What is love?

What-Is-Love-Wallpaper-Final_550“What I’m looking for in a man is someone who fits like a glove. I want to feel so comfortable in his presence that I don’t have to put on an act for fear of him not liking who I am. I want to feel a rush of excitement and a burning desire to be with him all the time. When I first went out with Russ, I was constantly excited and on top of the world. Even though he wasn’t my usual type, the physical attraction was immense. I couldn’t get enough of him and felt nauseous when I wasn’t with him – I think that’s the definition of being ‘love sick’. Two years later a friend asked me if I still felt tingly when I kissed him and my answer was yes. I felt an animal magnetism towards him. I want to feel that again with someone else. As I have felt it with other men I know it exists. Ivan clearly felt it with me because he just couldn’t stop touching and looking at me. It would have been great if I’d felt the same but there again is it simply lust? How do you know whether you’re in love or lust?”

–          Excerpt from The Man in a Haystack © Alice Huskisson 2012

Therein lies the problem. Do love and lust go hand in hand? Can love survive without lust? For many years I confused the two. I have felt excruciating emotional pain when a relationship predominantly based on sex ended abruptly and prematurely, but I have felt similarly when a relationship with a strong foundation of friendship topped with a regular helping of ‘sexy time’ has drawn to a close.

I really wish we could turn back time and experience courting in the 1930s and 1940s when people took things slowly and apparently fell in love before any ‘funny business’ or ‘how’s your father’ took place. It is those marriages which stood the test of time. How many people today actually wait several months (let alone until their wedding night) before jumping in the sack? Very few, I bet. I think that’s where a lot of marriages fail. They’ve been influenced by lust, get it confused with love, and then when the sex dies a death, the really important foundation of friendship isn’t there because the relationship was based primarily on lust.

Put the sex aside altogether – let’s not consider that for the moment. I think that the definition of love should be based upon:

How we feel together and apart;

How we show and demonstrate our love;

How comfortable we are talking about anything and everything;

Willingly making sacrifices or compromises to keep the other happy;

Being selfless and putting the other first;

Supporting the other during difficult times;

Rejoicing together in happy times.

If both people in a relationship display all of the above positively then this can go a long way to mould a strong foundation with a head start on longevity; then ‘making love’ should simply be the cherry on the cake.

I have only come to this conclusion in recent years and you’ll have to read my book to find out how and why, otherwise I’m in danger of divulging spoilers! This is just my opinion though – I mean, who’s to say it’s wrong or right?

love is

A few of my readers kindly contributed their own opinions. Which do you agree with? Or do you have your own ideas?

“I’m looking for someone who will talk out ridiculous scenarios for emphasis and not feel silly, but connected, like adult games of OH I KNOW WHAT WE CAN DO! Imagine if…and Oh! What about!?  ..as you pull the curtains down for realism…To dream silly situations up to make light of what most people term as a bad day…all the little, ridiculous nuances of everyday life that no one else could possibly understand but him. Someone that reciprocates every nook and cranny of my unbridled hold your horses affection. With all the rotten dates I’ve had, I know what I’m NOT looking for and it strengthens my will to only settle for what I DO want. My experience shows there is always love to be found, but how many do I turn down that could have been ‘him’ because he doesn’t look right for me? It can’t be won like a goldfish at the fair, it can’t be forced. It would be nice if I won the big panda that I see other women trailing around, all covered in sweetness and candy floss. All I seem to get is the goldfish and I don’t have a tank! :)”

–          Sarah from Essex

“I was in love once. It happened within a week of meeting him. I felt warmer when he appeared. He coloured everything I did, even if I did it without him. In his arms felt like coming home.”

–          Daisy from Ireland

“Love is the little things…
Touch~ Wanting someone so badly that you must touch them, if only briefly to quench that urge for their essence.
Taste~ Kissing to me is far more intimate than any other act…you allow someone to share your taste, your breath, in essence, your soul.
Giving~ When you love, you give of yourself freely, without reservation, without concern for yourself or your own desires. And in the giving, if there is love, you will receive.
Sacrifice~ When you love, you are willing to let go, to succumb to a death knell pain so deep, you fear you won’t survive…all because the emotion says to set him free…
I hope it’s not too late for me to have this one day.”

