Love—this simple word has been a conversation of philosophers, the subject of poems and books and a topic studied by scientists for centuries. People try to grasp what it is exactly. In fact, “What is love?” was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012. Still, there are debates about what the meaning of love is, and its definition differs from one person to another.

While it may be only four letters and one syllable, love is much bigger than all of us. It doesn’t come with instructions, conditions or stipulations. It can’t be bought or sold, and you can’t make somebody love you. You can’t even prevent it from happening—when it strikes, it’s like lightening. Love is compassionate and allows the other person to be himself, is unable to be restrained and honors the soul of another person.

In many ways, it’s easier to say what love is not. The following are just a few examples of what love isn’t.

  • It doesn’t have borders or territory.
  • It isn’t a substance.
  • It isn’t a source of power.
  • It can’t be legislated.
  • It can’t be sold.
  • It has its own timing and isn’t subjected to our planning.
  • It is not a reward.

Love and Psychology

In ancient times, there were several meanings of love. Philia was a deep, but non-sexual intimacy between friends and family members or the bond that soldiers had when they fought together in the throes of battle.

Ludus is the description of the more “fun” type of affection like flirting.

Pragma is the mature love that comes about over a long time, and it’s between couples that have goodwill, commitment, compromise and understanding toward one another.

Agape is a generalized type of love that’s not exclusive, but a love for all mankind.

What is Love? Is Love Real?

Philautia is self-love, but it doesn’t mean a conceited or selfish type of love. In order to truly care about other people, you need to care about yourself.

Eros is the love that includes sexual desire. This type of love can grow when it combines the close bond (philia) and a mature affection (pragma). If these other two types of love aren’t added to eros, it will collapse.

While love encompasses all of the terms above, therapists ponder if it’s unrealistic to think that we can experience all of the types with one individual. Family and people in our communities are vital for the many types of love.

Love includes the following:

  • Willingly make another person’s well-being and happiness a priority over your own.
  • Deep feelings of affection, need and attachment.
  • Powerful feelings of attraction and respect.
  • Emotions including care and like.
  • Making a commitment to help and care for somebody else, including in marriage and having a child.

Love and Chemistry

Love is a strong neurological condition just as hunger or thirst is. While love is chemistry, lust is a sexual desire for a limited amount of time that increases the release of chemicals like testosterone and estrogen.

Ture love that includes attachment and bonding, releases pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. When you think of love in light of evolution it can be seen as a tool for survival or the way people have developed to have long-term relationships, the parental support of children and feelings of safety.

Romantic Love

Love has been described as many things by many people, including “the madness of the gods” by the ancient Greeks. Shakespeare said, “Love is blind and lovers cannot see.” Aristotle weighed in with his definition as “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”

The following are the three basic brain systems that have evolved for mating and reproducing.

  • Lust. A person craves sexual fulfillment and is able to find it from potential mating partners. People don’t have to be in love with another person in order to have sex, and lust isn’t geared toward one particular person.
  • Romantic love. When you are constantly thinking about and wanting a certain person, you are only expending your energy on that one individual.
  • Attachment. A person who has the feeling of a deep bond in a lasting relationship and stays with a partner to reproduce a child has formed an attachment. The truth is that many people stay together much longer than having a single child. In addition, many people are in happy and content, long-term relationships when there are no children involved.

From half a year to two years prior to becoming an attachment, the intensity of romantic love sparks many behaviors. Romance is the beginning of love, and it seems to have the most far-reaching effect on human behavior. The following are some of the behaviors for early-stage romantic love.

  • Mood swings.
  • Separation anxiety.
  • Possessiveness.
  • Intrusive thinking.
  • Craving.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Extreme motivation for emotional union.

Mental Health and Love

White it seems like there is no single meaning of love that everybody agrees on, people across-the-board have come to the conclusion that it’s essential to physical and psychological well-being. The benefits of love and the role it plays in our mental health is extensive. The following examples show how love affects mental health.

  • When babies are not given love and affection by being held regularly, they may become ill or developmentally delayed.
  • When an individual feels like he is unloved, it can result in low self-esteem and depression.
  • Individuals who feel loved, as well as love other people, are likely to be more content.
  • In continuing health, the feelings of love and being emotionally bonded with others can help to increase immunity.

Quotes About Love

Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.
— Maya Angelou

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.
— Robert Fulghum

Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.
— Erich Fromm

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
— Mahatma Gandhi

Love is a serious mental disease.
— Plato

Love is always bestowed as a gift –freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved; we love to love.
— Leo Buscaglia

Love possesses not nor will it be possessed, for love is sufficient unto love.
— Khalil Gibran

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