When I asked this question to a couple who have been living together for 11 years, they said something along the following lines:
“Love is waking up next to your person and feeling the deepest, softest and most incomparably soothing kind of tranquillity that you’ve ever experienced in your life.
Love makes you feel safe.
It doesn’t matter whether only last night, you had been squabbling about what colour of curtains to get for your house, but the fact that you have a home with them, to begin with, is solace enough.
Love is home.”
But what about the love that has to traverse a thousand miles and perhaps a whole ocean to reach you every day? What about the love that doesn’t play by the rules of distance and time?
When I asked a friend of mine who is in his 15th month of being in a transatlantic, long-distance relationship with his girlfriend to define what love is, he said, “Love, to me, is waking up to 17 missed calls and 13 texts saying how much they missed you while you were asleep in a different time zone. That feeling of belonging to someone the very moment you open your eyes to start the day–the fact that your existence somehow transcends the boundaries of time, and goes beyond the bounds of physical presence and touch–if that’s not love, then what is?”
In reply to that, I said, “Alright Mr. Cheesy Romeo! We’ll see about that the next time you two get into a fight.”
In trying to define love a bit more constructively, I decided I’d take some help from the internet, and here’s what I found:
“Love is a set of emotions and behaviors characterized by intimacy, passion, and commitment. It involves care, closeness, protectiveness, attraction, affection, and trust. Love can vary in intensity and can change over time.”
Whew, now that’s a mouthful! The last line of this definition intrigued me. “Love can vary in intensity and change over time.” –this discloses the lesser-known fact, or to say more accurately, the very carefully curated illusion our society has been selling us all this time. What they don’t tell you is that love is simple and sweet, but loving, and choosing to continue loving is hard.
The married couple who seem like they have their love life all sorted even after living with each other for over 11 years know what it’s like to absolutely hate someone to their guts, to the point that the other person breathing next to you makes you want to tear off every single strand of hair on your scalp. To vouch for this, I asked my mum what it’s like being married to my dad for so long (their 30th wedding anniversary is coming up in a couple of months) and what exactly is the thread that holds them together even to this day–what is, according to her, the definition of love? The first thing she had to say was, “Love is… work.”
It’s not always rainbows and sunshine, but despite their (almost daily) bickering sessions about the most mundane of the things, I see them gossiping with each other about this and that on lazy, winter afternoons, curled up in a comfy blanket. I see their faces light up every time the dining table is full–my dad just bought a big fish (I’m sure fish is his one true love, even before my mum), my brother’s back home for the holidays and all 4 of us have sat down to have a meal together–and I think I see love. I see them holding grudges after a messy fight, yet somehow over the span of a few hours, they’re back to grumpily conversing about “family” things. Is that love, I wonder.
From what I gathered–love, to my mom, is the bond that we share, as a family, that is too sacred to break. Somehow, even in my parents’ weird incompatibilities, they have a mutual respect for this bond, and that is her definition of love.
Love, this year, came in a beautiful shade of black and white to me. Ivy. I found her, all lost and separated from the only thing she knew at a mere two weeks of her life–her mother’s love. I knew I had to save her, and that lightning-fast decision to rescue a tiny, shivering kitten from my sister’s house (where she wasn’t welcome), having no prior experience with keeping any pets, still makes me wonder in awe about that night. Had I not rescued her, I wouldn’t have experienced this adorable shade of love. The warm, soft feeling in my stomach every time I picked her up to feed her, every time I kept her close to my chest and hummed to put her to sleep, and every time I heard her comically teensy-weensy squeaks–I think that was love.
The definition of romantic love might be nuanced to every other individual; the bittersweet complexities are undoubtedly subjective. But this Valentine’s Day, let’s focus on the fact that love, in its truest, rawest essence, is not that complicated or that unattainable. Love comes in so many different shapes, sizes and forms that all we gotta do is look for love–whether it’s in the cosy home of a couple in their mid-thirties or the seemingly unbearable longing of two twenty-something-year-olds in “long-distance love.” It is love–in the invisible string that binds a family for 30 years and in the mewling of an innocent little fur-baby that tugs at the deepest corners of your heart.
Despite all the theories that Valentine’s day is nothing but an elaborate, corporate scam, isn’t it nice to have a day where you can ponder about love? Isn’t it mightily grounding to know that from giving a rose to your mum on Valentine’s Day and telling her how much you love her, to an elaborate gesture like proposing your lover in front of the Eiffel Tower–all these things have one painfully beautiful thing in common–and that’s love.