–          Taylor from Ohio, USA

“I think that love comes in many forms and goes through different phases. The mad, passionate love that you feel when you first meet someone is far different than the love that you feel for a life partner. I also think that it’s possible to fall in love many times. I have probably experienced the crazy, passionate love that you feel at the start of a relationship about four times in my life. When you go through this phase it’s easy to overlook the flaws in someone’s character if they make you feel good in other ways. However, the difference with a long-term partner is that when the initial euphoria wears off you still have a lot in common. I think that to make a relationship work in the long-term you have to like the person as well as being attracted to them.

There’s a feeling of security with my husband. We share so many aspects of our lives – home, family, finance, hopes, trust, respect, fears and dreams. If I’m happy about something he’s the first person I rush to tell and if I’m sad or worried I confide in him, and vice versa. You could almost say that we have become an extension of each other.”

–          Ellen from Manchester

“I can’t comment on the ‘when you want to settle down’ thing as that has never been my aim, as such… but I think you love differently each time, sometimes more intensely and lastingly than others, and that the person you fall in love with at 25 isn’t the person you will fall in love with at 50.  I know I’m in love with someone when I want to be with them more than I want to be with anyone else, when I miss them most of the time I’m not with them, when being with them makes me happy, and the anticipation of this makes me feel that lovely excited sick feeling!  That’s in the early stages – it moves on to being with someone you feel ‘right’ with all the time, and wanting to make them happy, too.  And missing them most of the time I’m not with them!”

–          Terry from North East England

9 thoughts on “What is love?

  1. People in the 1930s didn’t feel less immediate lust than people do now – it’s just that socially it was not appropriate to act upon it, although many still did. We haven’t changed, it’s just society’s attitudes that have, ie what has become ‘acceptable’ behaviour. I bet if many of those people locked in bad marriages in the 1930s when to get divorced was shameful, had the opportunities of women today, they’d leap at them.

    Physical attraction is part of adult romantic love, it doesn’t exist without it, and lust is not a bad thing. I think marriages fail because people’s expectations are higher – made so by articles in magazines, social trends, opportunities for travel and broadening the mind that make people see that you only have one life and don’t necessarily want to waste it by staying with someone who is wrong for you. Now, if you have children – that is another subject altogether. It’s not that I think people should stay together for the children’s sake, more that they should think more carefully before they get pregnant by every Tom, Dick and Harry – it’s that changing social attitude (ie, making casual pregnancy acceptable) that is the adverse change, not the one to marriage.

    • I absolutely agree that people of the 1930s/40s felt lust just as we do now. However, the mere fact that they didn’t have as many forms of contraception back then, and having a baby out of wedlock carried severe consequences, was surely incentive enough for most to abstain. In doing so they were able to get to know each other and build a proper foundation of friendship and respect. I think the result must have been that they were much clearer about how they felt for someone, and less mistakes were made when choosing the right partner for the long term. Having said that, of course mistakes were made and people ended up ‘locked in’ to marriages as you say, but I do think that if divorce had been as acceptable back then like it is today, that the divorce rate would have still been much lower.

      As ever, thanks for your comment Terry and for adding to the discussion. X

  2. Really really interesting post Alice. This entire subject is something that I’m pretty clueless about, and for that reason, for me, it makes for fascinating reading, especially seeing things from the points of view of various different kinds of women. As Terry says, I don;t think people were so prudish as you think in the 1940s – wartime made them grab pleasure where they could, and why not, when you could be killed the next day. Your blog is an all embracing, all inclusive reflection of people’s ideas and feelings, and I think it’s going to grow and grow in popularity. By the way, I love the new cover of Haystack.

    • Sadly, my grandparents and parents have all passed away and I know no other ‘oldies’ who I could discuss this subject with frankly to find out the reality of finding Mr/Mrs Right back then. So it’s great to hear other peeps’ perceptions, and that’s what I’m really going to enjoy with this blog – the many different opinions on all aspects of finding long term love. What’s right for one may not be right for another; we all have our own ideas. I can’t wait to be shocked with someone’s honest tale or opinion, and I know there will be laughs and sadness too. Stay tuned!

