So much of mainstream culture, from those romantic movies we can’t get enough of to the love songs played endlessly on the radio, typify love as filled with heartbreak, misery and searing pain. Somehow you can’t be in love without feeling chained to your significant other while being woefully dramatic and brooding (the “I can’t live without you” ballad cuts clear here). But love, of any kind, is not entirely consumed by such film dramatization proportions of negativity. While a bad breakup or unrequited love definitely has its sore side and falling in love always comes with an element of vulnerability and risk, real, true, lasting love is not defined by how much you hurt but by how much you care for the other person. Contrary to pop culture, love is actually beaming with positivity so let’s embrace that often overlooked standard.
1. Love isn’t torture, love is radiance
A good friend of mine was going through a rough, rather life-changing breakup and at the moment he hit rock bottom, he alluded to Taylor Swift’s music and likened being in love to being tortured. I’ve had my fair share of nasty relationships to understand his perspective as loving someone almost akin to having water slowly dripping onto your forehead, but a healthy companionship is not supposed to drive you crazy. Actually, being in love with the right person should make you a better person and enlighten you. Being in love with someone should be like popping a bottle of happiness open, not characterized by ruthless episodes of interrogation.
2. Love isn’t bound, love is letting go
Unlike what Nick Jonas seems to believe, love shouldn’t have you “in chains.” Love should not conjure up phrases and images of being “tied down,” whipped or in handcuffs – that language only reinforces the sexist stereotype of the controlling, nagging girlfriend. Love is not about being dictated, conquered, or changed by another, instead love is liberating. Love is having the freedom to be yourself and knowing the other person appreciates and cares for you just the way you are.
And love is letting go in the truest sense of letting a relationship and yourself breathe. Love is understanding you don’t own the person and also realizing the person doesn’t own you and your time. Having enough willpower not to suffocate each other shows not only tremendous growth and maturity, but is a welcome sign of a healthy, lasting love.
3. Love isn’t selfish, love is giving
In our capitalist culture, we often measure the value of our relationships by how much we receive in return. We tend to believe that if someone or something is not giving enough back to us that the exchange is not in our best self-interests and we should move on. Of course, we have to take into account the division of effort and balance between feelings in a given relationship, but we also have to recognize love does not always work solely on such even ends and perfectly attune to our selfish desires.
When in love, it is not about what you get back and how much, but instead on how much you give without the expectation of return. A former boyfriend used to constantly complain about how much he did for me, the endless list of favors he completed, without being essentially compensated in return. I agree that sometimes things weren’t always fairly divided between us, but unselfish, mutually respecting love exists between partners who give wholeheartedly without demanding something back. Something I still have yet to learn.
4. Love isn’t based upon physical chemistry, but instead on your souls’ connection
This one is a repeated given that nearly everyone seems to realize as they approach adulthood: love is not defined by how fulfilled you are physically, but instead by the emotional and mental stimulation. Yet so much of society’s focus on sex and physical attributes distracts us away from remembering that crucial element.
I admit that when searching for the one, physical attraction and sexual chemistry are vital, but I also believe that sex is doubly fantastic with someone who engages you intellectually, than with someone who is just good in bed but doesn’t arouse you mentally.
Being in touch with someone on such a deeper and higher level that you feel as if you could read their souls and sense their auras is then finally understanding what it is like to be fully connected to another being.
5. Love isn’t deception, love is trust
This one hits hard for me personally as I have a lot of trouble with honesty and fidelity in my relationships. I have watched my dating life fall apart because of this mistrust; and I’ve seen friends cover up lie after lie and still insist on staying in a relationship that is built on deception and manipulation.
Both partners have to be straightforward with each other, but besides not keeping secrets –it works both ways– both also have to trust each other. A real, true love is honest and open, but also trustworthy.
6. Love isn’t idealized, love is real
Ever since I was a teenager, I would gush over with my friends about exactly what my dream person would be like: smart, funny, ambitious, creative…the list goes on. The older I got and the more I dated, I kept adding on to this list so that now if the guy isn’t an artistic activist who reads the news, volunteers, and spends his weekends hiking and listening to live music, I then rule him out as a potential boyfriend. It is important to understand what you want and have certain standards, but to completely limit what you believe your ideal person should be and only stick to that set of required benchmarks restricts you from discovering someone even more incredible than you could have imagined but unfortunately overlooked.
Do any of these resonate with your definition of love? Do you have anything to add? Please share!
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Photo: Flickr user Eleazar, Flickr user Beverley Goodwin, splitshire.com, Flickr user Nehuén Mingote Kisler