Defining Love – Part II – When Like Isn’t Enough

If you have not done so, please feel free to read “Defining Love – Part I – Sex ≠ Love” previously posted.

Now that we have separated the emotional concept of “love” from the physical act of “sex”, we can hopefully move forward with defining love. Let’s start by understanding why we need to define this most common of words.

As stated previously, “love” is one of the most commonly used words and the least understood. And when I say commonly used, I should really being saying overly used. We use it to express everything from mild amusement to undying commitment. We often say “love” because the word “like” just doesn’t seem to convey the depth of our perceived feelings. We say things like, “I love chocolate” or “I love Desperate Housewives” or “I love how champagne tickles me nose”. Any of these expressions of how much we enjoy something could just as easily use the word “like”. And truthfully, it would be closer to what we are actually trying to convey. We use “love” synonymously to represent almost any level of enjoyment. There are other vocabulary options to reflect this fondness of things, i.e.: adore, enjoy, appreciate, revel in, crave, need, etc. But somehow we choose to often use the word that also has the responsibility to convey our deepest emotional connection. We place a preponderance of meanings on this poor little word. When given in context, we expect the recipient to readily discern the depth of our emotion. We assume our listeners or readers fully understand that we are not emotionally connected to the chocolate bar we “love” (Okay, for someone women this will be a bad example, but you get the concept).

In fact, we give it such breadth of meaning that we can actually use it in context to represent two different levels of emotion in the same sentence, as in “I love him, but I am not in love with him”. Here, being used in context, must people will discern that you have some genuine care or concern for the person, but are not romantically, physically, or emotionally committed to them. It gets even worse when we say, “I love him, but I don’t love love him”. And again, even in writing which permits no telltale inflection or accentuation, we understand the same concept of concern versus romantic attachment. As someone who adores language on some many levels, I still find this somewhat amazing. You never hear someone saying,” I hate you, but I don’t hate hate you”. It would appear that in the negative, just one iteration seems to suffice to convey our feelings. I would post Webster’s definition to give prime example of all the meanings we place on this one word, but you just don’t have that kind of time, believe me. It runs the gambit from copulation to a tennis score. When you tell someone you “love” them and your heart-felt affection or adoration is not met with what you would expect as a response, it is possible that they simply picked some other meaning than the one you intended.

So with all that these four little letters can possibly mean, how can we be at all surprised that it rarely expresses what we are truly trying to say? How can we expect this one word to express so many subtle shades of affection? Or, more importantly, how can we expect the listener or reader to accurately give it its proper weight when you use it so flippantly?

The truth is we can’t. Without judicious use, we leave our meaning to be taken differently, and often inaccurately, by each individual based on their insight and understanding of the context in which it is given. Much as diamonds are to other rare gems, or a reserve stock is to other fine wines, it is the rarity of them that helps to project their importance. They are special because they are limited. We must teach ourselves to save the word “love” for the sole purpose of expressing attachment or adoration of other animals. If you are not expressing an emotional attachment to another person or pet, just pick another word. I promise the person you are talking to will still get the idea. “Crave” your chocolate, “enjoy” your TV show, “like” your tiny bubbles, but “love” each other.

Stayed tuned for next in the series: Defining Love – Part III – Which Love Is This?

© 2012  Commonsensibly Speaking ~ Brad Osborne

4 Responses to “Defining Love – Part II – When Like Isn’t Enough”
  1. Another good post and one worth waiting for! Keep up the good writing…and don’t mess with my love for that chocolate bar!! 🙂

  2. anticsofaserialdater says:

    I agree with Natasha, another good post AND never get between a woman and her chocolate bar.

    The over-use of the word “love” is a tough nut to crack. First, one would need to probably begin with advertisers; convince them to lay-off the “L” word and work your way down from there. Good luck with that.

    On the other hand, regardless of whether you start a movement to sanctify the word or not, it is my opinion that one would still need to define it when using it in a relationship. One person’s love is another’s “I like you bunches but not enough to spend the rest of my life with you”. At what point would the words “I love you” be allowed. To take it out of the English language on a day-to-day basis and use it only in terms of a sacred relationship, one would need to define the word so specifically it would almost give it another definition.

    In other words, if I stopped using the word love to describe my adoration of chocolate, and only used it to describe my feelings for another person or animal (thanks for remembering them, btw), there will still be confusion as to my specific meaning by the other person. Do I love you enough to be monogamous? Or enough to spend the rest of my life with you? Or is it sooo much that I would jump in front of a bus for you? It will forever be a confusing word (and concept, I might add) because as with most things relationship, it’s perception and it needs to be clarified with specific conversations.

    I wholeheartedly agree that it is overused. I caught my daughter saying it to her first “boyfriend” on the phone (with whom she had never spent anytime alone) and I about lost my shit. I yelled at her saying she was too young to be saying those words to a boy and that she didn’t even know what it meant, etc., etc., etc. Overreaction? You tell me. Later, I felt guilty as hell yelling at her use of a word that wasn’t even a swear word! She was trying to make someone feel good and that’s how she chose to do it. Was she wrong? I have no idea.

    As for me, I will stick with my favorite word in the English language: the “F” word which is even more versatile and emotion-provoking than the “L” word. But then, you know how I love to shock people.

    • Brad Osborne says:

      Again, such a insightful response and it is greatly apprecaited. I enjoy your ability to make me think and consider a larger perspective of the topics I have covered. We may never subdue the overuse of the word, but I do hope to bring its importance to light in the hopes that we will use it with a greater amount of authenticity and heart-felt emotion. Thansk for reading and sharing my work. You are a great friend!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: