Sometimes I don’t know what love is. Sure, I’ve been in love before. I understand the way it changes a person, how it makes someone feel, how two people become intertwined and grow together, how powerful and messy and beautiful it is.
As a writer, I’m constantly trying to define love, even though I know it’s something I can’t really define. But do I really know what it is? Is there a concrete, same-every-time-you-ask answer to the question ‘What is love?’ Honestly, I don’t know.
But what I do know is that when I asked one of my good friends for the answer, right before he proposed to my best friend/his girlfriend of almost six years, he said, simply, “Love is giving 100% and expecting 0%.”
And as he got down on one knee in a pre-planned, beautiful, sunset-on-the-cliffs moment to ask for her hand; as she started crying and nodding her head, the sun beautiful and brilliant behind the clouds; as I teared up, snapping photos of the moment; as others cheered to their new life of happiness and love—I realized he had to be right.
“Love is about giving 100% and expecting 0%.”
See, the problem with the way we love today is that we expect. We’re scared to let people in, so we don’t, at least not fully—we hang back, we withdraw, we withhold parts of ourselves. We don’t go all in, yet we expect our partners, significant others, dates, potential interests, etc. to give us everything. We expect them to be honest and true, open and vulnerable, real and raw. And we don’t do the same…then wonder why things don’t work out.
The problem with the way we love today is that we want people to be and act a certain way, but humans aren’t puppets that we can manipulate. And love isn’t something we can change, conform, or contort to our own rules.
The problem with the way we love today is that we think we can control emotions and people. We think we can choose how much or how little to let people in. And instead of falling, instead of giving our all, instead of letting our hearts talk, we restrict.
And end up unsatisfied and unhappy.
See, real love is not about setting guidelines and rules. It’s not about comparing your actions and thoughts to those of your partner. It’s not about being guarded, or only letting someone in piece by piece. It’s not about only giving as much effort as your S.O. does.
In all reality, love is about giving everything. All the time.
I’ve written about love hundreds of times. It’s something that fascinates me because it’s so complex, because it’s so inherent within us, because it’s beautiful, and because it continually changes.
I’ve always believed that love is selfless, but to give 100% and expect nothing? As someone who values her strength as woman, there’s a part of me that gets angry just thinking about giving my all to someone and getting nothing back. How is that fair?
But love isn’t about being fair. It’s not about matching someone’s heart with perfect consistency. It’s not always going to be balanced and equal—it’s going to be messy and confusing and sometimes one person will give a little more and sometimes it won’t make perfect sense.
And that’s okay. Because it’s real.
So maybe my good friend is right—real love is selfless. It’s giving all that you can for someone and hoping that they’ll return it to you, but not demanding they do. It’s putting your best foot forward, but not trying to control the other person’s responses. It’s going all in with your heart, your actions, your intentions, but not forcing someone to return that.
It’s about giving without expectations.
And maybe when you willingly sacrifice yourself, when you willingly share your vulnerability and imperfection, when you willingly entrust your heart in someone’s hands—that’s when you experience real love.
That’s when you stop trying to control something that can’t be controlled, and you let it control you. That’s when you smile at your best friends, hugging and crying and newly engaged on a cliff with the sunset in the background, and realize you maybe, finally understand—love is about giving, giving, giving.