Defining Love

A quote that was extremely popular when I was growing up:

“If you love someone set him free. If he comes back to you, its yours; else it never was”

I was also enamored by the quote as a teenager and had it calligraphed on a chart paper plastered over the wall of my hostel room. This very quote seems childish and extremely flawed to me as does the ‘typical’ idea of love.

Each one of us has a different concept of love. This concept (as are other concepts) is defined by various aspects of nature and nurture (hereditary and environment). While there is not much one can do about the nature part of the equation, the environment is always something that one can inspect and evaluate.

Some factors that lead to our understanding of love include the relationships that we see around us while growing up, movies, television serials and books (this factor is probably extremely minimal for the current generation).

Here are some things I think are utterly wrong about the concept of love (the way I know it):

Love Does Not Grant You Ownership

Via Flickr/Alice Popkorn

Starting with this popular quote itself, it seems amusing to think that because you love someone, you have the power to set them free. Just because you love another does not mean that you own that person. Seriously, who are you to set them free?

Even if you think about it literally, the quote itself assumes that you have your loved one in a cage (literal or metaphorical) and that you are the one who is allowing the other person to leave. They are not a hot air balloon or a bird in a cage. Let’s not kid ourselves about this. If the person wants to leave, he/she will.

Additionally, if your loved one does come back, don’t assume that it is merely because they could not live without you and just had to spend the rest of their days with you. It may be a simple case of realizing that they will not find another who loves them, even when they thought they could. If you were thinking of romantic love up until now, do think about how this also applies to anyone you love; whether it is your child, your friend, your parents or anyone else.

So, neither is their freedom yours to take, not give up and it just may be the case that they are not coming back to you because they realized that you are their eternal love. See how flawed the quote seems now!

Expectations and Love

This is the tricky part! When you love someone, expectations come along as if they were a package deal. Its almost as if expectations are a free gift you get when you get love. The best thing is that you can refuse to take the free gift. But doing that is tough. Who wants to give up a free gift, however useless it might be?

Firstly, it is important to understand that expectations are not the most natural thing when you love someone. These two terms have become so inseparable that one assumes that it is natural to have expectations when you love someone. In a romantic relationship some expect bouquets and gifts, others expect to be provided for all the time. In a parent-child relationship some expect to be respected, while others expect obedience.

Over time ‘having expectations’ has become a bad thing. So, every time there is a mention of this word, there is instant denial of any expectation. Whether you have expectations from loved ones or not is something only you can ascertain for yourself with some serious introspection. Don’t fall into the trap of – ‘But that all want. Is it too much to ask?’ The answer is – ‘Yes, it is’!

When you finally reach the stage where you understand that expectation is not a natural corollary to love, you still need to put that in action. Execution can be tough, but you will get there if you keep checking yourself.

There are some that may argue that relationships don’t have any meaning if there is no expectation. If there are no expectations in a relationship, then it is like being with a stranger. A relationship is not defined by the expectations you have. At least it should not!  If you continue down this road, then they may (in all likelihood) convert a loved one into a stranger!

Romantic Love

While there are specific definitions of the mother-child love too, the romantic kind of love has seen the maximum abuse. It is portrayed in Hollywood and Bollywood movies in a melodramatic manner. In most cases it is a do-or-die situation. One cannot live without the other. One is seen to lose interest in all other things if love is not reciprocated. And the list goes one!

The movies are not the only ones to be held responsible for shaping the concept of love among us. Books (for those who read them) are also a big factor. Whether it is the English classics or Mills & Boons romantic books, the seed of undying love, love that lasts forever, love that is more important than anything else is sown in the minds of young undoubting people.

This is basically hormonal love sparked off by chemicals in the body. Something we all refer to and know as pheromones. It behooves an older person to understand the difference and help the younger generation (so fraught with the chaos that hormones cause) understand it too.

My Definition of Love

I personally find the concept of ‘like’ far easier to comprehend. It is far easier to ascertain if you like someone and the specific traits in someone that you like. It could also be that you like yourself more when you are with that person. For some reason ‘love’ has been given a status above that of ‘love’ even though most find it difficult to explain and that it has a different meaning for each one of us.

If we really need to define love and what it should or should not be it is probably ‘total acceptance’ of another in their entirety; something that is extremely difficult to achieve unless you are in a spiritual state of mind.

Towards the end, I have a couple if things that come in mind:

  1. Love is Acceptance – A compete acceptance of who the other person is with ‘no’ expectation to change whatsoever. In fact, it is also accepting the changes that the person may go through he or she develops.
  2. Love does not Suffocate – Love is not something that confines the object of your desire. It should be liberating.

What is ‘your’ definition of love? Do share!


    • It is a nice definition of love, I agree. What happens when something you do makes one you love happy and the other unhappy? Does one then have a priority list of who one loves more and who less?
      And taking a reference from the article ‘Are Selfless Actions Possible?’, what happens when the person you love is happy but you become unhappy in return? Does your own happiness mean nothing?
      I read this quote someplace – “Being of use and being used and two completely different things. One allows you to add value to others while the act simultaneously fulfills you too. It does not feel as if you are losing or giving away anything. The other drains you and leaves you feeling unappreciated, unhappy and sometimes even ill. Being used feels like a violation, while being of use feels purposeful. You will know the difference by how you feel. – Emily Maroutian


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