What does it mean to be in love?


Fathoming what it means to be in love is an unsettling exploration. For one thing it is awkward to wonder whether one is in love at all.  Not to mention the prejudice that love is swamped in lachrymose and saccharin additives rendering it as sentimentally preposterous as a Hollywood fiction. Even without that bias, whenever the topic arises it is impossible to distinguish it from drama and storytelling. Seldom does its analysis approach anything as neutral as a discussion of one’s health or the weather. The mere mention of love inspires an outburst of maudlin overtures which invariably overtake a balanced view. There is besides an unmistakeable enthusiasm to label almost any confederacy one of love as though it were the quintessential approbation.

The most commonly accepted declaration of love is marriage or an ostensibly similar communion of some duration. These are society’s off-the-rack versions. Anything less is dismissively categorized as a dalliance for starry-eyed innocents or a fling prompted by lascivious motives. For people outside the orbit of the traditional definition love is illusive because there aren’t the trappings by which to assess the alliance. There is the danger of pressurizing the popular appurtenances of love for no other reason than to legitimize a partnership.

You might well ask why I even care to know what it means to be in love? Frankly I’m not certain I qualify. I felt an appraisal was justified. Considering my dim view of the exploited versions of love I am anxious to determine whether my perceived detachment from the heady atmosphere is warranted or merely the result of having been scandalized by the movie industry and the diamond merchants. Besides I’m not about to diminish the extraordinary value of friendship or even “marriage of convenience”. When it comes to human congress I don’t consider love the nec plus ultra.

For me love – if that is what I am in – has been a gradual awakening not an overwhelming plight. Generally I resisted the inclination, certainly not because of any aversion but because I didn’t want to sell the distinction short of what I imagined to be its ineffable characteristics.  Neither was I about to expropriate the baffling repute without entitlement.

It has taken me time to insinuate the strength of our relationship – twenty years to be exact. Because we are so obviously compatible I leaned in the direction of pragmatism – things like suitability, like-mindedness and harmony rather than what I thought to be exclusively the spiritual domain of love (wherein matters of practical application are  reputed to go out the window). Lately however I have stumbled on too many syrupy adages about love which strangely enough seem to apply to us. Be assured that the recognition of this condition is not a default.  There was never any reason to be dissatisfied with the initial characterization of the relationship. What however has changed is that almost in spite of myself I am developing a co-dependency which was hitherto unknown. This I perceive to be the critical juncture at which those schmaltzy platitudes about love take hold. I do however preserve stolid genuineness in this intrigue about what is means to be in love by clinging to the practical evocations of love, those everyday (and often quite unglamorous) gestures which demonstrate the care and concern one has for another. While this hardly dignifies being in love it may nonetheless be the very mettle of it.

No doubt every one of us has swooned to the intense but short-lived passion for another. It is normally the preserve of muddleheaded youth and as regularly dissipates. By contrast reflection upon love at my advanced age trumpets something purely clinical, some would say even engineered or calculated. But what it lacks in mystification it owns in substance. After all the case for love can be all the more compelling for the reason that it is so obscure; that is, considering the material one has to work with, it has to be love that keeps the relationship together!

What has finally put me over the top on this ticklish matter is what is popularly called “sympatico“, a hip term I interpret to mean more than mere sharing or bonding but rather what is called empathy, the ability to understand the feelings of another. Such a selfless facet distinguishes any relationship in my books and is worthy of being called love. Empathy promotes the fireworks of a relationship and transcends all other prerequisites. It’s the unadorned bottom line. It is resonance, dare I say “two hearts beating as one“.

Beyond drippiness, an analysis of love includes pointed commentary about generosity, understanding and dedication. These are not the derivatives of young love. Young love hasn’t normally the time to prove itself worthy of potentially tiresome traits. Authentication of those qualities on the battleground of daily living requires years, far wider opportunity than the narrow portal through which most youth venture. Small wonder the percolation of the idea has only recently arisen in my own mind. Recognition of love inspires profound sentiments which cannot be ignored. I’ll leave the graphics of romance to better minds than my own. I am content to acknowledge that old fogey love, though certainly not front-page material, may indeed exist.