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I have emphasized the importance of love and passion for happiness across the blog. Love is important for a good life. Love is important for happiness. But, what exactly is love?
In my almost 4 decades of life, I have seen a lot of life. I am grateful for the experiences life has given me, and some of the beautiful experiences have been because of this feeling called love.
Speaking of emotions, happiness, on which this blog is centred, is also an emotion. I often say that happiness is the only real output emotion that we are aiming at. Everything else is an input. As far as input emotions go, love is perhaps the most important of emotions. You and I cannot be happy without being in love. None of us human beings can be happy without love.
What kinds of love is there?
Love takes different forms. Primarily, there is love for people, and then there is love for work. Let us try and break down different forms of love.
1. Parental love and love for siblings
It is said the mother’s love is the purest of all forms of love. They say that a mother loves her kids unconditionally. Now, I am not sure about the idea if mother’s love is unconditional since everyone does everything because they have a reason to do it. She does expect to be loved back, doesn’t she? However, mother’s love is close to being the purest and unadulterated forms of love. A mother keeps the child in her womb for months, and then raises the child to an adult. There are only a few unfortunate people in the world who don’t find love from their mothers.
Father’s love on the other hand is beautiful too. However, it could be more functional than mother’s love because mothers have a feminine quality of gentleness and care, which men don’t have. That’s perhaps why, when couples get divorced with kids, it’s the woman who gets to keep the child. If the child were to have one parent, it is assumed that the mother would be the right emotional guardian for the child.
The love we share with our siblings is a beautiful form of love since it has no adulteration. Siblings tend to become each other’s support system before we learn to make friends.
This kind of love is non-sexual. It is an idyllicform of love. Parents like to see their kids grow up and become responsible and functioning adults, and they find joy in that.
This is the case with parental love. It is the case with most parents, although there are parents who try to impose their beliefs on their kids, and if the kids don’t comply, they severe ties with them. That’s not love. That’s arrogance.
Besides exceptions like the one described above, parental love is a blessing. Since we don’t choose our parents, we are just fortunate to have parents who love and care for us.
Our siblings are important people in our lives too. We grow up with them in the same house and we love them out of familiarity. For some people, their siblings turn out to be great friends, and for others, they don’t. But either way, we love our sisters and brothers because blood can’t go too far.
2. Romantic love
After parents, the most important relationship is our lives is that we share with our partner, or with partners, as the case in the society now. Romantic love is beautiful and unlike parents, we get to choose our partners. They are not given to us.
We feel drawn towards a person because we feel that we would be happy when we spend time with them. If we enjoy some time that we spend with them (called dating), we decide, to spend a lot of time with them (called marriage).
Now, romantic love has an additional component, which other forms of love, don’t. It is sexual in nature and sex is a corollary in love. If there is love, there is sex. If there is no love, there is no sex.
Romantic love is the most complex form of love. In spite of people dating and spending time with each other, so many marriages around the world end up in divorce. One may question if marriage itself is the right institution, but then there are couple who are really happy with each other in marriages. If one were to trust them, there is reason to believe that there are ways to make relationships happy in the long term.
The most important issue in long term relationships turns out to be compatibility, which is usually measured when people live together and experience each other’s behavior in different situations. When people value similar things, relationships work. When it turns out that the couple values different things individually, the relationship suffers.
Yes, this is a reminder about love. When people stop loving each other, each’s other happiness or pain stops bothering them. Therefore, it is important to note that the opposite of love is not hatred, it is indifference. This should be mentioned in quotes.
Think about it. Think about people you are not in love with. Think about people you were in love with. Their happiness or their sadness has ceased to bother you. When you were in love with them, it did bother you. You wanted to see them happy. Their pain caused you pain, but now, it doesn’t matter even if they live or they don’t. They are a distant memory. The opposite of love is indifference.
3. Love for our work
Now, most people in the world haven’t quite experienced this. I am quite fortunate that for a few years in my life, I have been able to do work that I love. I love to write. You can see that. I don’t only write this blog. I have written a few books, which are available on Amazon. I will write a few more over the course of the next decade. I am also a stand-up comedian and have performed across India and a bit internationally as a comedian. Although I am still on the journey and trying to make it work on scale, I enjoy it because I love these two pieces of work.
Like Steve Jobs said, your work will take a large portion of your life, so do not settle till you find something you love. He was right, and he was a genius, so we should try to follow his advice.
4. Love for friends
Love for friends is another form of love, we feel towards people we like. These are people who understand us, accept us and we like to spend time with them.
In most cases, besides exceptions where people have friends with benefits, love for friends is platonic and non-sexual. The great thing is about friends is that we can be free with them to discuss our personal and work lives.
Friendship is great since it has emotional distance. In personal lives, there is no emotional and physical distance, and there shouldn’t be. If there is, the relationship is dysfunctional. Friendships have emotional distance and that’s why they don’t threaten our existence. There is no reason, absolutely no reason to have friends who don’t understand you, because that’s the whole point of friendship.
Although, it is difficult to maintain friendships, they do mean a lot to life. Like Dale Carnegie said, to have a friend, be a friend.
4. Love for the world about us
Now, we live in a world where there are lot of other people beyond our colleagues, friends and family. Do we feel love for strangers?
Yes, we do. Why am I writing this blog? I am writing this because I want to make you guys happy. Do I know you guys? No. Are you strangers to me, and am I a stranger to you? Yes.
So, beyond the people in our lives, there is a world out there and the love we feel for that world is love. We love because we care. Not everybody does. Most people’s lives are limited to those of their family, friends and colleagues.
Those to my mind are the types of love. Now, I do believe there are a couple of underlying reasons why love works, or it doesn’t. There are two key reasons why relationships based on love succeed or fail (Of course, these reasons are not applicable to things you love).
Love is understanding. Do we care to understand the people we love? If we love them, there is every reason to try and understand why they do what they do. If we don’t understand people, we can’t quite love them, for we simply wouldn’t know what’s important to them.
A lot of relationships fail because of lack of understanding. People get so stuck up in their version of lives that they just don’t care to understand the other party involved, be it their partner, parents, siblings or friends.
Love cannot work without understanding.
Once we understand the motivations of people we love, the second most important step is acceptance. This is test of the relationship. If we can accept them as who they are, the relationship would work, or else, it will break. I do believe that most people who get into relationships, especially of the romantic sort, do make an effort to understand their partners.
However, they can’t find a way to accept them. People who value different things cannot accept each other. They just can’t find a way to change themselves enough, so as to make the relationship mutually loving. There are fundamental things about us that we can’t change, and that’s where compatibility becomes an issue, and lack of acceptance kills relationships.
So, what is love?
Thank you for reading.
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