What is not love? In the face of this question, many of us may think cracking a thermodynamics paper would have been way easier. In all my early relationships, I had felt I was madly in love only to discover it was nothing but a prolonged infatuation. If there was passion in our equation, emotional availability was missing. Perhaps it had stability and trust, but his sight never gave me the butterflies. Then there were days of misinterpreting my partner’s narcissistic, controlling nature as an expression of love.
Lucky are those who find their movie love in the first shot. But I assume that many of our readers, like me, had to go through their fair share of compromise and heartbreaks to comprehend healthy love in the truest sense of the term. Today, let’s gather together to match our combined insights on the topic and decode what is not love and what it really is.
What Is Not Love? Love Is Not These 15 Things
Before we get all serious and dive deep into the things love is not, tell me something – do you remember Rajesh Koothrappali, the hopeless romantic from Big Bang Theory? This guy would try desperately until he wore women down for dates and envisioned a wife figure in almost all of them. That right there is a reflection of emotional dependency and unresolved insecurities.
Several studies say that love is not an emotion. It’s another physiological motivation like hunger, thirst, sleep, and sex drive. To Raj, this sense of endearment seemed like real love. While in actuality, it was nothing but a sad attempt to fill the void in his life with the presence of another person and feel secure about his future. Coming back to ‘what is not love’ – it’s not an urgent need to round off some aspects of your life where you are lacking.
You may say that love is not enough to build a healthy relationship. It takes perseverance and adjustment. We couldn’t agree more. But there are many destructive behaviors, gestures, and words that are misconstrued as highly romantic in the honeymoon phase or even long after that. We tell you about 15 such things that love is not:
1. Love is not just lust
Yesterday, my friend Donna met this guy at her gym with the body of a Greek God. They slowly walked past each other and exchanged glances for a second, just like in Richard Linklater films. To her, it felt like love at first sight.
But when you and I look at the story from a third person’s perspective, it’s evident that it was the man’s sensuality that appealed to her and not the goodness of his heart. So, the takeaway? If your relationship is all about saucy bedroom talks and steamy make-out sessions, it probably doesn’t have what true love requires.
2. Constantly trying to refine your partner in the name of love is not the real deal
You know there is a difference between constructive criticism and passing judgemental remarks. The same thought can be articulated in two separate ways without being unnecessarily hurtful to your loved ones. For instance:
- What’s said: “This job is not your cup of tea. Don’t apply here just to be disappointed”
- What could be said: “I think you should start from an entry-level position and make your way up with the experience gained”
- What’s said: “Can your shallow friends talk about anything else but the Kardashians?”
- What could be said: “Hey, I like your friends but I don’t have many things in common with them. Can we not hang out with them on our dates?”
Whether you are on the receiving or delivering end of these unkind comments, think twice before defining your dynamic as love. Bashing your partner’s feelings with words is one of the things love is not.
Related Reading: Know When To Say ‘I Love You’ And Never Get Turned Down
3. Love is not about winning
“You are my whole world. I will never let you go” – as sweet as it sounds to your love-struck ear, the same statement can become a toxic trait in an on-again-off-again relationship. We are not saying that love is a fleeting feeling that comes with validity. The complication occurs when your stubborn obsession makes you hold them back by hook or by crook. Any lover with genuine intentions and feelings would know when to let their dear ones go for the sake of their happiness.
4. Love is not overly jealous
I have to admit that a little jealousy is rather sweet. At least there is no harm in seeing your partner pout because you hugged a childhood friend at the mall. As long as they melt in your kisses and are all smiles having a whole pizza to themselves, you two are good. If that fight goes on longer than a day or two, I smell trouble in your paradise.
They might throw gaslighting phrases at you like, “Why would I be jealous if I didn’t love you?” And it can go to the extent of stopping you from talking to the people they feel insecure about. Love is not about choking your boundaries so narrow; if it does, it borders on over-possessiveness.
5. Selfless love is not about conditions and control
What is not real love, you ask. Tell me if you can relate to these – “You can’t wear that dress, it’s too revealing. I’m only concerned for you”, “How dare you talk to that girl? I can sense she has a crush on you. You need to prove your loyalty to me”, “If we don’t have dinner together every day, it means you don’t love me”, “Please tone down your personality in front of my folks, I’m just saying this so they like you”.
People talk about falling in love all the time. Then they try to shape the bits and pieces of their beloved’s character into a version that’s convenient for them. Just so you know, that’s not how love works. If it’s conditional, it’s not the real deal.
