Valentine’s Day falls exactly in the middle of February, sometimes brightening up a bleak winter month, sometimes slipping past us largely unnoticed. Whether or not we have an official or a prospective romantic love interest, thinking about and choosing to operate in love can warm and brighten any day.
What is love, anyway? While many might define love as a feeling, it is so much more than an emotion, and very definitely more than physical attraction.
While love usually does involve feelings of affection and desire, it doesn’t depend on emotions and perseveres in relationships even when there are challenges, difficulties, or disappointments. Love is so much more than just “having feelings” for someone—that’s pretty easy to do!
The supercharged emotions we tend to feel at the beginning of a relationship usually fade but true love lasts forever. Real and lasting love is founded on unconditional commitment, the kind of love a parent gives to child, or that life partners give to each other.
Love involves a complete, unconditional acceptance of a whole person. This includes even aspects or habits we may find difficult or wish were different. Unconditional acceptance does not mean we can’t request changes, or don’t work together on refining and growing relationships. This seems to work best when we work more on ourselves than on the other person!
Loving relationships thrive on communication that is both honest and kind. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be right or wanting to be in control, both of which hinder love and respect for the other person or people.
Authentic love usually involves actions for the good of those we love, unless a person is unable to help because their health or other situations hold them back. The action aspect of love can be literally thousands of things as lifelong as working every day to provide for a family’s needs or making sure a child makes it through school successfully. Love can also be shown in small, simple ways like making soup, sending an encouraging message to someone, or rubbing an aching back.
Living in a state of love is the best way to live as it creates joy for both us and those we love. Choosing to love can light up any day of any life. Staying in a state of love is a decision of the will and doesn’t depend on how we’re feeling.
Love chooses to trust and to be trustworthy. Love does not let us spew negative words and emotions. Love thrives on kindness and respect. Love cares for others and doesn’t have a self-centered way of looking at relationships.
Love protects us from the emotional cancer of self-centeredness. As we discipline our naturally selfish selves to think of others’ needs, perspectives and dreams, we grow up and out instead of becoming ingrown internally. Love makes us truly rich!
Liz Adam is a life coach and author living in Winnipeg.