When we envision what Love Is, many people view love as passionate romance and the prospect of falling madly, passionately in love and running away together like we see in the movies. Or wanting to bed your partner every minute of every day.
But what if I told you that this isn’t really true love? That physical intimacy and passion are a part of what Love Is. But that without respect, communication and trust is just lust.
There is more than one way to love someone. Platonically loving someone means feeling affection for them without any desire to have sex with them. People like friends, family, colleagues, teammates. You can have and feel love for them without it being romantic or sexual.
Romantic love is much more than just explosive passion – it is just enjoying their company, feeling safe and comfortable talking to them about serious and important topics, wanting to spend quality time together, and respecting each others wants, needs and boundaries.. It can be physical or non-physical depending on the person and the situation. It also includes things like intimacy, bonding, passion, and expression of emotions, but that’s not what defines love.
It’s important to note that every couple experiences different levels of each element of love, and expresses their love differently. This makes love difficult to define, but when you feel it, you know it.
So, whether you’re looking to find your one and only soulmate or you just want to know what love is, read on! Here are all the things that love is, and how to know if you experience some of them.
What Is Love?
We often think that when we find someone we are sexually attracted to, then we have found love. But this isn’t true at all! That person you look into your eyes and feel complete, calm and comfortable, that’s love. The person who improves your quality of life, and makes you feel excited to talk to and be around. A person who listens to you and respects you, wholly.
I understand how hard it can be to recognize your own inner needs and desires, especially if you’ve had an unhealthy, toxic or abusive relationship. We are conditioned to ignore our needs and prioritize our partners happiness. Working through that is incredibly difficult . It takes patience, practice and self-awareness. But when we recognize that we are an important part of an equal and healthy relationship, we expect to feel fulfilled.
But I hope you’ll give yourself some more credit for being able to connect emotionally with others and for wanting important relationships in your life. After what we’ve experienced, connecting with someone emotionally can be very trying. And allowing yourself to do that and be open to letting another person into your life is a huge step. You just have to make sure it’s equal.
You may not realize it now, but you’re looking for that kind of connection with everyone around you including friends, family members, and even strangers. You want to enjoy the company of people and learn from them, just like anyone else wants to do in that situation.
Relationship With Your Partner
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A few years ago, I read an article that made me rethink how I perceive love. The author discussed what he referred to as the Maslow Theory of Love.
He described it as a human need for love. At the base level, we require love from others in order to feel significant — like someone cares about us.
As we develop deeper relationships, other needs emerge. We want to belong, to be part of something, to have connections with people, and we desire more intimate interactions or friendship.
Finally, at the top of the ladder are experiences that bring you joy – feeling loved and appreciated, celebrating achievements together, talking about things that matter to you, investing time in activities that make you happy, and seeking out opportunities to do good.
This theory suggests that even if you don’t feel much love right now for your partner, it’s because you haven’t fulfilled their need for intimacy yet. You can still care for them by meeting their other emotional needs.
By doing so, they will eventually find love with you. But don’t expect to feel romantic feelings until they’re ready.
That said, let go of the control attitude and try to accept that this may not work. No one gets married without having big dreams, including yourself.
If it doesn’t work out, life goes on.
I don’t know if I am 100% in agreement with this method, but it did give me a new perspective. In arranged marriages, it is said that you grow to respect your partner, and then begin to love them. I feel that this is a different experience for different people. But I do believe that love grows through shared experiences, navigating life together, and learning about each other.
Relationship With Your Friends
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On the other side of the love conversation, there’s platonic love. There is another word that people use to describe friendships – trust. When you feel loved and trusted then you have a built a bond and have an ally and confidant you can depend on when you need them. When you feel loved and trusted, you feel safe.
We all need other people to believe in us and to rely on. It gives us a sense of support and comfort. And we thrive when we’re helping others, especially our friends.
No one said having healthy friendships was easy, but I hope the tips below will make it easier for you.
Time for Self-Love
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We often get so focused on helping and supporting others that we forget to take care of ourselves. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty glass.” It’s cliche, but it’s true. Friendships and platonic relationships need to be equal, just like romantic relationships. If you find yourself with a friend who is in constant distress, and always needs to be taken care of, maybe reconsider the amount of time you spend with that person. You have needs, too. And if your friend is not fulfilling those needs, they might not have the same love for you, as you do for them.
Thinking about yourself as your own cause is an important way to love yourself more, and in turn, show other people love. Respect yourself and your needs. Don’t put your needs behind everybody else’s. You’re teaching the people around you how to treat you. Teach them to treat you with kindness, compassion and respect.
Your happiness or lack thereof is your responsibility, not someone else‘s. If you can’t recognize love in yourself, it’ll be difficult for you to recognize healthy love in others.
