There have been a million poems, cards, songs and notes written with the attempt at answering this question. The reason is because there really is no clear answer to what love is. Love is kind of like life; it is what you make it. Our definition of love can change hundreds of times depending on the place where we are. When we are in dating mode, hunting for that right special someone we usually have no idea what love is. We may think we feel it, think we have it and think we can describe it, but sadly we always fall short. Love is something that comes from inside of us first and then extends to the things or people around us. If we don’t start at the beginning, we never make it to the end.
I think the reason that dating is so important is because it enables us to transform our meaning of love. When we first start dating, love can be great, wild sex with someone who makes us happy and is fun to be around. Eventually we transition out of that mode seeking the next level of love. Then you find someone who understands you and is respecting and supportive of the person you are. Sex went from great to tender and then suddenly the next growth spurt hits and you are again seeking something else. This time you are looking for great sex and the tender emotional support from a partner. Once you find the person who delivers that – you begin to redefine your meaning of love again realizing that there is still something missing. Perhaps you aren’t all excited and jittery, not having as much fun as you expected to while in love. The next thing down the line tries to combine the best feelings you have felt from all the people you have dated into one. You may move in with some one begin crating a life together and notice that the responsibilities of life seem to get in the way of the relationship and make it hard. We begin to notice how others deal with problems and leave with even more ammunition to redefine what love is. It is a never ending cycle, and as we learn about love through the people or things that we love there will always be more to add and more to gain from love. By the same toke, there can be more to lose. Dating is so difficult because we have expectations of what love is that love could never really live up to. Once we figure out that love is an evolutionary event that constantly will change as we grow we may begin to notice that love with someone else is more a matter of compatibility. If it wasn’t we would probably marry the person who could cause us to orgasm the most. But love based on sex is as pointless as sex based on love.
When I think back to the people I have dated I can say for sure that in some way and by some measure I loved them all. Largely that was in part to the fact that my definition of love was at a certain spot. I dated the man I married for 5 years and rode the evolutionary road of love long enough to know that what got us through was our compatibility. Even now we agree on little, yet come together for most. We have good sex sometimes and great sex rarely. We have unreasonable expectations of one another yet seem to step up to the middle ground where we can both be comfortable. We have respect most of the time yet show disrespect (out of respect) under our breath. We fight rarely – regardless of circumstance, laugh much too often by some peoples standards and gladly pull belly button fuzz out of each others navels. Do I love him? Absolutely I do, yet I still love all the other people I dated. I still learned something about my definition of love from all those others and have brought them to a person who has done the same. Do I think about old lovers? Absolutely, at least once a week! I miss certain things about every man I have ever been with sexually or otherwise because they helped me to define what love is to me. And whether any person admits it or not they too think about the loves in their past because they were largely responsible for bringing us to the person we are now with.
What is Love, then? Love is the culmination of our feelings. Love is about setting standards and setting limits based on what your internal network tells you. Love is about finding someone who doesn’t make you happy but adds to your already well established happiness. Love is finding some one who can make love to you for 3 hours or 3 minutes and it feels good either way. Love is about laughing at life, laughing at each other and laughing period. Love is about finding a person that when your definition of love changes will be able to still fit and about loving someone enough to alter your definition when they occasionally step out of bounds.
Someone told me recently that they had a 3 system for determining love. They wouldn’t sleep with someone more that 3 times or date for more than 3 months unless they were sure. At first I thought that this was a shallow approach to dating. In hindsight I see though that really this is a great idea. We know how we feel around and about someone and there is no point in “trying to work things out or make them work” when it comes to love, especially while dating. They either do or they don’t and depending on where we are in our definition building there is no sense in prolonging things to save face. Dating is the best way to develop our own definition of love and allows us the greatest opportunity to figure out, decide and search for qualities and significance in others that adds to our own personal meanings of love. There is no standard set for what love is and someone who marries for money or dates for sex is entitled to their definition and to fulfilling their love how they see fit. There should be no guilt or shame associated with who we love or how we love. Marriage is not the ultimate goal of love nor is it the concrete measure of whom or what we love most. Marriage is simply a mixture of compatibility and compromise.
What is love? No one really knows for sure and no one will ever be able to put their finger on it. Love is something that if we are searching for it – will never be found because it doesn’t exist outside of ourselves. Love exists in our mind. Love exists in our bodies. Love exists in our faith and gratitude. Love exists in our partners (all of them) and our friends. Love exists in our families and in the material things we surround ourselves with. Love is the one emotion that drives us toward our future and drives us crazy. More emphasis should be placed on loving who we are with, when we are with them rather than trying to seek out or find someone who can be all things. From the moment of our birth to the last breath we take we are constantly adding to, evolving and defining what love is to us and every moment in life should be used for that purpose. By living a life of loving wholly we will be rewarded with one that wholly loves us.