, I recently distributed another survey. (Thank you to everyone who participated!) My question was ambitious: I asked people to consider what the idea/institution/phenomena/feeling of love meant to them. I was hoping to see whether different types of people felt a certain way about love – would older participants have a different perspective than younger contributors? Would men and women interpret the idea in a disparate manner? I have to admit, I was mostly hoping that the insight I received would help me better understand how to identify love in my own life, however, the main conclusion I could draw was that there is no right or easy way to do this.
No two answers to the survey were the same! The only significant trends I saw in participants’ understandings, were that love looks and feels differently depending on the context, that having love for a family member may feel different than love for a platonic friend which may feel different than love for a romantic partner, and that the media portrays an over-simplified interpretation of love.
Rather than analyze the results of my survey, as I originally hoped to do, I am choosing to share some of the responses I received, as I could never convey their message or paraphrase them appropriately on my own. If you are someone who is confused as I am about the meaning of love, don’t be discouraged! Although the people who answered this question seem to have remarkably insightful wisdom into the topic, many of them sent me messages expressing how impossible and intimidating the question was, how difficult the topic is to put into words, how long it took them to formulate any sort of coherent response. Take heart in the diversity of these answers and know that above all, we are each responsible for and capable of creating our own understanding.
What does “Love” mean to you?
- It is warmth, comfort, security, fun, eye-opening, and exciting. It also can take a lot of work and effort and can absolutely drive a person crazy.
- Love = a mutual desire for dependency. A partnership. Trust. Honesty. 100% devotion. Being in love is the road that leads to the partnership. The media portrays love far different than I interpret it - passion, romance, sometimes obsession.
- Respect, desire, trust, safety, inspiration, attraction.
- Love is the feeling you have for someone when you watch them do something completely obnoxious and embarrassing, and your still proud to be associated with them.
- Love is a choice. You choose to love someone by choosing to always do what is best for that person. It is usually accompanied by affection/good feelings toward that person, but even when the feelings are not there, you still do what is best for that person if you love them.
- Love is site specific. As a general guideline it is the point where one feels comfortable giving a piece of themselves to another in exchange for the same, be that piece spiritual, physical, or emotional.
- Love means trust and respect and even though at times it is tough, you want to put the effort in to make it last.
- Love is a journey of self-expression.
- It's a feeling that involves a lot of groundwork to be laid over time: getting to know each other, building trust, understanding who the other person is. Sex helps of course.
- I wish it happened as fast as it did in Hollywood, but then again, they orgasm faster than I ever would want to!
- I wish love was a constant feeling. […] The constant feeling is care. You care about the needs and wants of the person. But the true LOVE feeling may come and go, not in a bad way, in a healthy way.
- Love is always constant, but never consistent.
- Love is something that changes and evolves throughout a relationship.
- The desire to love and be loved can be played upon to entice people to buy things, which is the primary goal of the portrayal of love in most media.
- Being in love with someone now isn't insurance that you'll always love them. That's why marriage is iffy. Every relationship/person is different; thus, how love manifests itself within each relationship is different.
- All love is the "real thing" and I think you can love many people romantically at the same time and that this shouldn't be so poo-pooed in our culture.
- There is a continuum for love, it is never constant […] In the beginning of a relationship you might try to compare your love to a media portrayed love, but over time you learn to define love in your own way.
- Love varies at different ages and with different people. The media definitely chalks up love and can help cause your love to feel like a let down.
- You can love more than one person, but you can be in love with only one person.
- You can love a family member, which is very different than loving a friend, which is very different than loving a boyfriend/girlfriend.
- People experience love differently, and I wonder how much of this is due to their own expectations about what love is supposed to be.
- Love is something you can feel for a friend, a significant other, or even a moment.
- Love to me is that which connects people. It just varies in intensity from time to time, person to person.
Do some of these ideas jive with your own? If not, don’t be surprised – and DO share your insight below!