Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Meaning of Love

Romance writers – that’s what we are, what we call ourselves. I looked around the room during the luncheon last Saturday, at the readers and the writers, and a thought struck me. All these people are here because they like reading and writing romance novels. And what is at the root of all those novels? LOVE. But how do we define love? What is it? What does it mean to all of us? What causes humans to lose all sanity and all reason to find that emotion? WHAT IS LOVE?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, love, when used as a noun, is (1) strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties – a mother’s love (2) attraction based on sexual desire – affection and tenderness felt by lovers. When love is used as a verb it is defined as (1) to hold dear as in cherish (2) to feel a lover’s passion, devotion or tenderness for. But what does all that mean? How do we, as writers, convey what love is between the heroine and the hero? How do we tell the reader those thoughts so that she/he can understand the romance, the feelings, the overall need to be with that one human being which will make the characters complete? We struggle to write down those feelings and let the reader know that these two people are meant for each other, through all adversity and conflict. But what does it truly mean when they say “I love you” ?

The thought intrigued me. I think that the feelings and yearnings behind the emotion are intangible passions which are felt differently by different people. That is what makes love. Aristotle captured the true definition, for me, in one sentence: Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies. The Ying and the Yang of each other. Without one the other is incomplete. The irresistible need exists in both people to be with the other, to fulfill each other and become one soul. So there you have it, my definition of love. But how do we write that? How do we convey that compulsion and explain it to our readers? It is a hard process.

In my search for the definition of love, I looked at many quotes, trying to find meaning in other people’s words. How did they define it? Here are a few which spoke to me:

When you love a man, he becomes more than a body. His physical limbs expand, and his outline recedes, vanishes. He is rich and sweet and right. He is part of the world, the atmosphere, the blue sky and the blue water. - Gwendolyn Brooks

For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul. – Judy Garland

Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired. – Robert Frost

I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

And the one that I think captures the essence of love –

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So how do you define love? What do you think makes you love one person and not another? Do you think it’s as Aristotle says, the unification of one soul split between two people? Tell me your thoughts on what defines LOVE.


  1. I think that romantic love starts it all... but to show it on the page is most difficult. I remember attending a workshop about how to build a H/H relationship from Lust to Love by Tami Cowden. I still have the worksheet taped on my wall above my desk. I build respect where there might not have been any. I build trust. I build love upon those elements. So How do I show these things? Through lots and lots of revisions LOL.

    Great post!


  2. In my classes with teens, I always tell them that love wants the highest and best for the other person. That love is willing to wait. Love is definitely 1 Corinthians 13!

    Great post.

  3. I know what you mean Christine! Lots of revisions! I think you hit upon a point - romantic love. I guess that is where you sit and moon over the person, thinking about them and then finally connecting. It's the love that comes after that, the true love, which is built on respect and trust. I find it so hard to convey that thought and you seemed to have hit the nail on the head.

    Pat, you are right. Love wants the best for the other person, no matter the cost to you. It means everything. Love never fails!!

  4. I don't have a definition, but I have this to say about love in retrospect. People try to reinvent what they felt in the past. If you think you are in love, you are. You might be fooling yourself about his faults and character, but if you feel love, it's love. Later on, saying, "I wasn't in love. I just thought I was," doesn't change it. I'm not saying it's love that would have lasted. I'm not saying it was healthy love.

  5. I understand Jean. I guess we all tell ourselves what we think is love and then we believe it. But I think that sometimes, in a few instances, there really are soul-mates, like you and the Guy. Something that is meant to be just because it is right.

  6. Ah, love! The greatest emotion in existence. How can we not love, love. ;)

    For me love is the joining of two into one. Love is so powerful it can physically manifest itself between two souls by a locked gaze from across the room. The charge between two souls that arches beyond what is seen. It is the unseen hand caressing the heart, building the bridge that will forever link two bodies.

    Ah, love! How do I love thee? To be in love is to know love, is to be love, is to show love and grow love. Love incompasses all things known to man. Without love there can be no hate, no sense of loss, no immeasurable joy. Love is love because we cannot exist without it.

    This is why I write about love. It is the greatest force on earth. People die for it everyday. People sacrifice much to procure it. Harness that kind of love and no book, no relationship, no community can fail. ;)

    Excellent post, Cheryl!

  7. I don't think love has anything to do with souls splitting. Maybe I am just squeamish but that sounds messy. I want my own soul,maybe that is selfish of me...in fact maybe that is why I am still single because I am not really very romantic.

    Pat, I really like your definition of love!

    1. "I don't think love has anything to do with souls splitting."

      Aristotle's definition has nothing to do with souls "splitting"! You have misunderstood the point.

  8. Kathy, such poetry! Yes, love can physically manifest itself. Without Love, you are right, we would have no existence. It is the core of our beings.

    Aw, Stephanie, you are romantic! Your writing shows it! And as for the soul splitting being messy, well, hadn't really thought about that.

  9. Ah, love. If it were merely a feeling, most of us would be doomed.

    In the last decade or so of rolling the idea around in my head, I've come to the conclusion that love is a verb. It's something human beings have the ability (and sometimes the responsibility) to choose, even when they're not feeling the warm fuzzies that preferably accompany it. Call me a logical romantic. ...is that an oxymoron? >.>

    I've also come to the conclusion that love is consistently at war with my narcissistic nature. I was glad you pointed out the love chapter of Corinthians, as that has become my barometer for determining if my behavior is lining up with my ideal. (I may just have to get it tattooed on me someday. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is whiny and imbued with the attention span of a squirrel. >.>)

    ~Angela Blount

  10. I agree that love, the real romantic kind, has a magic ingredient aside from lust. It is positively impossible to define with any kind of adequacy and yet we all know it when we see it and feel it. I loved your quotes and posted a poem that for me defines romantic love on my blog by Sage Francis. I have the link here, if you are interested. LOVED THIS POST!

  11. I believe love is a force. It's what drives us everyday, that feeling that you don't want to go to work and once there you want time to fly just so you can come home and hear about his day. Cook dinner and laugh cry over a dumb movie neither of you really wants to watch but there's nothing else on and you don't want to end the night yet so you crawl you on the sofa and so you set there watching that dumb movie.
    I don't feel there really is a way to define love. Those that say they fall out of love are lieing to themselves and other. You can never truly fall out of love, the question's are. Where you ever in love to begain with or was it something else? and How hard are you willing to fight to keep what you have, or work to keep the love a live.
    Love is a need a desire to put the other before yourself in all thing's. What movie to watch, who orders take out, who does the dishes. Where your going to build roots together. Then if you each are truly putting the other first then everything will work out. But if you can't do that then there was never love to begain with.