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Author Topic: Is it love, or is it....?
Heather
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How do you distinguish between love and other emotions?

Pick any or all of the following below, and talk about how you conceptualize/tell the difference.

What is the difference between love and ______?

• infatuation
• being "in love"
• romance
• sexual attraction/desire
• jealousy


(Adapted from an activity in It's All One, the International Sexuality and HIV Curriculum Working Group, 2009)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Animica
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Love and Infatuation: I think the difference here is that when we're infatuated, we tend to not see many of our partner's flaws, and, given that infatuation usually happens during the first months or perhaps even a few years of a relationship (it depends on the people), one might be hiding some of our own flaws because we want to impress the other person. Infatuation seems like being on cloud nine. I think love, on the other hand, is more down-to-earth. We start seeing each other's flaws and accepting each other as we are. We can openly communicate our feelings (ideally), and we start feeling more at ease with our partner.

Love and Jealousy: I believe jealousy is about wanting to control the other person, and making him/her act like you want him/her to, or going over the top for something normal, like going out with friends. Too much jealousy (because I believe that most of us are at least slightly jealous) can be the cause of an unhealthy relationship, among, of course, other things. Love to me, is freer, because just as we accept each other's flaws, we start accepting our partner's interests (even if we don't like or agree with them) and their need for space and alone time.

If anything here offends anyone, sorry, it wasn't my intention. Feel free to tell me though.

I'll be back to post more if I'm not busy later, and if I can think of a decent answer. [Razz]

[ 09-13-2010, 10:04 AM: Message edited by: Animica ]

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evilstrawberry
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I see love as a huge mix of things for me. When I think "Love," I think respect and compassion, trust, care, equality, communication, openness, fearlessness, strength, and a lot of other things that I could probably spend all day writing about. There are also a lot of things about that I could spend all day trying to write about and never be able to put into words.

Infatuation makes me think obsession, (healthy or not), and an extreme interest in having that someone/something around in your life. When I think infatuation, I think crushes, first days/weeks of a relationship, and in my mind, something shorter-term. I'm not sure if infatuation and love can occur simultaneously, since in my opinion of their respective meanings, they contradict each other. Infatuation is needy and draining, and while love “needs” as well, it’s more of a give and receive relationship, where no one is drained because both people exert equal energy towards one another.

Likewise, Jealousy is about ownership. Jealousy seeks to possess and control. Love is so multifaceted, but I think of jealousy as singular: jealousy wants to be the one and only. I think sometimes people can mistake infatuation/jealous for love, but at least in my experiences, neither can be healthy for the long term.

One of my past relationships partners (I still struggle in my mind to find an adequate noun for him that causes the least retching) ended up teaching me a lot about what love was NOT, and control, possession, and obsession are definitely on that list. Contrasting his behaviour with my current relationship, it’s such a striking difference.

Current boy and I spend oodles of time together, yet it is never forced, it never feels like too much. We also spend a lot of time apart as well, for classes and other activities. And that’s just how it is, it is never a question that we will go off and have our own lives. We don’t need the other’s validation to do so. We also are extremely communicative and can discuss past relationships/sexual partners without anyone freaking out.

Romance makes me think of rose petals and candles. I think of it as just a flowery word that often gets tagged on with love(i.e “romantic love”), but I’m not really sure what to make of it. I guess I just think of it as a modifier for the word love that specifies a partnered, sexual love, rather than an affinity love for, say, pizza, or a familial love.

Being “in love” is a toughie. I think when a “romantic” love fades or changes, people often use it as a blow-softener: “I still “love” you, but I’m not “in love” with you anymore.” It’s kind of a cop out to just say what a person really feels or has changed their feelings on, because those two phrases are, as this post can likely demonstrate, so up to interpretation. In love can mean anything, really. That’s probably why I have always felt uncomfortable using it. You can be in love, infatuated with an idea, you can be in love “romantic love” with a person, but what does that mean different than just “I love you” ? I have no idea. People do weird things with words sometimes.
/rambling opinion

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bump on a log
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All of what I say below is entirely my experience and wholly subjective...

Common-or-garden love doesn't tend to have strong physical symptoms except a feeling of warmth at the heart etc. I find that physical symptoms come with being in love: at the least, a jumping heart and butterflies in the stomach; more if it's more intense. When I was desperately in love in high school, I started shaking when I saw my beloved, I couldn't sleep for thinking of her, when I did sleep I dreamed of her, I lost much of my appetite and consequently lost weight.

