Love has been one of the most complex terminologies to define. For centuries, philosophers have tried to study and understand this feeling to truly recognize the reason we love. Millions of people try to find love and many spend their whole lives trying to find the perfect one. Why has love become such an integral part of our lives and is this emotion truly valid or merely a figment of our imagination? Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection in the Oxford dictionary however that doesn’t really help in the pursuit to truly deconstruct this abstract feeling.
Many philosophers have different ideas as to what love truly means as each individual explained this feeling/ emotion from personal experience. Plato believed that love makes us whole again and this is based on a Greek mythological tale that stated humans once comprised of 2 heads, 4 hands and 4 legs but was later split into two separate human beings after having angered Zeus. This myth later found its way into literature causing many to believe that we roam the world until we someday find our other half to feel complete in life.
Often times we fall in love with the people we are comfortable with and love can develop having known someone for long periods of time. Familiarity sparks love and this may seem like an attack on the concept of love at first sight but just like anything in life, concepts evolve over time. In the past one could love without having known but today in a world of constant connectivity, to love is to truly understand one another. We feel safe and comforted in the arms of someone we know and this feeling goes hand in hand with our hatred towards change. Humans seek comfort in known environments and so we seek out to find people who have similar personalities or philosophical beliefs to our own.
Familiarity with a sense of mystery/ surprise is what keeps the flame going but it can also be the downfall for many relationships as that unknown aspect may be the contributing factor towards a breakup. Since we as humans fall in love with the people we are close to, we tend to fall for our friends and while many may not reciprocate those same emotions, it is undeniable that most close friendships turn into long-lasting relationships.
A familiar smile or scent is able to spark beautiful memories and the same feeling can be invoked by one’s life partner. Each person takes a different amount of time to feel comfortable with someone else and while some may take months, others may take several years. Love is an emotion that is is formed unknowingly which is contrasting to happiness and sadness, where we are in control of those emotions and it is also predictable when those feelings may arise. There is no one point in which one can fall in love, it is a feeling that accumulates over years and continues to grow ever so complex each time.
Lust is built on excitement but love is bred on familiarity. We love someone the more we know them and this has always been the case even for family and friends. Romance is sparked based on wonder but the formation of a long-lasting relationship depends on trust and loyalty. We can only truly love someone having known their flaws and understood their beliefs.
Many couples are blinded by lust or the excitement of romance causing them to shy away from truly understanding their significant other from a personal standpoint. Familiarity is formed over time and thus a true sense of attachment can only be achieved having been through a lot of raw moments together. Life experiences that are shared between a couple allow them to access and reevaluate the state of their romantic relationship.
Love is the understanding between two individuals who cherish friendship and companionship above all else. A mutual understanding is only formed through intimacy and communication, thus love is able to cross all boundaries. So long as a couple is able to attain a sense of understanding, all challenges can be surpassed and no issue is big enough to end a marriage. Some may fall for their opposites while others fall for those with identical personalities but in the end, so long as those differences and similarities are understood, the relationship will be a success. This sense of understanding can only be achieved after having formed an intimate bond which can be hard to do for many.
Not everyone is willing to open up to the person next to them and some are only able to open up to one person their whole life. Love goes beyond the physical intimacy of sex and the challenge for many is for the emotional bond to be created. Many key criterias have to be worked out as the relationship progresses and a sense of give and take is integral for any relationship to work. Loving someone doesn’t necessarily involve losing yourself to them rather it can be a means of completing each other and learning to grow together.
A mutual understanding also breeds respect over time and this later becomes a key aspect for any healthy romantic relationship. Opening up to someone can be scary as it is oftentimes a gamble as they may not end up being the one but it is a gamble that has to be made in order to progress. Love encompasses the ability to embrace one’s flaws and work through those imperfections. There is no perfect fairytale but the same result can be emulated by establishing warmth and security with one’s significant other. Solving future problems early on and sorting through the important questions allows love to flow more organically over the years and the hard-hitting questions allow a common ground to be set in order to retain the fluidity of the relationship.
This form of connection is much like an unwritten contract and love has always been an unspoken language where gestures/ body language is all it takes to portray affection. Words act as a medium equivalent to the glisten in one’s eyes or the minute changes in posture which ultimately implies intimacy. A couple often times are synchronous and know how to react in a manner that represents both individuals. This unspoken language allows for a sense of fluidity to arise between two people and this streamlined thinking sparks the question of whether one is in love, to begin with.
Types of Love
There are multiple variations when it comes to love and everyone has different loving relationships with people around them. A mature understanding of all forms of love is key when it comes to decoding the feelings we associate with romance in general.