6. You don’t lose individuality when in love
Ever since my colleague, Ted, started dating Catherine, he has become this shy, unconfident fella who nods to everything she says and wants. He is trying to learn water polo with her despite his serious aquaphobia. He cut all ties with his best friend because she doesn’t like him.
Five months down the line when he looked himself in a mirror, he saw a shadow that resembled a ‘Ted’ but it was not the same person anymore. You know what is not love? Losing your voice and identity to please your partner. It may crop up from abandonment issues or under the pressure of narcissistic abuse. If you resonate with it, address the trouble immediately.
Related Reading: Dating A Narcissist? Here Are The Signs And How It Changes You
7. Love is not about making hollow promises
I once dated a guy who covered all the textbook promises most people make after falling in love like, “You are not alone, I am always here for you”, “You are the one I want to share and spend the rest of my life with”, blah blah. The twist comes when I call in the middle of a panic attack or emergency and he never picks up.
The epitome of emotional unavailability – I entitled him. Even after six months, I barely got to know him as he was tight-lipped about his personal life. In return, it left me with a fixation to break that mystery he built around himself. Years later now I realize, whatever we had, we didn’t have love.
8. Abusive acts are not an expression of real love
Amidst all the belated focus shifted to domestic violence against women, we often overlook the number of men facing the same fate, and US statistics say it’s about 1 in 3 men. There is a couple in my neighborhood who has a detrimental relationship dynamic. This guy would endure regular shout shows, badmouthing, throwing and breaking things, emotional manipulation, and even occasional physical strikes and yet won’t leave.
One day, I came across him at a pub and asked, “You guys aren’t even married. Why do you take so much torment? Break it off!” To my utter surprise, he said, “I can be a handful sometimes, you know. Lisa loses her temper but she doesn’t mean any harm. She is just doing it out of love.” Please remember, there’s no way abuse in any form or shape can fall under the same category as love.
9. Unconditional love doesn’t expect to be loved back
To put it in short, love is not supposed to be selfish. If you have unfeigned loving feelings toward someone, you would continue to love that person whether they are aware of your feelings or not, whether they reciprocate or not – it shouldn’t change your impression about them.
Research shows that people who rank higher on the unconditional love measurement scale tend to provide more social support to their partners and have a comparatively more satisfying dating and marital life. And it’s only possible when a person doesn’t see these supportive gestures as favors and doesn’t expect their partner to pay back.
10. What is not love? A means of material benefit
Meeting sugar daddies and sugar mommas on dating apps sounds kinda cool, right? It’s especially a popular concept among today’s young adults. Dating someone for money may be agreeable if both parties are benefiting and okay with the arrangement. But it should have no place in a discussion of unconditional love.
Related Reading: Is Unconditional Love In A Relationship Really Possible? 12 Signs You Have It
11. Love is not being around each other 24×7
This particular matter reminds me of my roommate in college. Ana used to see her partner every day on campus, they spent the weekends at her place. And the time she was alone, they were either texting or constantly on Skype. When your affinity for your partner knows no balance, it transforms into codependency.
Psychologist Nandita Rambhia speaks to Bonobology about obsessive love, “When someone is on your mind constantly, you can’t function optimally. You try to contact them or find ways to be with them. When this doesn’t happen, when they don’t meet your unrealistic expectations, a lot of frustration arises. But they aren’t obliged to fulfill your hopes or keep you happy.”
12. Love is not a fleeting feeling
Let’s just say, love doesn’t evaporate into thin air. If it doesn’t take you more than a cold shower to get over an ex, it was certainly a very casual affair. Of all the things love is not, it’s certainly not a fleeting feeling. Your relationship may not work out or you may even move on eventually, but that person will stay somewhere in the back of your mind for a long time.
13. Intense fights are not signs of true love
My point being, disrespect and broken communication cannot be a healthy form of love. When love is not enough to keep a romantic bond alive, empathy, mutual respect, and a solution-oriented approach come to the rescue. There’s no point in glorifying statements like “We fight with passion because we are just passionate about each other” because they come off as more toxic than romantic. Uttering unspeakable words during an argument, going to any extent to defend yourselves, or giving each other silent treatment for weeks only add up to dysfunctional relationships.
Regarding the adverse effects of stonewalling, counseling psychologist Shazia Saleem previously told Bonobology, “Mentally, the person being stonewalled gets weak and develops a confused and distorted thought process, which will, in turn, lead to emotional triggers, self-doubts, trouble in decision making, trust issues, low self-confidence, and a very confused state of mind.”
