Love, whether it be for your wife / husband or your sister / brother or your son / daughter, is seen as different things by different people. What I would like tyo know is, how do you experience that love? What is “love” to you?
Is it a physical thing; do you have butterflies in your stomach, a shivering torso, nerve endings on fire when you see, meet or touch your loved one?
Is it a mind thing, a thought you have, a mood, an idea that you care about the person, that you want only good things for them and to spend time with them.
Is it a spiritual thing, a deep rooted metaphysical surge of well-being, a inner joy or happiness that comes from being around or near the person?
Or a combination in some way of all of the above? Or something else completely?
Lastly, how do you recognise it? Is it something that began as unconditional (as a child to a parent) and now you comprehend it instantly when you feel it? Is it a more subtle growth inside you to a point where you suddenly, one day, realise that yes, you do really love that person? How is this clarification manifested, how can you be sure what you feel is love, as others describe it? Do you think that love has to be experienced in this known way to make it truly real?
That sounds like you see “love” as a decision you make, a quantifiable choice. “Yes, I will love this person; I will offer then my support and accept the responsibilities involved, in the event of my having chosen this love, unconditionally.” Do you intellectually decide you will give or be in love with that specific person?
I hope this doesn’t sound flippant, but is that how you see it, for you, or am I reading you wrong? Is it always a choice you make, or does it not sometimes choose you?
In some ways, love IS a decision you make. It’s a committment. I’m not just talking about romantic love - the love of a parent for a child, love for a sibling, the love for a good friend… all have a committment inherent to them.
All the things you describe in your OP can be classified as romance - the physical, mental AND spiritual aspects. All are present to some degree as part of love, but they’re transient things that can come and go through the course of any relationship. I’m sure there are days you’re horribly angry with a loved one, and any “tingle” you feel toward them can hardly be described as positive! But you don’t stop loving them, because in some way you have made a committment to that person.
Even loving your child is not really instantly unconditional. It starts as “romance.” You’re all caught up in the fairytale, you know? It’s that first sleepless night that hammers home the responsibility and committment. That first time you look down at your screaming kid and you think, “It’s a damn good thing you’re so cute, because you’re a huge pain in the ass.”
Romance is what chooses you and I think it’s a combination of chemistry and expectations. Think about the whole dating thing - why do you start dating someone? Because there’s some chemistry, some “tingle”, right? But most people date a variety of people before settling down with someone they really love. And what is the criteria for that settling down? It’s a decision, a conscious act of committment.
The love I feel for my family is more of a feeling that they will always be there for me and I will always be there for them, no matter how badly either of us may mess up. I know that I could pretty much do anything and my family wouldn’t abandon me, nor I them. I accept them unconditionally.
The love I feel for my S.O. is quite different. I feel lucky when I’m around him, like I must’ve done something right to have snagged him and strive to be the best person I can be so I keep deserving to be with him. I love to do things for him because it gives me a chance to make him happy and his happiness means the world to me. When I’m around him, everything just feels…right. The world could be crashing down around me but as long as I’m with him, things can never be that bad. I know I could survive without him, but I wouldn’t want to.
Love for my friends - Of all the people I can choose to spend time with, these are the ones I want to. These are also the people that I will go way out of my way for, and never feel put-upon for doing it.
Love for my SO - I’ve been thinking about this one recently. Here is what hit me. I heard a story about someone that lost a spouse. When I tried to imagine my life without my SO in it, I felt a physical sense of loss. So to me, love for my SO is imagining my life, without him, as having a big hole in it.
I think that love – romantic or platonic – is caring more about someone else’s happiness and well-being than my own. I’ve never experienced unconditional love, so I tend to remain skeptical of that concept, but right now the people in my life who love me are the people in my life who I love. It’s nice when it works out that way.
Love, for me, is not, nor has it ever been, a choice. It happens. It’s when I’m taking to someone at three in the morning and I can tell them the worst parts of my past and they just understand. Without words, they understand. Our souls touch and anything else is unneeded.
The people I love are a motely crew, not the people most would list. They are all friends, no romantic relationships in our pasts, but I would do anything for them and they for me. The way I see it, the people I love would think nothing of me waking them up in the middle of the night because I had a nightmare and felt like a three year old because I couldn’t go back to sleep. I would never wake my parents or brother up. In fact, one night I was having a panic attack. One of my friends had spent the night and was sleeping not five feet from me. I didn’t wake him, but when I told him about it, he chastized me for it. Said that women only keep men around for a few reasons these days, one of them being to get up in the middle of the night to kill monsters. To me, that’s love. I don’t know, I’m weird.