Pragma — Enduring Love
Pragma is experienced by those who have been in a mature relationship for a long period of time. There is a feeling of familiarity but there is no spark beyond that. This form of love can be generated by being in contact with the same person and learning more about that individual over time. Time allows for a long-lasting bond to be formed causing many individuals who are in long term relationships to still have feelings for their once significant other. Enduring love is hard to eradicate and is the foundation for any long-lasting relationship and some people will forever have feelings for their ex as they played an integral part in a huge portion of their life.
Memories are what make our life meaningful and if most of those memories are spent with an ex, it is only natural that there would still be some residue of affectionate love left behind. Love and loss will always be intertwined but feelings fade and we learn to live with these suppressed feelings over time. Commitment and dedication are important when building an enduring relationship as staying in love can oftentimes be a struggle for many and thus attaining Pragma is related to the subconscious and it comes naturally over many years. This form of love isn’t forced and it is a holistic evaluation of ones relationship.
Eros — Romantic Love
Eros in Greek mythology is known as the god of love and sex. Eros is more commonly known as Cupid and he was married to Psyche who was considered to be the prettiest woman/ goddess of the world causing even Venus/ Aphrodite (goddess of romance, beauty and pleasure) to be jealous. Romantic love is a passionate form of love that takes over and causes even the most rational man to act sporadically. It is triggered by hormones in the human body and is the most common form of romance amongst millions. This form of love is displayed through physical acts of affection such as kissing, hugging and sex. This form of desire is tied to one’s physical appearance and the response triggered may be purely physical rather than emotional.
We have long admired the human body and romantic love is an excellent representation when it comes to the story of Eros and Psyche. The couple were together for quite some time but Psyche had never seen Eros physically and this was an important factor when it came to their relationship as Eros wanted to build trust by retaining his true form as he did not want his image to affect her love towards him. However, Psyche later questioned the beauty of her husband and secretly saw the body of the god while he was sleeping but this betrayal truly hurt Eros causing Psyche to fall to her knees in dismay as she had fallen victim to her curiosity when it came to the appearance of her husband.
Psyche had initially fallen for Eros based on an emotional response but later realized that even a purely physical fascination is important to retain that love. She later did three dangerous tasks to prove her love for Eros but that is a whole other story. Ultimately, Eros is an important form of love to create a sense of wonder or lust and keep the relationship on edge. Too much of this form of love may be detrimental but none at all may also cause an imbalance relationship bred on pity rather than true romance. Physical fascination is important to satisfy our human cravings and leave behind our rational selves to indulge in insanity even if it is just for one night.
Ludus — Playful Love
Ludus is seen as a playful form of love that is at the centre of every relationship. It is at its strongest during the beginning stages when both parties are filled with excitement. Ludus is a form of love that is hard to keep alive for a long period of time as in some cases it may just be a stage that has to be endured in order to stimulate the relationship. This child-like quality that is present in a relationship is what creates the amazing spark so many people associate to be the high of being in love. This form of affection is seen between kids or teens who love purely based on fascination towards the concept rather than anything.
Flirting is a vital component when it comes to Ludus, thus words hold significant value in sparking this form of love in a relationship. Having a crush on someone and fawning over the individual falls into the realm of Ludus as there is a component of excitement and thrill in the entire process. Ludus can lead to stronger forms of love but at its core, it is not a sustainable means of building a foundation of a relationship. It is too shaky and Ludus can be extremely unpredictable considering that the entire premise of it is built on varying levels of emotional responses triggered at different stages of life.
Mania — Obsessive Love
Mania is an unhealthy form of infatuation that is initially bred from good intentions but unfortunately spirals out of control. This obsessive love towards one’s partner eventually spawns feelings of jealousy, possessiveness and codependency. The individual loses oneself in the name of their significant other and this form of love is extremely destructive. while it may seem like extreme love in the short term, it is by far the least sustainable means of retaining a relationship. Mania is caused by the need to be feel valued by ones significant other and this form of love can be countered by Philaushia which is known as self-love.
Philaushia is a healthy form of love that recognizes self-worth as an individual. It is culminated by tending to personal needs and acknowledging responsibility for one’s life choices. This form of love is also important in spawning Agape- selfless love which is known to be the highest form of love there is. Agape involves the empathetic attitude of love to everyone and this form of love can only exist if one is able to appreciate their individuality above all else. The counterpart of Agape is Mania and if mania is left to take over a relationship, it may ultimately end in disaster.
Why Do We Love?
Love is the most complex emotional response and it is depicted in so many forms that it can be quite daunting to even familiarize oneself with the possibility of ever loving or being loved. Most emotions are controllable and there are ways to combat or dull down feelings such as anger or sadness yet as humans we still enjoy exploring the possibilities of love knowing there isn’t really a streamlined way to handle this emotion. Love can be traumatizing and exhilarating at the same time and yet we gamble everything in pursuit of understanding and embracing this emotional response in the hopes of being more fulfilled in our individualistic pursuit of happiness. Love in some cases has been depicted as a biological trick to cause us to procreate and in some cases, it is seen as an attempt to embrace our deepest animalistic desires.