14. Encroaching personal space is not love
Have you heard of the pursuer-distancer dynamic between couples? It’s a behavioral pattern in which one partner becomes more demanding and aggressive and the other feels overwhelmed and distant. As a consequence, many relationships, or at least the emotional and sexual intimacy part of the relationships, take a serious hit.
Now you know why love is not about being clingy or prying. We all need a little ‘me’ time and space to restore our happy, energized version and come back to give our 100% to the relationship. So, next time don’t feel guilty about saying “I need space”. Given the love you have for each other is real, your partner would understand.
Related Reading: 11 Expert Tips To Stop Being Obsessed With Someone
15. What is not love? It’s not deception
You may think by hiding a thing or two from your partner, you are actually safeguarding their feelings. But as time goes on and the lies snowball, it will be difficult to escape the consequences of that big pile of lies. And the toll it takes on your love life would be irretrievable.
I once knew a couple in a long-term and apparently ‘happy’ relationship. Yet, what I gathered from the little details of our conversations is that the foundation of their togetherness was built on deceit. We are not talking about harmless white lies here. For all I knew, they had hidden credit card debts, active dating app profiles, and more such sensitive secrets that don’t exactly portray a healthy relationship. At that point it struck me, mere love is not enough; transparency is just as crucial.
What Really Is Love
Enough discussing the anti-romantic qualities that are often mistaken as love. Now that you have a fair idea about ‘what is not real love’, let’s dig into ‘what really is love’. Is it solely an act of kindness of Cupid or is there a science behind it? To sing along with Selena Gomez, have you ever loved someone like a love song, or does that sound too unreal?
Counseling psychologist Deepak Kashyap says, “It is challenging to define love but, as a psychologist, all I can say is that love is not a single feeling but a cluster of feelings, in which there is an understanding of what a person is and the expectation of who you want to be with that person.” According to the International Science Council, romantic love can be broken into 3 categories – lust, attraction, and attachment and each of them in isolation doesn’t perfectly define love.
“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” – Robert A. Heinlein says in Stranger in a Strange Land. He rightly sums up the essence of selfless love for us. Now, instead of focusing on the theoretical attributes, we will walk you through the palpable and practical aspects of love that might help you understand how love should work in a functional relationship:
Related Reading: Love Vs In Love – What’s The Difference?
1. Love is spontaneous
Are you quite aware of the pressure of saying “I love you” because your partner has said it? If you are in love and you know it and you really want to show it, you would go down on your knees with a bunch of roses without feeling that kind of push. Love is candid. Your object of affection wouldn’t have to nag you or prove themselves worthy to win your heart.
2. Love is consistent
There’s a difference between saying you love someone and showing it. You can be all poetic in your love messages and when it comes to proving those words, you cave. That kind of love is not enough. A mature person in love would make their presence clear and consistent by willingly keeping in touch and fulfilling the emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and physical needs of their SO.
3. Love is forgiveness
When it comes to love, forgiveness is a constant companion because you can’t hold onto grudges against your sweetheart. It may take time, it can cause you a great deal of pain. But at the end of the day, you will forgive and forget and that’s one of the greatest examples of unconditional love.
4. Love is equal
True love doesn’t preach unfair gender roles and looking down on your partner based on their occupational, social, and financial status. A Reddit user rightly says, “Nowadays, relationships are more based on love compared to the past. They are more about being with a friend than about creating a structure. Recent studies are showing that these relationships are really successful largely because both parties not only see each other as equals but are actually more engaged with each other’s lives.”
5. Love is a connection between two souls
Love is an all-consuming sense of affinity that takes over your mind, body, and soul. Some may even say it’s a spiritual connection between two souls written in the stars who are supposed to come in contact to fulfill their soulmate contract. To speak more simply, when you are in touch with the person you love, they should seem familiar, like you have known them for all eternity. It’s a wholesome feeling of homecoming.
- Love is an accumulation of lust, attraction, and attachment; these factors don’t define love individually
- Selfless love doesn’t preach jealousy, possessiveness, or conditioning your partner’s life
- Love gives you the power to let go, forgive, and not hold on to resentment
- When there is an obsession, material benefits, or unrealistic expectations, that relationship is not exactly built on love
- True love comes naturally and stays forever in some form or the other
Ultimately, love is not jealous, not a burden, not pure lust, and not a source of personal benefit. It’s the power that immerses our lives with joy and boosts us with the energy to be a better person and more empathetic toward our significant others. We hope you would pick a few things from today’s discussion to implement in your relationship and rest assured, you will earn some brownie points for being a devoted, charming lover!
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