Today I want to reflect a bit on love. I don’t want to construe this as anything more than random thoughts on the topic, as I don’t want to get caught in the trap of trying to answer the nebulous question, “what is love?”, so please read with that caveat in mind.

First, let me clarify that I want to focus on romantic love today. This highlights a key fact about love: there are multiple types of love. A rough categorization might be love that is romantic, such as you might have for a spouse or partner, and love that is non-romantic, such as you might have for your parents or siblings. I’m sure we could find other kinds or split these two categories into many sub-categories, but for simplicity let’s stick with these two types for this discussion.

The type of love we have for family members is distinct from romantic love in at least one very important way: we typically do not choose who is in our family. We are born into these relationships, and the love develops as you grow up surrounded by your family. Because we do not choose these relationships, we tend to love our family unconditionally. We don’t have to like our parents or siblings in order to love them, and even if we don’t get along, we will take care of each other when we need help.

In contrast to our lack of choice in our family members, we actively choose our romantic partners. In fact, the people we choose to love romantically are people that we inevitably want to add to our family. But because we get to choose who we want to love in this way, we typically have to like them first. If you were adding someone to your family, why would you ever pick someone that you don’t like, or don’t trust? Because we have this condition for loving romantically, it is often the case that our bonds toward our significant others becomes stronger than our bond toward our family. You have a duty to love your family, but you have a choice to love your significant other, and that choice makes that love more unique and exclusive.

Of course, just liking and trusting someone doesn’t necessarily mean you will also love them. We can like and trust close friends while having no romantic feelings toward them (one could argue that friendship is a sub-category of non-romantic love). What, then, allows a person to make the leap from a close friend to something more? (I make the assumption here that your significant other is also your friend on some level because I think they really should be, since in addition to loving them we also have to get along with them.) I believe the only missing component is a mutual attraction.

The word “attraction” of course refers not only to a physical attraction, but to a mental and emotional attraction. People often focus on the physical first, but those that neglect the mental and emotional are setting themselves up for failure. To me, the mental and emotional aspects of attraction boil down to values, or the things that govern how we live our lives. We derive our values from many different places: our upbringing, our life experiences, our friends and family, and our religion. In reality, though, the sources of our values tend much less important to a relationship than the values themselves. For example, if you value being good to others because your parents taught it to you and your significant other values it because their religion preaches it, the result the same. People often focus on the sources of their values as a point of conflict, but no matter if your parents are rich or poor, or you are religious or not, or you grew up on a rural farm or an urban jungle, if you came out sharing values with your significant other, that is the important result that can drive your mutual attraction.

Thank you for reading my post today. Hopefully you found it an interesting read. You can share your thoughts on it by commenting below.

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