      Thanks for your support, as always! X

  3. I thought about this years ago. Blogged about it. Tried to draw up a set of theses, because there is nothing more romantic than logical theses. Here is what I came up with:
    Provisional theses on Love – 11:18AM on August 16, 2008

    1) There is no such thing as love at first sight.

    2) Although there are many types of love (for our children, parents, siblings, extended family, and platonic love for all sorts of people, and even for our pets), when we refer to love in the romantic sense, it has to involve two people, no more, no less.

    3) While lust and infatuation need not be mutual, genuine love definitely does. If the woman of your dreams (assuming we are discussing a heterosexual man) is not yet interested in you, perhaps is not yet aware of your existence, if you have to woo her to attract her to you as you are to her, what we are dealing with here he is not genuine love. At least not yet. What we have here is someone trying to manipulate someone else to feel something she does not yet feel. He is working to get something HE wants, rather than placing her health, happiness and even life before his own. He may assume that he can make her happy, and genuinely believe that doing that requires her to take him into her affections. And he may well be right about that. However, until the relationship becomes reciprocal, this is not yet love. Love is like a phone call, whereas trying to woo someone is like dialing a number, and hoping that the receiver won’t be put down.

    4) If love requires two people simultaneously feeling the same thing, is that not too much to ask? Is it not more plausible that one will fall in love before the other? I guess that is true. Falling in love is a process, not an event. It is likely that the two will find themselves growing together, and almost waking up to what has happened to them. One might become aware of what has happened before the other. However, for this to be a healthy process, it is likely that neither would declare their feelings until body language, facial expressions, and many other signs suggested that the attraction was mutual.

    5) Romantic love cannot involve more than two people. If you think you love more than one, then this is not a stable situation. In all likelihood you are simply refusing to face up to the fact that you have begun to fall out of love with one partner, and are, simultaneously, falling into love with someone else. If your present partner does not know about this (which is almost always what happens), and if you are having sex with someone else without permission, if you are, in other words, having an affair, then you are cheating on your lover, and betraying them. To say you still love them is to devalue the true meaning of love, which has to be built on trust and mutual respect. A decision will have to be taken, eventually. In the first place, it is essential that both of your alleged lovers know about each other, and what has been going on. If one insists that a choice is made… that can lead to a speedy resolution, one way or another. If all three parties agree to carry on as before… In that case, we are talking about a situation that I cannot empathize with. I cannot get inside the heads of such people. If they can make that work for them, then good luck to them. I am not going to moralize. To each their own. But I do not understand how that kind of love can work, not indefinitely.

    6) Given that most people do not have a single sexual relationship that lasts their whole lives, but a series of such relationships, what does that mean? How do two people fall out of love with each other, and into the arms of someone else? If we can only genuinely have romantic love for one person at a time, how can we have a series of such relationships? My ideas on this subject kind of fall to pieces at this point. They simply stopping making any sense. A bit like asking what happened before the big bang, or what is at the center of a black hole? The laws of mathematics and physics break down at these singularities. And all the certainties I had built up when dealing with the other points fall to pieces here. When you and your first soul-mate go through a crisis that leads to the end of the relationship, you are scarred for life. Being able to rebuild your life after that won’t be easy. You may become cynical and stop searching for a soul-mate. Alternatively, you may try to win back someone who no longer wants you: in other words to become a stalker, obsessed with your own infatuation with someone who no longer exists, if they ever did, but not prioritizing the health, happiness and life of the one you claim to love. That is not love. It is it’s very opposite. Being able to move on with your life after your first relationship ends in a broken heart will never be easy. But some cope. However, unless you address these questions, rather than hoping it will be all right on the night, you are likely to make the same mistakes next time round, or a different set of mistakes, with similarly tragic consequences. Even if no definitive answers can be given (and I doubt they can), it is still worthwhile posing these questions. At any rate, I think it is.

  4. Not much to add to “Her happiness was essential for, and indistinguishable from, my own.” –David Palmer, Threshold (which is way too good a book to be so hard to find).

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