Nobody truly knows the purpose of romantic love but many philosophers couldn’t help but theorize the reasons. In the 19th century, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer believed that love was an illusion and that we maintain a loving relationship on the basis that we believe a loving relationship will make us happy and we do so in deceit to retain our sexual desires. Since our desires are satisfied by our partners, Schopenhauer believed that this voluptuous illusion leads us to liken that satisfaction and happiness with the idea of a loving relationship above all else.
Bertrand Russell on the other hand believed that love is an escape from our loneliness. Humans have realized that the outside world is just too much and so we resort to creating our own safe bubble that comprises of people that comfort us when all else seems like too much to handle. Love is seen as a form of escapism from what may be seen as a treacherous world filled with change and our significant other may be the only constant we have till our deathbed.
Simone Beauvoir on the other hand saw love from a different perspective and she believed that love infuses our life with meaning. She understood the notion that traditional love can be too captivating and deadly as we can lose ourselves during the pursuit of true love. At this point, our existence is defined by our significant other above all else and our life has no meaning beyond that. Justifying one’s existence through another can lead to many negative emotions assimilated with love such as jealousy, boredom, hate and disparity. Beauvoir wrote that one should love based on authenticity like how one may love another as a friend, this philosophy has spawned many variations of love that we oftentimes see today in the 21st century.
Infidelity- Why Are We Unfaithful?
Infidelity is viewed as one of the most treacherous acts known to mankind, as being unfaithful in a relationship is said to be the violation of a sacred bond that will forever be irreparable. The definition of infidelity varies for each couple but a globally accepted meaning would be to engage in a sexual or romantic relationship with a person other than one’s significant other. Sex in the past was merely defined as a physical act but now it has become the central summation of love. The romanticization of sex has led to the act of sexual intercourse and love to no longer exist mutually exclusive to each other.
The disassociation of love and sex allowed for infidelity to be viewed as a hiccup in the relationship but now it is considered to be the breaking point of even the strongest of bonds. Sex is viewed as the pinnacle of a relationship and it is the ultimate expression of love that allows monogamous/ polyamorous relationships to thrive. It isn’t just happy people who cheat as there are millions of happily married couples who engage in frivolous hookups. The simple act of an affair is so common yet it is extremely frowned upon. It can be argued that the act of being unfaithful is one of the few things that is collectively viewed as immoral.
This universally forbidden act has its own stereotypical judgements depending on the gender roles, as men were believed to cheat due to boredom of intimacy while women do it because they crave intimacy. Marriage and sex used to go hand in hand but that is no longer the case in the 21st century as both can exist separately. The act of infidelity depends on the perimeters set when getting into a relationship and this varies for each couple. For some, the act of watching porn, sexting and staying active on dating sites may be acts of unfaithfulness.
Cheating has become extremely easy during the digital era and everyone is tempted to do so due to the sheer convenience. Technology has spawned sites such as Onlyfans which can be considered a guilty pleasure for many. A dirty Snapchat to a random stranger may be a spur of the moment thing but it can leave a detrimental mark in many relationships. The online world has offered so many forms of interactions that humans are spoiled for choice and thus nothing and nobody can ever be enough.
Imagination makes love beautiful and as such many consider even the act of thinking of another man/woman to be an act of unfaithfulness. Marriage was considered to be an economical proposition for thousands of years but now it is merely a romantic ordeal and thus infidelity invokes an emotional response rather than a financial/ rational one. The romanticisation of sex and marriage means two individuals are willing to invest everything into one another for the rest of their lives and when that deal is violated, it causes one to question every aspect of their existence.
Sex was never an emotional encounter rather it was built on lust and passion but now the foundation of it is built on love. An individual can only love someone they view to be their equal in many ways and the choice of a partner is a rigorous one that requires numerous years. When that perfect partner turns to another individual for sex, it sends the message their love was built on a lie and all those years seem like a manipulation. The thought of being indispensable or irreplaceable becomes a clear lie due to the act of seeking physical intimacy with anyone other than one’s significant other.
Love Has An Expiration Date
Infidelity may be the ultimate betrayal due to the violation of trust in a relationship. The mentality many people have today is the need to be happy and thus divorces are nothing more than a piece of paper in the modern world. People are more than happy to break up if things don’t go their way as we are programmed to only care about our individual needs and desires. Many couples today divorce as they believe they could be happier with other people. These couples may have been happy, to begin with, but the temptation of wanting something even better causes many to give up and walk away.
