Love and all its complexities
What is love?
A question that can’t be answered in a single sentence.
Not all love is the same. From romantic to familial and even platonic, love presents itself in different forms, depending on the nature of the relationship.
There are different types of love, different ways of experiencing love and different ways of giving and receiving love. Are you overwhelmed just thinking about it? I sure am.
Love is powerful, vulnerable, painful, fulfilling, beautiful, dangerous, and raw. It both strengthens and weakens its subjects.
Love is a force to be reckoned with.
If you asked the next person how they define love, chances are, their perspective of love would differ from yours. Our understanding of love is shaped by our experiences, it’s an elixir of nature and nurture.
Love is complex. It’s a multilayered, multidimensional concept that no human being will ever fully understand.
Defining love is a challenge. It’s no easy task, yet we can try.
The four loves
Renowned author, C.S Lewis, defines love in four categories in his book ‘The Four Loves’. The book explores the nature of love from a Christian and philosophical perspective through thought experiments. The four types of love described by C.S. Lewis are based on the four Greek words for love:
Storge (empathy bond) – the love that occurs between family members such as between a parent and a child. This type of love happens where people relate to one another in familiar ways, it’s sometimes called ‘familial love’.
Philia (friend bond) – this love is between friends, people who share common values, interests or activities. C.S. Lewis calls this love a “higher-level love because it is freely chosen”.
Eros (romantic love) – this is the equivalent of “being in love”, not to be mistaken with lust. This love can cause a person to feel vulnerable and can leave just as quickly as it came.
Agape (unconditional love) – love that remains regardless of circumstances and recognised as the greatest of the four loves; the love of God.
The complexity of love doesn’t just lie in its definition, but also in its experience.
What does love feel like?
For many, love feels like the butterflies that flutter freely in your belly upon sighting. It feels like the sudden temperature rise in proximity. It feels like the beat your heart skipped in tragedy. It feels like the adrenalin rushing through your flesh in excitement.
You and I experience love in different ways. Different, yet the same.
Biology has a vital role to play when it comes to how people experience love. For example, when we feel romantic (eros) love for another, the brain regions associated with reward and pleasure release chemicals (like oxytocin and dopamine) that create feelings of happiness.
How we respond to these feelings – how we love – is product of our personality, upbringing, and past experiences. Love looks different for each one of us.
What does love look like?
Love is more than a feeling – it’s an action.
Love is taking someone’s hand, even if you’re not naturally physically affectionate.
Love is listening to a person’s struggles after a long, tiring day.
Love is spending a day with another, despite your overcrowded schedule.
Love is being vulnerable, though afraid of being hurt.
Love is speaking the truth, even if they don’t want to hear it.
As humans, we give and receive love in various ways. Learning to love in a language that others can receive is a powerful tool to navigate through love and all its complexities.
Oyelola is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She works closely with the financial services, education and not-for-profit industries, writing website content, blogs, business communications and customer success stories. When not writing for clients, Oyelola provides insights on writing, wealth and work on her Phrased with Purpose blog and shares her faith journey on her personal blog, He Speaks, I Write.