You are responsible for your thoughts, actions, and feelings related to you – no one else.
Self-love is learning how to appreciate yourself just like you would anyone else. It is investing in your personal well-being by doing things such as taking good care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. For example, self-love and self-care for me looks like:
*Long walks with my dogs
*Taking a fitness class or going to the gym
*Painting or sketching
*Eating snacks and chocolate
*Binge watching a TV show that I enjoy
*Hiking and exploring new places
*Reading / Writing
I make sure to do at least one of these activities every week. And I’ve been prioritizing my self-care for 2023 — so I do at least one self-care activity every day.
Give yourself permission to feel happy, loved, and confident, and that will spill over into how you expect people to treat you.
Do not hold your partner responsible for your happiness
We are all entitled to our own internal experiences of love and passion, but expecting your partner to know your needs without you verbalizing them will just lead to disappointment and resentment. You can’t expect other people to make you happy, you have to participate in your happiness. When you have a problem or a concern, address it. If you don’t take the responsibility for your happiness, others won’t either. Everyone is dealing with their own internal struggles, and oftentimes won’t realize you need them.
We spend a significant amount of time talking about how important it is to believe in yourself, but no one teaches that lesson more than those around you who think you don’t look or sound lovable today. There will always be people around you, in a lot of cases people you consider friends, rooting for you to fail. It’s not healthy to keep people like that around. In order to overcome that, you need to believe in yourself and your worth. Regardless of the time spent and invested in friendships and relationships, if you are keeping someone in your life who is rooting for you to fail, or waiting for you to mess up, or just plain trying to sabotage your growth, cut them. They aren’t worth it. It’s like a dog biting your leg and trying to pull you backwards while you’re walking forwards. Take the loss and let someone who believes in you fill their spot.
Believing in yourself does not mean being arrogant or thinking you are better than anyone else, but failing to acknowledge your strengths and potential makes it difficult to know what kind of relationship you will find satisfying.
If you want to be loved, learn to accept and appreciate compliments from others, and keep people around you who boost you up and treat you with kindness and respect. But it’s ultimately your responsibility to choose the people you allow in your life.
Love Is setting boundaries to your partner is on the same page
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When we think of setting boundaries, generally we feel like we’re being aggressive or doing something that will be viewed as putting up a wall. On the contrary, boundaries are SO important for relationships, platonic and romantic.
Boundaries are how we show the people in our lives how to love us, treat us and respect us. They don’t need to be divisive, or closed off.
A boundary I have with my friends is that I don’t like to be texted after 8pm. That’s my downtime. If a person texts me after 8am, there’s a 50/50 chance of me responding. So don’t be upset if I don’t get back to you until the next day. It’s how I show myself love, and how I teach the people in my life to respect me. In the case of an emergency, call.
Another boundary I have, and this stems from my trauma, is to next text me more than three times in a row. If my phone starts buzzing like crazy because I’m getting 30 one-word text messages, it makes me incredibly unhappy. So, by telling this to the people in my life, I’m teaching them that this behavior will not be accepted by me. And they either respect it or they don’t. And if they don’t, they aren’t respecting my wishes and boundaries and don’t have room in my life.
It’s the same thing with a partner. By setting boundaries that keep you comfortable and feeling safe, you are increasing the love in the relationship. A boundary my husband and I have is, during the week, we have to have dinner together. Unless there is an extenuating circumstance, like work affair or private meeting with friends, we have dinner together every night. It’s our chance to discuss the day, talk about issues on our minds, and relax together. That’s our quality time.
Love is not always happy
Sometimes love hurts. When you’re vulnerable with someone, regardless of the type of relationship, we’re trusting that they will listen and treat our vulnerability with respect. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Friends and partners fight. It’s how we get to know each other. But what happens during and after the fight is important.
The most important thing to do after a fight is talk about it.
Discussing what happened helps you process your feelings and gives you space to think through how you want to move forward.
Listening to each other’s stories and being honest with each other is very healing. This also allows both people to ask questions and get support.
Real acceptance comes only when you understand what caused the problem and have made a resolution to work through it, or let the relationship go.
Love is not enough
We are constantly telling each other that we love you, but are these words really worth anything? If you spend your time with someone who does not make you feel loved or happy, then what is the point in staying together?
If you find yourself asking this question, it may be time to consider whether this relationship is healthy for you. You deserve to feel loved and wanted, and you should look for ways to improve your relationship, or leave it, opening yourself up to a better and healthier relationship.
It can sometimes seem like a struggle just to keep up with all of the things you do for your partner, especially if it’s an unequal partnership. It becomes increasingly difficult to remember everything they like, and how to satisfy them, and that burdens your ability to care for yourself.
Ultimately, the most important part of a relationship is the equality aspect. If you both feel loved, supported, trusted and respected, you’re on the right track.