Everything You Need To Know About Love (What Is Love?)

by Zara Mohammed, Relationships Columnist


Published in Relationships on 10th January, 2020


Love can feel very confusing. There are so many different kinds of love that it is easy to get muddled as to what exactly it is that you feel for someone in your life.

This can cause problems in our relationships because we don't understand why we have reacted or behaved in certain ways.

love

Let us explore in this article everything you need to know about love, and try to answer the big question - What is love?

In this article we will discuss:

  • Is Love At First Sight Real?
  • What Is Romantic Love?
  • The Different Stages Of Love In A Relationship

So let's get started!

Is Love At First Sight Real?

Many people swear that love at first sight is a real thing, and some of these people have been happily married or in a successful relationship with the person that they fell in love with at first sight for many years.

But does that mean that it's possible for two people to meet and at first sight know and feel that they are meant to be? It's a very interesting question that is made even more interesting by new evidence suggesting that yes this could indeed be true!

We see the familiar romantic scenario over and over again in films, we read fictional stories about it in literature, and we hear real life love at first sight stories in the news, at dinner parties and through our friends. Notions of an instant attraction or spark initiating a whirlwind romance that grows and flourishes into a lifelong, unbreakable bond.

It is something we all desperately want to believe in, but at the same time can be very cynical about, because we live in a dating world that is cruel and harsh, filled with pressure, obstacles, rejection and disappointment after disappointment.

love

We are all nervous wrecks underneath all of the uncertainty of modern dating, and so the thought of falling in love at first sight is like a dream come true. It just sounds so perfect, so natural, so... easy!

Here are some of the findings from the study:

  • Love at first sight is not just a form of biased memory. People really do and can experience a strong feeling of initial attraction which can be described as "love at first sight".
  • You are more likely to fall in love at first sight with a beautiful person. This might sound obvious, but studies have shown that the electrifying love at first sight feeling is nine times more likely to occur when the physical attractiveness of the other person is raised just one rating higher on the scale.
  • Men have reported to experience falling in love at first sight more than women. Who knows why, maybe women are just that bit more selective? One thing we do know from the study is that falling in love at first sight doesn't necessarily translate into a relationship being formed.
  • Love at first sight isn't often mutual. So I guess we can rule out some sort of magic at play, bewitching both parties in a bubble of love that cannot be controlled. If you have heard stories of two people that fell in love at first sight the more likely story is that one person's memory and retelling of the story has altered the other person's original memory.
  • Love at first sight isn't really "love". As we will go on to see, love is a combination of emotions and behaviours and choices that come with time, and can't just appear out of thin air like the feeling you get when you fall in love at first sight.

What Is Romantic Love?

Now that we have covered love at first sight, you may be wondering - what is romantic love? And is it the same thing as love at first sight? Well it can feel very similar, because romantic love often feels involuntary, you crave someone, and in the early stages of romantic love it is very common to feel like you are losing control.

romantic love

People have described being in love as having a thirst that is only quenched when they are with the person. This is the kind of love that can make you do strange things and behave out of character. Falling in love can feel like you are going mad.

Here are some of the most common names that romantic love comes under:

  • Attraction
  • Obsession
  • Infatuation
  • Passion

You can probably see that all of these have something in common - they all sound like they belong in a steamy novel or blockbuster film.

The love that we see depicted in stories are always of this kind because they look and sound so enticing, dreamy, and altogether wonderful. The truth is that in reality these feelings can be difficult to deal with, and they can end up causing confusion, hurt and pain.

In the early stages of romantic love the following symptoms are reported:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Craving
  • Mood swings
  • Separation anxiety
  • Intrusive thinking
  • Possessiveness
  • And an intense motivation for an emotional union.

Romantic love on paper, and in reality is extremely uncomfortable. But we desire it anyway. That is because falling in romantic love is part of the bigger picture of love.

So let us carry on now to look at all of the different stages of love in order to get a more complete picture of what love is.

The Different Stages Of Love In A Relationship

I have narrowed it down to 5 different stages of love in a relationship. This should give us a clear idea of what love is and how it develops. Every relationship is different of course, and not every relationship will go through each stage.

Sometimes we may skip a stage, and sometimes our relationships end before they reach the more developed stages. It doesn't mean that we haven't experienced love in those relationships, or that those relationships were underdeveloped.