When someone you're newly in love with isn't around you feel like all the colour has gone out of everything. I suppose that can be part of being infatuated, too, though. If you're infatuated, you think someone's great and get a high from being around them, but there are specific feelings that go with actually being in love: a leaning towards possessiveness; a deep tenderness that makes you want to give the beloved everything they want. I once sat for an hour watching my high school love sleep and it remains one of the happiest memories of my life. I felt as though I could have gone on watching her forever. I haven't felt nearly that strongly about the objects of passing infatuations. And when I'm in love I just want, very badly, to put my arm around the beloved when they're sitting next to me, to the point where I worry about being able to restrain myself from doing it. I just want to hold them.

Jealousy is a difficult one. I have found that specifically sexual jealousy and more general jealousy are different feelings for me. When I saw my high school love sitting with her boyfriend I felt a lot of things, but mainly a compound of sadness and anger: jealousy. When I saw them dancing in a sexual way I had a different emotion, not a compound emotion but a simpler, more direct one. Physically I felt hot, as in anger, but heavy, not light as in anger. The physical manifestations of sexual as opposed to common-or-garden jealousy can be intense. During my worst fit of it I saw red, a reddish-brown haze at the edges of my vision, and later threw up.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention the goofy grin. When I was around my high school love in good circumstances -- i.e. we were hanging out and having fun and I could count on more time with her soon -- I was so happy I just could not stop smiling my head off, and I became worried people would think something was wrong with me.

[ 04-22-2011, 11:35 PM: Message edited by: bump on a log ]

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bump on a log
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Have thought about this some more...There are always going to be things about other people that you like and things you don't. In my experience, if you're infatuated/crushing, you are aware of both sets of things, but you concentrate on the things you like. If you love somebody, you think about both sets of things, but love the whole person anyway, love even the things that you dislike about them, even when they're driving you crazy. If you're in love, everything about the person seems wonderful, even the things that get on your nerves; like in that sonnet of Shakespeare's: "Thou mak'st faults graces that to thee resort." If I have a crush, or an I-want-to-be-pals crush, I can say: I like this person because of this and this and this. If I am in love, I can only quote Montaigne: "If pressed to say why I loved him, I feel it can only be explained by replying: 'Because it was he; because it was me.' "

Also, when you're getting to know somebody there are still a lot of things about them you don't know. For me, falling in love happens at the point when you take a leap of faith, invest yourself emotionally in the person to the point where you're emotionally comitted to loving, on principle as it were, not only everything you know about them but also all the things about them that you haven't found out yet.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell the glow of strong sexual attraction apart from the glow of a crush, but being a daydreamer I find it helps to analyse my daydreams: how do I picture myself with this person? Is it just sex I think of, or is it hanging out as well / instead?

[ 04-23-2011, 06:25 PM: Message edited by: bump on a log ]

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bump on a log
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I think I'll resort to quoting from some far better writers than I about the often-indescribable experience of being in love.

Mary Renault, I find, describes it particularly well. This is from her first novel, Purposes of Love. One character is realising that another is in love with her, and describing his feelings to herself: "She knew herself the centre on which the hills revolved, the burning-glass through which alone the sun had power to warm them..." When you fall in love with somebody they become for a while the centre of the universe, the breath of life in everything around you; the world loses its colour without them.

From The Charioteer. Wounded soldier Laurie sees the young orderly Andrew approaching: "It was Andrew with the trolley. The forms, the shapes, the colours on the ward magically regrouped and changed. The pool of light on the night nurse's table had for the first time mystery beyond its rim. ... When he [Andrew] smiled ... it seemed to Laurie almost frighteningly dramatic and beautiful." Same thing as above really, with the added bit about the perception of overwhelming beauty in one's beloved. Later on an expression on Andrew's face "seemed to Laurie unbearably beautiful". When Andrew says that it seems he and Laurie were meant to meet, "Laurie lived on these words for the next two days." You do that: when the beloved gives some sign of reciprocation you treasure it, exact every last measure of joy from it until you get the next sign. At another point Laurie and Andrew are walking home together down a lane at sunset. Laurie "felt absolute, filled; he could have died then content, empty-handed and free." Sometimes you do feel so full of joy you think everything could be over then and you'd be fine with it.

From Fire From Heaven. Thirteen-year-old boys Alexander (yes, this is Alexander the Great) and Hephaistion are sitting talking, Hephaistion with his arm round Alexander's waist. "Hephaistion tightened his arm. His feelings were confused; he wanted to grasp until Alexander's very bones were somehow engulfed within himself, yet knew this to be wicked and mad; he would kill anyone who harmed a hair of his head. ... Hephaistion was thinking how fragile his rib cage seemed, how terrible were the warring desires to cherish and to crush it. He continued silent." I have felt exactly that. You want to hug and squeeze the breath out of someone, hug them until you blend into one person, and at the same time you have an underlying wish to exert some measure of crude control over them to make up for the vulnerability and loss of ego that falling in love entails.

