It is difficult to define love because people’s perception of love differs. Often, people confuse lust, attraction, and companionship as real love. But these are in the domain of romantic love. Also, that every feeling or emotion is labeled love makes it difficult to differentiate between the two.
I wrote a book on relationships, titled Concepts of Love. Before I started writing the book, I went out to sample opinions on what love is. I discovered the definition of love is as varied as the number of individuals asked. People defined love based on their feelings, beliefs, experiences, and even intellectual perspectives. One definition of love I gave in the book is: Love is an emotive expression of our humanity, our inner self, and our heart desires. To love and be loved is unavoidably a human phenomenon. We all need love, we want to love. The feeling to love, to give love has been there since creation. Before my mother’s generation, people didn’t marry because of their feelings for one another. Feelings didn’t matter in the olden days. Families arranged marriages, it was an economic or political arrangement designed to promote the survival and prosperity of clans and families.
It was a duty, not something you engage for personal fulfillment or emotional pleasure. Sex was a biological function, engaged in for procreation. However, along the line, you’re expected to develop trust, understanding, intimacy with each other to make the marriage work. It wasn’t until the industrial age that things changed. When romance was added as a prerequisite for a relationship/marriage, it changed the dynamism of love and also our perception and reception of love. That is when the term real love and romantic love came into existence.
In one of my earlier articles titled, “Is Love Enough to Sustain a Relationship?” I talked about real love and romantic love and some people asked me to differentiate between the two, hence this month’s topic.
Characteristics of Real Love
Real love is a constant commitment to a person regardless of present circumstances. It’s a constant commitment to a person no matter their quirks, character traits, emotional baggage, and flaws. A person who will rely on you, just as you will rely on them. A person who will always please you or make you feel good. It’s dealing with another person’s insecurities and fears even when your own issues are just beside you.
Real love is not temporary, it is deep, abiding, a love impervious to emotional whims or caprices. It is a fusion of two hearts to share a life of togetherness. Real love is beyond conditions, cons, and pros. It’s all-encompassing. Real love is making your partner’s happiness your priority. It is not about finding your happiness in them. Rather, it’s sharing your happiness with them. Real love is an exotic flower that requires hard work to keep it from withering and dying off. It requires work to keep it in blossom and fresh. Work hard every day, to shape yourself, appear attractive, become a better you. Work hard to improve your feelings, be affectionate. This will draw you closer to your partner. Work hard to become wiser, for sound judgment, and stronger to bear the unbearable sacrifices that come with truly loving a person. Real love is learning to adjust yourself and be in sync with your partner. He or she does the same. Real love will not require obligatory sacrifices, cajoled or forced changes. All the changes should be product of affection and real love for your partner.
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Real love incorporates other similar feelings such as sincerity, trust, understanding, intimacy, the desire to help each other, mutual feelings, and mutual sympathy. It is the ability and willingness to go into a relationship with someone with no fear of being rejected, ridiculed, or judged. Love is natural and is involuntary because it is a feeling that one cannot stop. Real love is when you don’t know the reason you love a person. There is no reason for loving someone. Real love is unconditional. Real love is beyond jealousy, hatred and insecurity. Real love is without expectation; it is not tied to time, seasons or moments. It is something that grows over time, not a fleeting feeling to be thrown around, handed out or tossed aside when it no longer suits.
When you truly love someone, you expect nothing from him/her beside loving you back. Real love is a bond with another that goes deeper than affection, attraction, lust, or friendship. It’s a mutual expression of respect, trust, honesty, integrity, intimacy, connection, and togetherness. Real love is not a gesture, but something best experienced through commitment, devotion, loyalty, and faith. Real love is a connection between two souls; it connects the souls to a deeper level. Real love is in your subconscious, in your soul. Real love cannot be restricted. It flows from the inside between two souls, not between two bodies. Real love is getting use to someone knowing their shortcomings, their knacks, idiosyncrasies and flaws and still wanting to be there for them, caring for their wellbeing, their success, grieving with them when they’re sad, celebrating with them when they’re happy. Real love is respecting your partner after knowing their not-so-glamorous past life.
Real love is consistent, grounded, unwavering and has more to do with a deep sense of conviction than mere feelings. Real love won’t waver or wither because your partner made a mistake or commit what you considered a social faux pas. It forgives wrongs and mistakes. It’s generous and has genuine intentions. Real love is a complete acceptance of a person including flaws and loving them for what they are. You love the person as they are without changing them. You love the person for what they are and not for any single quality. Real love does not need a reason(s) to end a relationship. Whenever hurdles or problems arise it finds reason(s) to continue and make it last forever. That’s real love. It is not an emotion or feeling; it is an act of will. Real love is beyond material and physical boundaries. It doesn’t need any external force to make it work.
Real love is like pure water, (not our sachet water) it is not sensational, it is not sentimental; it is not intoxicating; you don’t get high from drinking pure water. Real love is simple, pure, transparent, and life giving like pure water. Love is not always simple or exciting, but it’s beautiful, is satisfying and meaningful. It brings true happiness, not just a series of highs as in romantic love.
Characteristics of Romantic Love
Romantic love is when romance is added to love. What is romance? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, romance is to try to influence or curry favour with, especially by lavishing personal attention, gift, or flattery. Romanticise is to glamorise, glorify, idealise: having no basis in fact; imaginary; impractical in conception or plan; visionary marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealised. It shows that we use the word “romantic” for something that is unrealistic. That’s why romantic love is most times unpractical and unrealistic. People are not so realistic when they’re in the throes of romantic love, they idealised love and their partner. An apotheosis no one can live up to. When the glittery, the appeal and the vision wear off and the reality check sets in, the relationship goes up in smoke.
Romantic love is an instant attraction that craves physical affection. It is a fall for the body not for the soul as in real love. Attraction is about admiring the person, being struck by someone’s physical appearance, some feature or superficial quality. Loving the person for his/her beauty and how he/she makes you feel. Once that romanticised quality or feeling is gone, the love goes too. In the beginning, romantic love is intense and makes one act irrationally or ‘crazy’, like someone high on drugs or alcohol. It is always associated with thrill, pleasure, excitement, and exhilaration. But these intoxicating feelings are ephemeral.
Romantic love is a deciduous relationship. Romantic love has hidden desire, is possessive. With time such feelings like jealousy, impatience, misunderstanding, lust, discord and strife, takes over the affair. This is because romantic love is all about physical qualities and desires that fade with time. Romantic love holds grudges, simple mistakes or misunderstanding can break the relationship. Negative things are easily seen and pointed out. In romantic love, a person’s flaws will make you rethink your decision about the relationship. Romantic love comes with huge baggage of expectations, the reason it requires an outward expression and gestures like an exchange of gifts, flowers, or dinner at intimate places. That’s why Valentine’s Day is important to romantic lovers.
In romantic love “I love you” is a common phase with no deep meaning. Romantic love is like a fairy tale, we all crave the ‘happily ever-after’ fantasy. Once the excitement and exhilaration wears off, and we’re back to reality, we want out. These are clear discrepancies between real love and romantic love, some people mistake one for the other. Many people prefer romantic love to the reality of real love; it’s more glamorous to appear connected to someone than to actually feel connected to them.