A Framework for Love

Preface: I have thought about this topic for most of my life. I intended to write this entry and finish it before the wedding, but it is such a complex topic and difficult to describe in words that it has taken me a couple of months to arrive at this point. Here I have attempted to describe my views on love, although I am sure that my views will change with time.
My views on love are not like the typical views of love. Unlike most people, I do not believe love is quantifiable. To me, love is an emotion, and like many emotions, cannot be measured except by its expression in action. Thus, saying "I love you very much," while expressing a common feeling, is illogical. (So to are the statements "I love you more than yesterday" and "I love you more than he does." Those who say such things are either relying on cliches to express an ineffable facet of love or are not aware of or do not experience all of the aspects of love.) A person may engage in more acts of love for one person than another, but that does not mean the magnitude of the love expressed is greater than any other love.

Love may differ by its expression (e.g., infatuation) or quality (e.g., passionate) or type (e.g., familial), which is to say that love is multi-faceted. Familial love is expressed with affection and unrestrained loyalty. Romantic love is expressed with passion and excess outpouring of emotion. Friendly love is expressed with interest and temperance.

In psychology, a similar notion is stated in Sternberg's theory of love, which claims that there are three major components of love: intimacy, commitment, and passion. With these three aspects, various combinations can occur. Most marriages, the theory claims, begin with passion, intimacy, and commitment, and usually transition into a more "friendly" love, losing passion as time passes. Love with only intimacy and passion is like a high-school romance or a brief tryst. These dynamics change over time, and one form of love can turn out to be another later on.

This theory, however, focuses on only certain types of love and does not provide a complete picture. For example, what about love for animals? Or love for music? Or love for nature? Or love for abstract conceptions, such as liberty or freedom? For these types of love, the theory is unable to adequately provide a framework for understanding.

An additional aspect for love for or between humans is our society. Love is defined and restrained or liberated by social relationships. Expressions of love for a family member are limited by our societal norms for behavior toward family. We would not engage in the same type of expressions of love for family as we would for a lover. Similarly, we typically do not engage in the same type of expressions of love for a friend as we would a lover, either. These limitations may feel natural, but they are in fact altered by societal expectations.

At its core, however, all love is the same. This is key to my understanding of love, especially unconditional love and "true" love (in my definition, love for all things). When I first told Kyra that I love her, I told her my view on love and expressed it to her in terms of friendship. Eventually, our love developed into a different type of love, mediated by social changes. Now our love is passionate, intimate, and committed (and we will work hard to keep and enhance all three!). I love her now the same way I loved her then, even though my expressions of love have changed.

We share a broader love as well: a love for our child, our family and friends, our community. As Robin Abrahams noted, love is not just romantic love, and the broader meaning of love should be celebrated as well. It is a goal. The survival of our species depends on accepting our differences and learning to coexist. Love is the means to this end.


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