What is Love?

Published 27 Apr 2017

Love is incomprehensible; it always has been, and always will be. That fact (and it is a fact, if anything since the dawn of man can be called absolute) explains the continuous, often fruitful stream of attempts to capture its meaning. For some, love is defined by a specific kind of domesticity, the fulfillment of convention set by examples from parents, religion, and commercial advertisements. Artists and brutes alike have killed themselves or others in the name of love’s tortures, which of course the horrific consequences of love and happiness with another.

Numbers and love are odd bedfellows, as the isolating nature of love is, for many, its most precious attribute, a warm respite from the infinite plurality of everyone, everything else. If one is the loneliest number, as asserted over and over again since Harry Nilsson’s song popularized a truly depressing notion into catchy hooks for denim and frozen food advertisements, then we might assume that it takes two living beings for love to exist. Any happily married cultural traditionalist will tell you that threesomes are for sluts, and sluts don’t love; their “relationships” are a string of sad jokes, doomed to failure because of their own sexual sabotage and an inability to separate lust from love.

Marriage supports this dualistic definition of love, but a barrage of counterpoints – divorce, remarriage, plural marriage, lifelong love without marriage, the legal and religious perversions of the word’s basic definition, etc. – reveals the façade easily enough. Any real effort to tackle the consideration of these conflicting dynamics, causes an immediate headache, with more serious symptoms coming later, like being irrevocably jaded to love before turning 25. This is, admittedly, a tangent, a technical distraction from the larger conversation that serves to exemplify an essential point in the eternal

quest to define love: it isn’t possible. It’s why we’ll never stop trying. Possibility is a universal element that manifests itself whenever love begins to define a relationship. The possibility of a future defined by the great mutual loves of two lives, becoming one, weighed against the equally monumental possibility of failure – this may be the closest to defining the amorous, abysmal abstract without posing a threat to the collective sanity of, as Shakespeare so perfectly dubbed us, “fools in love.”

Logic, the opposite of love, is the key to any hope of successfully reconciling these two extremes of possibility. The space between is an ecstatic static, breeding insecurity, jealousy, confidence and seed after seed of potential for a life of peaceful coexistence. This rough list of examples, it must be said, is also true on the spectrum of possibility for possession, with which love is often and tragically confused. To brave the dramatic seas of love with any hope for survival without succumbing to the festering complacency of relational routine, communicate.

When problems arise, the obvious need for communication often self-destructs before it is allowed to prove its invaluable power to keep love alive. Listening is more important than talking, and momentary reactions are almost always tempered by some later apology, and a sad stab at explaining what “I really meant to say.”

Sex and love are inextricable, at least to humans. Unlike the rest of the Animal Kingdom, we have instinctual drives for both. To determine our preferences for combining the two, we must logically dictate physical and emotional feeling to maximum benefit. Loveless sex is considered far superior to “making love” by a great many, but the very fact that it is considered at all proves the fundamental need for logic and love to
form a marriage of their own.

Logical intervention is a frequent friend to the love-drunk tendencies within us all, acting as the designated driver for healthy communication – about sex, about jealousy, about the potential for success and failure in equal measure and everything in between – to navigate the perilous debris of love and get the smart ones home. What started as a dinner and a movie will never amount to much more without stopping to think, listen and talk, in that order. Those doomed first dates that followed dinner with the movie “Love Story,” famous for its definition of love, are probably a huge factor in the skyrocketing divorce rates of decades since. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is a calamitous lie, as the exact opposite is infinitely truer.


  • Crooks, Robert L., & Baur, Karla. (2008) Our Sexuality.
  • Wadsworth Cengage Learning
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