Stage 1: Attraction & Romance

This is the phase where we may experience love at first sight and the beginning stages of romantic love. We usually love this phase because it contains all of the fun elements of getting to know someone and feeling all of those feel-good hormones.

attraction

Maybe we are just dating at this point, but this phase can last for a significant amount of time, even a few years. Some people only ever have romantic relationships and go in and out of relationships that never progress further than romantic love and attraction.

If you are one of these people then the reason you may find yourself going in and out of relationships is because although this phase is fun, unfortunately it is not sustainable.

Here are the key clues that you are in phase one of your relationship:

  • There is a focus on your similarities and not on your flaws, meaning you only want to see the good.
  • You spend a lot of time together and hate being apart.
  • Conflict is avoided, but honestly it feels like you could never disagree with each other anyway.

Stage 2: Reality Enters The Picture

You may not notice your relationship transitioning into stage two because it tends to creep up on you. It can also happen suddenly though. The typical duration of the reality stage is 6 months.

This is because this is usually how long it takes for couples to decide that they don't want to be together anymore, or that they do. The only way of moving on to the next stage is to be able to accept each other's flaws.

Here are the key clues that you are in phase two of your relationship:

  • You begin to see or experience things you don't like about your partner. You're still in love, but maybe they aren't as perfect as you thought they were.
  • The elation you were previously experiencing from the endorphins racing through your body starts to wear off. This is because your body simply can't maintain that blissful state forever. It is running out of steam.
  • You may have started to question your decision to be with the person, and perhaps whether or not you are actually in love with them after all. The fantasy element is definitely wearing thin.

Stage 3: Disappointment

I hate to disappoint you, but stage three is in fact the disappointment phase. Yes, there is a disappointment phase in your love journey. But it isn't the end of the road! You are just realising now that reality has well and truly set in, that things aren't exactly what you thought they were, and perhaps you are feeling a bit deflated.

loving

This is the stage where couple who are deciding to stay together will spend their time working through any difficulties in order to get to a place that feels more stable.

This is a really important time for you both as you will be learning a lot about each other, how to communicate, but also about yourself and what you need in the relationship. You are both learning to be yourselves whilst simultaneously being together, and appreciating each other and your differences. It's a tricky one.

Here are some of the challenges that you may face:

  • The arguments will feel worse than they are, and you will get angry at each other, probably quite a lot.
  • Many disputes and a lot of the anger will be over trivial things, including the small differences between you both as individuals.
  • You may feel like the relationship is doomed because you think that this amount of conflict can't be healthy. In fact, you will definitely think of breaking up or maybe even getting a divorce during this stage, but don't worry, this is natural.

The only way you can move through this stage and progress to develop the love that you share is to develop strong communication skills, mutual trust, and the ability to work as a team.

Stage 4: Stability

This phase is like the calm after the storm, and it feels like it will be plain sailing the rest of the way. You will have developed a mutual understanding, know enough about each other to work through any problems that arise, and generally you are feeling pretty relaxed and comfortable with each other and your relationship. The stability phase in a relationship roughly lasts about 2 years.

Here are some of the signs you are in stage four of your relationship:

  • You know each other well and there is a strong feeling of history between you, and that feels good.
  • You are able to accept that the fantasy stage is long gone, and you are both okay with this because you feel connected to each other and stronger than ever.
  • The chase is over, but that can leave you feeling a bit bored at times.
  • Maybe you miss the fantasy stage and find yourself wondering if you could have those feelings again, perhaps even with a different person.

Stage 5: Commitment

The final stage of your love journey is the coveted commitment stage. It is less common than you might think for couples to genuinely reach this stage. This is true even for married couples that have been together for years.

commitment

But if you do manage to progress through all five stages of love in a relationship then you are truly an unbreakable team and a mature couple that can face anything that life throws at you. Your love is now fully sustainable and matured. It really doesn't get any better than that.

Here are the signs that you are lucky enough to have reached stage five in your relationship:

  • You would choose to be with each other over and over again, flaws and all.
  • You no longer miss the romantic stage because it would mean you'd have to be with someone else, and neither of you wants that.
  • Your vision of the future is as a couple.

Summary

Love is a complicated, challenging, and painful journey of uncertainty, emotional struggle, and constant questioning about your decision to commit to a single person.

But we all want true love, and that is exactly what it is. Truth can't be challenged, and when you reach the final stage in your relationship, you will know that your love can't be challenged because it is true.

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