Then there's Stephen Fry's Moab Is My Washpot, another wonderful description of being in love. "Matthew Osborne still walked the earth, still inhabited almost every waking moment of my life, still gazed at me from every tree, every dawn, every brick in every wall." I remember once looking out of my window at the sunset and seeming to see superimposed on it a sort of shadow-outline (alliteration city here) of the face of the girl I loved. It was beautiful, and she was the most beautiful thing in the world for me, and they blended; but I seemed to see her everywhere at times, to be so full of the thought of her that it overspilled me and hung around me in the air. Fry's getting to put his arm around Matthew after a confidential talk is described as "the finest achievement of my life so far, arrived at with bluff, deceit, hypocrisy, manipulation, abuse of trust and a few exploitative elements of gimcrack wisdom and genuinely good advice." Rather dishonourably, out of desperation, you do tend to take advantage of a friendship and the beloved's unawareness of your feelings to steal little moments of intimacy, and you remember them as great moments in your life, and also great achievements because they do take a lot of careful work to get. At another point Fry writes that "Matthew...was at the root of all my emotions" and that "my happiness was entirely contingent upon him". That probably is not 'healthy', but it's what can happen.

When I read these books and these quotes I am thinking of the great obsessive soul-shattering love of my later teens, the most intense and in many ways the central experience of my life so far. I fell for someone again last year and while I was sincerely in love it was nowhere near as intense. Being only twenty-two I may not know jack, but I doubt I will be able to fall as deeply in love again. I feel as though that experience exhausted something in me. I certainly apologise for going on about it too much on this board, but the thing is I have never spoken a word about it to another soul.

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bump on a log
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After further thought have decided to quote from Charlotte Mew on romantic love:

Shy as a leveret, swift as he,
Straight and slight as a young larch tree,
Sweet as the first wild violets, she,
To her wild self. But what to me?

....

Oh! my God! the down,
The soft young down of her, the brown,
The brown of her -- her eyes, her hair, her hair!

That is sexual desire, obviously, but the intense longing going with it is what I find goes along with romantic love.

I want what world there is behind your eyes.
I want your life and you will not give it me.

Longing to know everything about the person is another symptom.

Then:

We were like children, last week, in the Strand;
That was the day you laughed at me
Because I tried to make you understand
The cheap, stale chap I used to be
Before I saw the things you made me see.

...

Tomorrow I will tell you about the eyes of the Crystal Palace train
Looking down on us, and you will laugh and I will see what
You see again.

That feeling that the person has made you see life in another way, has brought a light and colour into your life that weren't there without them. Though I have also now experienced that with a longing for close friendship. There's really my difficulty, if you can call it a difficulty: separating romantic love from the love of friendship. I have been so lonely for so long that I 'fall in love' with people I really like. The only real difference between my deep-friendship love and my romantic love is the strength of sexual attraction. That, and perhaps a certain sense of passionate devotion that is different in some difficult-to-qualify respect from devotion in friendship:

So, Sir, you think I've missed my way,
There's nothing but the Judgement Seat --
But ef I pray perhaps I may -- what's that you say --
A golden street?
Give me the yellow wheat!
Et edn't there we'm going to meet!
No, I'm not mazed, I make no doubt
That ef we don't my soul goes out
'Most like a candle in the everlasting dark.
And what's the odds? 'Twas just a spark
Alight for her.
I tell you, Sir,
That God He made et brave and plain,
Sin' he knows better than yon Book
What's in a look
You'd go to Hell to get again.

And, of course, romantic love is transient.

Tide be runnin' the great world over:
'Twas only last June month I mind that we
Was thinkin' the toss and the call in the breast of the lover
So everlastin' as the sea.

Here's the same little fishes that splutter and swim,
Wi' the moon’s old glim on the grey, wet sand:
An' him no more to me nor me to him
Than the wind goin' over my hand.

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bump on a log
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There's a Moab quote I haven't used yet -- how can this be?

"And then -- and then I saw him and nothing was ever the same again. The sky was never the same colour, the moon never the same shape: the air never smelt the same, food never tasted the same. Every word I knew changed its meaning, everything that once was stable and firm became as insubstantial as a puff of wind, and every puff of wind became a solid thing I could feel and touch."

Fry also describes his discovery of film at age fifteen and how he wanted to show the films he'd seen to his beloved. That's another symptom, wanting to share what's important to you, the new discoveries you've made, with them. I also found that as well as obsessively collecting information about her down to the smallest details I wanted to confide in her, tell her my stuff.

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bump on a log
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Recently came across this Carson McCullers quote. Don't know the context, but was deeply struck by it and thought I'd post it.

"First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world — a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring — this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.

"Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else — but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.

"It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain."

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