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If you had to define love using just three words, what three words would you use? Your answer would most likely differ from mine. Why? Because everybody has at least slightly different views on and experiences with love—of which shape their response to the question above. Now, with this in mind, what three words would the experts use to describe love? Four mental health professionals are here to share their answers, which are shaped by their unique experiences and knowledge as a therapist or counselor as well as their everyday experiences with love and heartbreak:

Compassion, Intention, Openness

Saba Harouni, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, uses the words “compassion,” “intention,” and “openness” to describe love. She delves deeper into these definitions below:

    Compassion: Being in a relationship is not always easy. We each struggle with our own stuff, which is often challenging enough. Having our own stuff and then contending with someone else’s stuff can be a trying endeavor. I believe that being in a loving relationship means trying to understand our loved ones and offering them compassion.

    Intention: Although we don’t choose all of our relationships, as adults, we have the opportunity to choose our romantic relationships and our friendships. We make the choice to be in a relationship, and if we are choosing to be in a relationship, I believe it benefits us to approach the relationship with intention. To show the people in our lives how we feel about them and to be intentional about how we engage with them.

    Openness: Being open, in this context, includes being open to who our loved ones are, their interests, their passions, and their worlds. When we are open to knowing and embracing the people in our lives, we are able to love and accept them as they are, which is really a gift.

Trust, Passion, Fun

Caleb Backe, Health and Wellness Expert, uses a few different terms to describe love: trust, passion, and fun. “I think that these are some of the most essential aspects of what we call ‘love,’ a feeling that is ultimately different for everyone, yet tends to hold a strong universal resonance to these terms—at least by my definition. In order to give and receive love, there needs to be a base, or foundation, of trust on which the relationship or mutual exchange of feelings can be built on. From there on out, you need to have a little passion—sometimes more! This is the spice of life, the reason we keep living, striving, and working towards our goals or dreams—even a desired state of mind with the people or things we love or love doing. To feel passionately about something or someone means that you are already in love, better yet you’re able to express that feeling with resounding joy and that in turn, helps to fuel your love. A positive feedback loop of good vibrations!

Finally, I think that love should naturally mean fun. Whether you’re spending time with the one you love, or reflecting on a job, task, or hobby that you thoroughly enjoy or brings you love, then you’ve already realized that what you consider fun is aligned with what you love, as we seek love through fun and, as a result, fun often tends to bring love. If you’re having fun, you’re experiencing some degree of love and when you’re truly feeling love at its fullest, you’ll know that you’re feeling love.”

Protect, Cherish, Respect

Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., a Los Angeles-based psychologist who specializes in relationships, says the words “protect,” “cherish,” and “respect,” accurately define the meaning of love. She explains how below:

    Protect: When someone really loves another person, there is an almost reflexive instinct to want to protect him or her from any physical or emotional harm or distress. In essence, there is a natural desire to protect that loved one’s best interest and wellbeing.

    Cherish: Love for another conveys something beyond just caring about or liking that person. It means having deep, warm, substantive feelings about someone who is treasured.

    Respect: Having respect for a person is integral in having love for him or her. Respecting a person can be shown through actions including honesty and transparency, equality, compromise, loyalty, and fairness.

Unconditional, Timeless, Tender

And lastly, Julie Blackburn, Professional Counselor and Art Therapist, “My understanding of love has definitely changed by learning from my clients and challenges in my own life. The three words I would use to describe love is unconditional, timeless, and tender. I have learned from working with children and through my own experience of foster/adoptive parenting the need for love to be unconditional. Children and adults alike benefit from authentic hugs and being accepted as we learn through challenges and adversity. I once worked with a parent that did not hug her child goodnight after a tough day. We talked about the conditional aspects of love. It was that moment that I decided to follow through with becoming a foster parent. Any child in my home has always known of love especially on the toughest days.

Love is also timeless. I learned the term ‘carefree timelessness,’ from a bereaved woman and I integrated the idea into my relationships and how I spend time with those I love. All too often, we overschedule our lives and clock watch as move to the next meeting, engagement, or outing. Slow down, enjoy the company and conversation, stay present… what a pleasure and a blessing for you and those you love to be fully engaged.

And love is tender. I specialize in fertility and infertility, perinatal issues, and grief. I have the privilege of hearing about beautiful tender relationships. When I experienced my own fertility struggle, it was that tenderness that was so necessary for my marriage and for me to be supported by my husband.”

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

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