What is Love?

At the risk of being excessively philosophical for a Wednesday afternoon, did you ever really think about the meaning of love? It may sound naïve but even though I wrote a book about the globalisation of love, I have given very little thought to the real meaning of love, particularly in the multicultural context.

I was recently asked in an interview, point blank, “what is love?”. Since I had just had a bit of a GloLo scuffle with my husband that very morning, all I could say was, “love is compromise”, “love is patience and understanding”, and “love is accepting that not every day is perfect”. All of these statements, if a bit trite (or even boring) are much better than what I was actually thinking at the time which was more like “love is infuriating” and “love’s inventor should be tried in an international court of law for fraud”. (Well, that is the polite version of my thoughts on that particular day.) Happily, in the meantime, love rules. Yet what is it that rules exactly?

Love-ology 101

There are of course different types of love. In love relationships, we think of romantic and sexual love, but there is also family love and platonic love, and abstract love such as love of chocolate. Even though all cultures will have these different types of love, the ranking of their importance and the focus of your love life will be influenced by culture. How you view romantic love, in particular, and how you deal with the emotions of love as well as how you express love, are determined by culture.

In Western cultures, romantic love is promoted as a kind of emotional zenith point. The romantic partnership is therefore considered the primary emotional relationship in your life. A good dose of regular and multiple-orgasmic sex is included in this ideal. This vision and priortisation of romantic and sexual love contrasts greatly with Eastern and Asian cultures where family love and extended family living arrangements dominant the emotional love scene. Personal satisfaction comes not from a one-on-one relationship and mind-blowing sex with your partner but from the well-being and happiness of the family at large. The focus of love is distributed differently and therefore how love is expressed is also different.

When GloLo partners from Eastern and Western cultures fall in love, their expectations for a normal love relationship may be vastly different. Love is all about personal and cultural expectations, isn’t it? It does require compromise, patience, and understanding, however love’s inventor need not be tried in a court for fraud. We simply need to ask the question more frequently, “what is love?” and then be ready for many different answers.

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