21 People On Their Definition Of “Love”

Taken from the archives of Thought Catalog.
Nisha A
Nisha A

1. Love is not afraid to be schmaltzy…

…There’s a reason why the most popular love songs are so lyrically simple. You can drown it in metaphors all you want but love usually boils down to, “You make me so happy. I want to hold your hand. I just want u 2 be mine 4ever!” You can be a 50-year-old linguistics professor at Columbia University and still find something to relate to in a Mariah Carey ballad if you’re in love because the feelings are so universal. It’s humbling, isn’t it? No matter who you are or what your background is, love can reduce you to Mariah Carey mush.

-Ryan O’Connell, The Definition Of Love

2. Love shouldn’t feel hopeless…

…because it’s never is. In love, a pair can be down, but never knocked out. Love should make all things possible, even if they aren’t necessarily looking good today. If I love you and you love me, we will prevail – but if we don’t, we won’t. Love shouldn’t feel like we won’t.

-Christopher Hudspeth, What Love Shouldn’t Feel Like

3. I believe that love is the essence of everyone…

…But in the context of being between two people, it is also a verb. And an action is a choice. Physical feelings are just that—physical. But attraction of the mind, heart, spirit—that’s miraculous. And when you choose to love another unconditionally, without judgment, and regardless of what’s in it for yourself, that’s the fairy tale.

-Brianna Wiest, Love, In Five Paragraphs

4. I know I love you because…

…I think you’re beautiful even when you’re not. And I don’t mean good-looking, I mean beautiful, beautiful like there’s something pervasive and magnetic about you that comes through even when you look positively bad. I think you’re beautiful even when you’re hungover and puking your guts out, covered in hives, or when half your face is purple and swollen because you decided to cosplay Fight Club and punched yourself in the eye too hard. I know I love you because I think you’re beautiful even when you’re wearing Crocs and that’s no small accomplishment.

-Mila Jaroniec, How I Know I Love You

5. The second time you fall in love with someone…

…will still be exciting and you might even talk about moving in together or marriage. It will feel more “adult.” You have no idea what adult love actually is but you think it involves making coffee for each other in the morning and maybe even getting a dog. “This is my dog, Xan. I got him with the second person I fell in love with because that’s what you do! The first person I was in love with would’ve killed a dog.”

The second time will not be the first time. The first time is an insane magical life gift that you can never reclaim. But that’s okay. The second time is more real anyway. The second time can involve some amazing love.

-Ryan O’Connell, The Second Time You Fall In Love With Someone

6. I love you means I don’t want you to be sad…

…but I also want you to feel free to have whatever emotions you’re having. I want you to feel like you can be vulnerable and I will hold all the pieces very delicately and I will kiss them all as I put you back together. I want you to trust me. I want you to know that I never want to hurt you. I want to never be the reason you’re upset. I want you by my side, as my partner. I want to do mundane things with you like take out the trash and put away the dishes. I don’t want to keep secrets.

I love you means I understand that you are flawed and that I am too. It means I don’t want to be selfish. I want all the simple things with you — and the hard things, and I want us to survive them and I don’t want to walk away. I love you means I want to earn this. I love you means I want to be let in and to let you in. I love you means I am so close to destroying this because that is all I know how to work with. I love you means I want to put in the work with you, because I think you’re special and I think you’re worth it.

-Gaby Dunn, What “I Love You” Means

7. Everyone makes such a big deal about the “right time”…

…about being “ready for a relationship,” but we all intrinsically know this is bullshit. We’re all busy but we don’t go quit our jobs the minute we decide to start a workout regimen. The same goes for relationships: if you meet the right person, you rearrange your mental schedule and make room for them, because that’s just what you do. It happens. If you have to constantly overthink and agonize, they’re probably not the right person.

And heartbreak is one of the best things that can happen to you. That “bright side” those obnoxious optimists keep talking about, that’s the perspective you get from heartbreak. Be grateful for it, perspective is everything.

-Mila Jaroniec, Inconvenient Truths About Love

8. I knew I was in love when I pulled his body from a car wreck.

…I knew I was in love when I pulled his body from a car wreck. A semi truck hit us from the side, totalling my car and bruising my leg. I could barely walk, but all I could think of was getting him out of there. I dragged him out of a window and he felt weightless, pulled by something bigger than me. Before that moment, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him, but then I knew: I was in love.

On the way home from the hospital, I laid my head on his shoulder in the backseat of my father’s car and whispered it into his ear. It have been the morphine drip talking, but at the moment, the ecstasy all felt the same.

To me, that’s what love was. It was the salvage after the crash.

-Nico Lang, 21 People On How You Know You’re In Love

9. Nothing that happens in your life is real until you tell them about it…

…If you get a raise at work, or accepted to grad school, or get a completely terrible haircut, or hear a hilarious joke – none of it really happened until you can tell your person about it. Once the two of you have laughed, cried, or bitched about something, then it’s real. The longest minutes of your life are always the time between something interesting happening and when you can tell that person about it.

-Lou Gray, 7 Signs Someone Is Your Person

10. Maybe part of the reason that love…

…becomes such a volatile force in our lives when it’s supposed to be so still and beautiful is that we keep reaching for that forever love. We can’t just let it be what it is. We try to make feelings and interest sustain themselves for years and years when they just don’t have that kind of staying power. But how much of it is a result of our own changing and how much is the fact that forever love comes with so many expectations and too much pressure? What if it’s really that nobody is to blame, other than whoever instilled in us the idea that “forever” was the ultimate kind of love? Because what if we stopped expecting and started just being. I think that’s what scares people. I think they choose to not love someone because of what it means for the long-term instead of having any interspersed bits of love. But those bits might be all we ever have. It’s out of them that the rest grows.

