As we approach Valentine’s Day, the thoughts of many people turn to love and how to show the special bond they share with the object of their affection.  There are many kinds of love though, not just the near intoxicating affection between a couple. The one English word, love, does not describe all that the word signifies.

The first love we experience in life is between a mother and her child. After all, we grow inside her and, more often than not, we are cradled in her arms first after we are born. Our mother is usually our primary caregiver. We rely on her for everything. While still in infancy, we start to realise other people care for us, like our father and siblings, if we have any.

As we grow and learn, we experience continued mother love, father love, family love, all of which can be very complex. Siblings may seem to always be fighting, but will defend each other if someone from outside the family threatens a sibling. We start to experience love from friendships, when we care for someone who is not related to us. Friendship love isn’t restricted to any gender, for we can care for someone as a friend the same gender or a different gender. We share some common ground which is the basis of the friendship. Friendship love is non-sexual, or platonic. We also learn to love ourself, in a healthy, balanced way, not a narcissistic manner.

Closely associated with friendship love is neighbourly love, which may progress to a tribal love or national love and possibly a global love. We can feel affection for another species and love a pet, or a number of different pets. We can even love inanimate objects, certain foods or even abstract concepts in ideas. There is love in a divine being, of which the moral seems to be, “Love each other.”

From friendship love may grow couple love, the only love that involves a sexual union and, with effort from both, may be the most passionate and intense love attachment that will last a lifetime.

We experience different types of love for and from different people at the same time.  Though the basic nature of love relationships may differ, they share many characteristics. There is mutual affection and caring of the other. That doesn’t mean they always agree and share the same opinion about everything or necessarily enjoy doing everything together. They respect and value the uniqueness of the one they love.  One turns to another for advice or assistance with a task. There is a bond. There is a shared passion or interest. There is a willingness to do things that perhaps one wouldn’t pursue by oneself. There is a desire to please the one you love, in whichever type of love one is experiencing at that time.

Love is a motivator. Love is as essential to our lives as water or food. Without love we lose hope and will wither away. We show our love for others in many different ways. Love breaks down barriers, or finds a way around them. Through love we experience great pain and frustration but also joy, pride, pleasure and happiness. Even when we are in the pits of despair and think nobody loves us, we are loved.

Life is about loving. Loving the good, and the bad. Learning and laughing, being responsible, crying when grief becomes too much to bear.  Love your life, for it is a gift beyond compare.

I have always enjoyed this quotation from The Bible:

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