Valentine’s Day is a day that inspires almost as much holiday controversy as the annual “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas” debacle. It is a day that is supposedly all about love and all different types of love. But recently, it seems that it has become much more about romantic love or even just romantic interests rather than love in general.
When I receive valentines from family and friends, it always makes me smile to think of the amazing people I have in my life, people that have chosen to love me unconditionally without any expectation of what I should be or do.
I have no problem gushing my undying affections to my family and my good friends. So why is it so hard to articulate romantic love?
How can you profess love for someone when you don’t even know what love is in the first place? Can you ever define this elusive emotion that Plato described as a grave mental illness?
Just as many Alaska Native cultures have many words for snow, the Greek have three different words for love. “Eros” is Greek for a passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. “Philia” is the Greek word for friendly love, and “agape” is used to illustrate a self-sacrificing, pure love. Expressing they way we feel for our loved ones verbally would be a hell of a lot easier if the English language afforded us such luxuries.
Lovers who are obnoxiously infatuated with one another and completely intertwined with their significant others have been unable to define love for me. I asked around and the general answer I got was a long silence and then “Hmmm . I’m not really sure.”
After more probing I got some tentative answers. For some, it is simply commitment, but to others it is the sexual feelings that separate romantic love from friendly love.
Those who have been together for many years have told me it is the lifetime commitment that makes their love grow richer and deeper with each passing year.
I have always fantasized about a passionate, love-at-first-sight, soul-mate kind of love, not something that feels as if it can be boiled down to a contract. All I know is that love must be the most powerful of all emotions if it can drive a person to pledge their entire being to one person for a lifetime and to feel thrilled and eager at the prospect.
Philosophers, poets and lovers have attempted to define love since time began, and there are countless definitions, but all of them are lacking in some way.
The conclusion I have reached is that romantic love is something that undergoes an amazing metamorphosis. Love is one thing the first moment you feel it and something else entirely 25 years later. Part of the beauty of love lies in its ability to change with people and with time.
This metamorphosis can begin in friendship or love at first sight, though what matters most is not how it began, but how it ends, or if it ends at all.