Since divorces have become so common, why bother to cheat in the first place? The reason is many people who cheat still love their significant other very much and are not willing to let go. A perfect marriage never exists and passion can never last forever meaning the thought of infidelity may just be inevitable but the choice remains in the hands of the individual. Most people want what they can’t have and this thirst for the forbidden drives many people to the path of infidelity.
Cheating isn’t really for the sake of hurting one’s significant other anymore rather it is a way to find one’s true identity and have a taste of something that can never be attained. After an affair, returning to one’s partner is scary but often the love isn’t dead, rather it is rejuvenated back to life with immense passion. Just leaving the relationship was never really an option, but this, unfortunately, becomes the result for many couples that are faced with issues surrounding infidelity. Divorce was never in the individual’s mind before an affair as sex was never a means to express love rather it was a way to express suppressed feelings that could not be exposed in a relationship.
Divorce may not be able to take place due to the practices of a certain culture at times and while this is a more conservative mindset, there are still millions who abide by this rule. Many parents are not willing to get a divorce at any given time as they care for the wellbeing of their children so they just push through unfulfilling marriages. Time can heal many wounds but this is only possible if both individuals work towards change in the relationship. Affairs only mean something due to the passion and excitement that exists and all this is lost if the individual were to leave before engaging in a casual sexual encounter. The thought of having an affair is what sparks infidelity, oftentimes it isn’t love for another that drives a wedge in a marriage.
It Was A Mistake
After all the time spent together, why would anyone bother seeking the arms of another. It was never meant to end this way and this was all a huge mistake. The hookup was sporadic and it all happened so quickly, the temptation was the cause of it all. People blame their misfortunes on the fact they were not able to control themselves. This is a fair assessment on the basis that lust can oftentimes take the reins and ruin one’s life. A bad night at work may end up being the catalyst that affects the stupid decisions that follow. This split-second decision leads to an irreparable relationship for many as not everyone is willing to give it another shot considering the fact that they have to put themselves out and express vulnerability all over again to their partner whom they thought they knew.
Clearly, infidelity is a costly mistake in the grand scheme of things and for some, an affair can last years but for others, it may be a one-time thing. Some people prefer never to know if their partner is having an affair as the illusion of not knowing provides the placebo effect of happiness. The reason people walk away after being faced with the troubles of infidelity is oftentimes due to external sources rather than personal ones. The world expects you to leave it all behind as divorce is meaningless and the idea that one can never truly change.
However, it can’t always be a mistake as everyone has their own breaking point. If an affair occurred after numerous years then maybe walking away isn’t really the best option but if a two-week relationship is shaken up by infidelity then maybe there is no point in even trying. The reality still stands, ‘why live together if we make each other miserable’ and this sentiment crops up time and time again for many couples who have children.
The reason to stay is for the kids and while there are very few individuals in the modern world who are willing to make this sacrifice, it is still a noble one nonetheless, but even this decision has to be carefully curated to ensure a reputable family dynamic is maintained regardless if love still exists in the relationship. Love still exists in the family but the spark between the couple may have finally been extinguished. This is the sad reality for many couples but the flame can ultimately be rekindled if enough time and effort are put into the relationship.
Love is Overwhelming
One individual can never truly feel a euphoric sense of love towards a single person in their entire life. We feel small bursts of it towards numerous people that we meet over time and it is quite impossible to meet the perfect person when there are so many other potential candidates around the world. Even with all this in mind, we as humans don’t just throw away what we have whenever we feel an attraction towards someone else because this would just lead to an endless loop of dissatisfaction.
The perfect person may exist for everyone but chances are you will never end up with that person, thus we as humans will forever be bounded by our own flaws. We have been conditioned with the idea that there is a singular individual out there who will meet all our requirements and this sense of romanticism has led us to lead a life filled with suffering. The Stoics observed that the problem with desire is disappointment when one fails to obtain ones object of desire. This then leads to the formation of despicable animalistic feelings that overshadow the idea of love.
Love also produces a fear of separation which in itself is a form of suffering, thus true love can oftentimes be sacrificed in the hopes to obtain selfish and preferential love. The act of falling in love comes at a cost and even when we think we are in love, there are many issues looming ahead in the relationship and the ‘what ifs’ of the relationship become a form of suffering over time. The script for romantic ecstasy has already been written by society and any couple that doesn’t abide by the script clearly hasn’t found ‘true love’. These unwritten laws of a perfect relationship cause the pursuit of love to become even more daunting for the average person.
Love is ultimately an act of faith as we give ourselves up for the sake of another. We end up surrendering and bending the knee to logic in the hopes that we will be treated well. Sense and security are mere words when we take that first step and start to fall. Love is nothing without a sense of madness and while logic and reason can bring order amongst the chaos, love without reason is the greatest feeling of all. Falling in love may be the easy part but falling out of it is the true struggle for many.
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