Love has been a favorite subject of philosophers, poets, writers and scientists for generations, and different people and groups have often struggled for its definition.
While most people agree that love involves strong feelings of affection, there are many disagreements about its precise meaning, and one person’s “I love you” can mean something very different to another.
Some possible definitions of love include:
The willingness to prioritize the well-being or happiness of others over one’s own.
Extreme feelings of attachment, affection and need.
Sudden and dramatic feelings of attraction and respect.
A fleeting emotion of affection, affection and pleasure.
The decision to commit to helping, respecting and caring for another person, such as in marriage or having a child.
Some combination of the above emotions.
There has been much discussion about whether love is a choice, something permanent or fleeting, and whether the love between family members and spouse is biologically programmed or culturally indoctrinated. Love can vary from person to person and from one culture to another. Each of the love debates can be accurate at some point and somewhere. For example, in some cases, love may be a choice, while in others it may seem uncontrollable.
LOVE AGAINST LUST
Especially in the early stages of a relationship, it can be difficult to distinguish between love and lust. Both are associated with physical attraction and a heady surge of wellness chemicals, along with an often overwhelming desire to be closer to another person, but only one is enduring: love.
Love is something that is cultivated between two people and that grows over time, knowing it and experiencing together the many ups and downs of life. It takes commitment, time, mutual trust and acceptance.
Lust, on the other hand, has to do with sex-driven sensations that initially attract people to each other and are fueled primarily by the urge to procreate. Characterized by sex hormones and idealistic infatuation, lust dulls our ability to see a person for who they really are and, as a result, may or may not lead to a long-term relationship.
For example, Lana is in a committed relationship with Steve and her sex drive for him is waning. She loves him and cares for him, but she feels restless and dissatisfied with their physical relationship. When she meets Brendan, she instantly experiences feelings of attraction and nostalgia. The chemical messengers in her brain start sending signals to haunt this new man, despite the fact that she doesn’t know anything about him except how his presence makes her feel physically. Instead of working to improve intimacy with her current partner, she is overwhelmed with lust for someone new.
The ideal setting for an intimate relationship, some might say, involves a balanced combination of love and lust. After all, wishing for someone is usually an important early stage of a long-term partnership, and rekindling that initial spark is a practice worth cultivating for busy couples.
LOVE AND MENTAL HEALTH
While hardly anyone can agree on a single definition of love, most people agree that love plays an important role in physical and psychological well-being. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of love. The role of love in mental health is powerful, but some examples include:
The fact that children who are not shown love and affection in the form of frequent hugs and caresses may have developmental delays or be ill.
Feeling unloved is strongly correlated with feelings of low self-esteem and depression.
People who feel loved by others and who say they love other people tend to be happier.
Love can play a role in long-term health, and feeling emotionally connected can help boost immunity.
Anonymous. (September 2, 2002). How to know if it’s love, taste or lust. Jet 102.11, 12-14. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ez.trlib.info/docview/199970680/1833AF113A8E4DCAPQ/3?accountid=1229
Prinz, J. J. (2007). The emotional construction of morality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wilson, G. D. and McLaughlin, C. (2001). The science of love. London: Fusion Press.