-Brianna Wiest, It’s Time To Stop Expecting Forever Love And Start Living In Sunday Love

11. To be loved well, it seems, means…

…making sure that the person who loves you always knows how much you appreciate their presence in your life. It’s never leaving them with that stomach-dropping feeling of “will they tire of me tomorrow?” that so many of us tend to mistake for passion. Give them that security, and watch the way they light up in your presence.

-Chelsea Fagan, How To Be Loved

12. Love someone like you’re fifty…

…like the future has come and gone and will return again and it’ll all feel underwhelming because you know who you are and who she is and who “we” is and knowing that makes the rest manageable, you’ve learned.

Stephanie Georgopulos, Love Someone Like You’re Six

13. Somebody loves you if…

…they call you out on your bullshit. They’re not passive, they don’t just let you get away with murder. They know you well enough and care about you enough to ask you to chill out, to bust your balls, to tell you to stop. They aren’t passive observers in your life, they are in the trenches. They have an opinion about your decisions and the things you say and do. They want to be a part of it; they want to be a part of you.

-Ryan O’Connell, How To Tell If Somebody Loves You

14. We build up all these notions…

…of finding The One, of searching for forever and the future and the not-so-distant horizon that sometimes we forget about right now. Because the person we are in the moment needs love, too, whether that is a forever sort of love or a love that manages to take care of us here and now. Your middle school crush is not your high school sweetheart is not your college fling is not your first live-in lover is not your rebound is not your long-term is not your long distance is not your forever. Each one serves their purpose. Each one is special, and one person can embody some or all of these lovers, but multiple people can play different roles, too. What you need is what you need. What you need is love.

-Ella Ceron, I Am Not The Girl You Will Marry

15. Starting a new book is a risk, just like falling in love…

…You have to commit to it. You open the pages knowing a little bit about it maybe, from the back or from a blurb on the front. But who knows, right? Those bits and pieces aren’t always right. Sometimes people advertise themselves as one thing and then when you get deep into it you realize that they’re something completely different. Either there was some good marketing attached to a terrible book, or the story was only explained in a superficial way and once you reach the middle of the book, you realize there’s so much more to this book than anyone could have ever told you.

-Gaby Dunn, Falling In Love Is Like Reading A New Book

16. The one who wants to be with you knows that…

…falling in love with you doesn’t happen all at once and it can take years to truly get to know someone. Learning about someone is like wandering through an old mansion with many rooms; it’s always discovering that there’s another door to unlock. This person is willing to go on that journey, to be constantly surprised by how intricate and complex you are, an M.C. Escher painting in human form, and loves finding out grand staircases of new information about you, like that you consider Missy Elliott your spirit animal and want to live in Paris when you get old. But they also love how simple you are sometimes, as simple as a backrub after a long day, because they love everything about you that’s beautiful and that hurts. They’re willing to stick it out with you through the hard conversation and the rough patches — whatever it takes to lie next to you at night, they’re willing to fight for it. They will fight to love you.

-Nico Lang, The One Who Wants To Be With You

17. Or you take a leap of faith across that infinite chasm…

…and you accept everything she does, however demented. This is not a one time gesture in which you leap and suddenly you’re on the other side. Phew. No, it’s a continual internal movement you have to make. After all, her oddities are gonna keep coming. You’ll bristle, want to judge, mock, run. But you don’t. Instead you pause and think: So she can’t tell a cold from a sinus infection, so what? Surely there are greater sins.

Making this move is incredible. Doubt, anxiety, suspicion all have to be brushed aside. And with them, your ego, your deep down suspicion that only you understand the world, that the things you believe are true really are true — and that everyone else is a freak. Making this move is scary because your foundational beliefs go up for grabs.

-Daniel Coffeen, Why It Doesn’t Really Matter Who You’re With

18. When we fall in love…

…we don’t do it with an endpoint in mind, no expiration date on the horizon. To fall in love is to do the impossible, to promise the one thing you can’t really promise: “Because I care about you, I will not hurt you.” We can’t promise the future though — we can only promise what we want the future to be — and so if and when things fall through, all of the promises hang in the air like so many splintered things. And we turn these tiny, little shards into weapons, turning them on the other person, pelting them with accusations. You said, you lied, you didn’t try hard enough, it’s you, it’s you, it’s you. It’s easier to attack than it is to defend. It’s more cowardly, but it’s always easier to blame.

-Ella Ceron, What It Feels Like To Fall Out Of Love

19. You are not afraid to be yourself around them…

…your strange humor, your occasionally awkward mannerisms, your interests in things that other people might consider a waste of time.

-Chelsea Fagan, 32 Signs You’re Dating A Keeper

20. You make plans for the future…

…and stick to them. You know they are reliable and that you can count on them to be there for you.

-Karen Noble, 23 Signs They’re The One

21. Love is bigger than you…

…To love someone is for their happiness to be the same as your own.

And so love is the dissolution of the borders between you and me and them. Those lines are conceptual and imaginary anyway, and love gives you vision clear enough to see the world without them.

Your love can’t be reserved for one person. If you only love one person you probably don’t love anyone. Love isn’t something you can aim. The truer your love is — in other words, the less you have it confused with something else — the more generalized it becomes. To love fully is to love all.

-David Cain, What Love Is Not Thought Catalog Logo Mark

I am the co-publisher of Thought Catalog. Follow me on Twitter. I also use a pen name called Holden Desalles.

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