A heart-shaped snowball held in red gloves

The Different Definitions of Love

What is love? Despite Haddaway asking this question in his one-hit wonder quite a while ago, we still haven’t come to a simple conclusion. Defining love is difficult because it can’t be summarised in just a few words, even though the Oxford Language Dictionary does a pretty good job of it:

“an intense feeling of deep affection”

Oxford Language Dictionary

The truth is, love can be experienced in many different ways and means different things to different people. And, as there is no one way to define love, we turned to musicians, authors, poets, actors – you name it – and found some interpretations and definitions of cupid’s arrow.

Group of hands with a painted heart on them

How could we not start our journey through the various descriptions of love, with a quote from The Notebook, a film starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling:

“True love is something that has to be worked at every day, it’s not easy. But you do it because you want to.” 

The Notebook

In a similar fashion, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944), a French writer and poet, described what it means to love and hinted at the importance of every partnership having a common vision:

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Both of these quotes encapsulate the partnership and teamwork that lies behind a loving relationship. They also explain that love is more than “just” ‘an intense feeling of deep affection’.

White arrow on purple backgroun pointing right

There are, of course, many more qualities to love. This extract from 1 Corinthians 13 is often quoted in books and films, and it’s easy to see why:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Anyone who has experienced love – whether in a romantic sense or otherwise – will understand the invisible powers love can have. 

Karl Menninger (1893 -1990), an American Psychologist, wrote about one of these powers of love:

“Love cures people: both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” 

Think about the love of a parent or a best friend and how comforting and healing it feels, especially when going through a tough situation.

Now, to bring us into the 21st Century, we present to you Will Smith’s interview with The Huffpost where he talked about his marriage and left us with his idea about what love means to him:

“The central idea of love is not even a relationship commitment, the first thing is a personal commitment to be the best version of yourself with or without that person that you’re with. You have to every single day, mind, body, and spirit, wake up with a commitment to be better. Don’t make that same mistake tomorrow that you made today.”

One hand handing over a paper heart to another hand.

With so many facets and definitions of love, the list of options of how to best describe it could go on and on.

So, to finish things off, here is a poem by Taylor Mali, who described love and the act of falling in love as follows:

How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog

First of all, it’s a big responsibility,

especially in a city like New York.

So think long and hard before deciding on love.

On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:

when you’re walking down the street late at night

and you have a leash on love

ain’t no one going to mess with you.

Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.

Who knows what love could do in its own defence?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.

It lies between you and lives and breathes

and makes funny noises.

Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.

It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.

But come home and love is always happy to see you.

It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,

but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!

Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.

Love leaves you little surprises here and there.

Love needs lots of cleaning up after.

Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.

Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper

and swat love on the nose,

not so much to cause pain,

just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.

Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block

and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions

at once, or wind itself around and around you

until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.

People who have nothing in common but love

stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,

again, and again, and again.

But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.

And in return, love loves you and never stops.

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