Today’s Rant: But Really, What is Love?

Baby don't hurt meeeeee

I rant a lot about sex, and I make loads (hah, loads) of lewd remarks, and I am so pro-slut it may seem like I’m all about casual sex. While I think casual sex can be great for those who enjoy it, I actually hate casual sex. Okay, sorry. I dislike casual sex. Hate is for Hitler. I don’t dislike the idea of it, I dislike the physical act of it. It makes me uncomfy, and as a result, I have never really had good casual sex. Sorry if we bumped drunk uglies and you’re reading this and thinking “awww, shit.” I promise, it wasn’t you, it was me. I much prefer stinking up my sheets with a regular, consistent partner. And even more so, I prefer gettin’ it on with someone I love, all Percy Sledge style.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about love. Specifically, I have been thinking about love versus its sneaky doppelganger, attachment.  What is the difference between love and attachment? How can we differentiate between the two feelings, which often become entangled faster than two teens with the lights off.

Love, to me, is a feeling of deep trust and connection. It also produces the type of endorphin induced high that makes me grin like an asshole for no reason at all. (Do assholes grin? There’s a thought.) I love the feeling of love; I want to roll around in it like catnip and then wear it to bed like my boyfriend’s stinky t-shirt.  Love is flexible, and grows with you and around you and even if you have been together forever, love can feel exciting.

Attachment is that angsty feeling you get about someone. Attachment is the feeling of need. Love and attachment are often entangled because they can go hand in hand. You can be in loved and also be attached—most are, which is why we hate being away from those we love. But you don’t have to be in love to be attached. Often we confuse attachment for love, and the easiest way that I can differentiate between the two is this: When you’re in love, you want the other person to be happy. When you’re attached, you want the other person to make YOU happy. Attachment is not really about the other person, but the way that other person makes YOU feel. That’s where that corny saying “If you truly love someone, let them go,” comes from. “But what? I LOVE them. I don’t want to let them go!” says the ego. Echoed behind this is mine mine mine mine.

Defining love is extremely difficult, if not impossible, because it’s a feeling, and how do you define a feeling? Poets have spent centuries trying to define love—some more successfully than others. Whenever I think about trying to put this short-bus-special feeling into words, I am usually reminded of an extremely charged scene in that deliciously dramatic Mike Nichols film, Closer. I love this movie because it only has four cast members—Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and…gasm..gasm…Clive Owen—and I want to bathe each and every one of them with my tongue, all careful and cat-like. The movie is all about sex and love, and yet shows more of the latter and none of the former (aside from an awk cyber-sex scene between Owen and Law). I am completely enamored with this movie, because of its raw characters and sloppy, real life scenarios. Everyone in it is an asshole, and all of them are likable.  Anyway, at one point, Portman’s character says to Law, “Where is this love? I can’t see it, I can’t touch it. I can’t feel it. I can hear it. I can hear some words, but I can’t do anything with your easy words.” Ooooph.

During my last Big Breakup, my ex and I sat arguing about The End. He kept repeating (much like Law’s character in the aforementioned scene) the big L word. Finally, channeling my inner Portman, I asked if he could please specifically pinpoint what this feeling of Love is, and why it is so important to him.

After a long pause, he uttered a word that sent my inner-hopeless romantic screaming out of the room, tearing at her hair and slamming the door—and our relationship—shut behind her.  Comfortable. “You’re comfortable,” was what he said.

Comfortable? My bed is comfortable. I look forward to lying down in my bed. I would prefer my bed over the cold floor. If my bed was gone, I would miss it. I enjoy my comfy, comfy bed. But that, my friend, is not love. That is attachment. Attachment is wanting what is comfortable, what is convenient. Love is not always so.

Not that love cannot be comfortable. Love should be comfortable. When we are truly connected to someone else, we should feel comfortable with them. And sometimes, when you have been together  a long, long time, that excited In Love feeling may—after the golden retriever and the kids and the second mortgage—turn into a comfortable partnership. Sure, that happens. There are more important things in a functioning relationship than feeling so excited about someone that the majority of your orifices begin to salivate when they walk into a room. But the sheer feeling of comfort should never ever be mistaken for love.

Personally, I know I am in love when I find myself wanting to share things  that are special to me with that other person. It’s a way of opening myself emotionally, and I often notice it most with places and people that are special to me. My sleepy southern college town nestled in the blue ridge mountains, for instance. I’ve been itching to take my boyfriend there for a reason that is hard to verbalize. This is special to me, this is a part of who I am. Here. You have it.  Or friends who have made a significant impact on my life; I want my partner to meet them. And when something good happens, that other person is the first I want to tell. I have been in non-loving relationships with people that I want to separate from things that are sacred to me. I remember dating a guy and realizing I wasn’t into him when I noticed I never, ever wanted him to come to my house. I liked going to his place so I could leave when I wanted and not feel like he was invading my space. When I love some, I want my space to be their space, too. Get in me!

So what is love to you? How do you differentiate between love and attachment? Have you seen the movie Closer? Do you not want to breathe Natalie Portman’s heavenly pink-wigged stripper scent?

About the author  ⁄ Zoe

Zoe writes about food and sex on SexyTofu.com.

23 Comments

  • Reply
    April 12, 2012

    I have not seen the movie.. but I certainly want to now! Its funny, I tell people all the time I married the first time for lust, the second time for just settling and not wanting to be alone and this last and final time for love. It took a lot of years to find love and know when I saw it but I finally did. To me love is wanting to be with someone, missing them when your not but not stressing and worrying if they aren’t right beside you at all times. Knowing that they are thinking of you when your apart like you are them but neither worried about what your doing just because your not in front of each other. It’s the person you think of first when something great happens in your life and when something bad happens. You want to share everything w/ them, leaving no secrets. Knowing they know you sometimes better then you know yourself.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2012

      Ahhh I love that whole “you know me so well” feeling…

      • Reply
        April 12, 2012

        Ya know, I do but I don’t. I get so annoyed when my husband will tell me something like “I know your going to do _” and I’ll be like.. “You don’t know.. I may do something else” and then end up doing it.. He finds it funny.. me, not so much..lol

        • Reply
          April 12, 2012

          Haha see, I love that. I get all cranky when someone calls me out on what I am about to do but I am secretly pleased they know me so well.

          • April 12, 2012

            I guess I’m like this because no one has ever had me figured out before..lol.. it’s all new to me..lol

  • Reply
    April 12, 2012

    “When you’re in love, you want the other person to be happy. When you’re attached, you want the other person to make YOU happy.” Are you serious? Perfect. That is the perfect way to define it. Well, for me at least. This post was therapeutic… a little frustrating because I can relate, sadly, but it helped nonetheless. Very insightful my love. Keep up the amazing work over here <3

  • Reply
    April 12, 2012

    As someone who is going through a divorce at a relatively young age (28) and have no friends who are even married yet, it’s rare to get such great insight on defining/mis-interpreting love. Thank you so much for this post! I’m both hugely excited and scared to know that I have to redefine and rediscover what love really is, but what you’ve written really inspires me to do that while paying close attention to what the “real” feelings are. I absolutely love this blog–it’s well-written, smart and hilarious! Thxx!

    • Reply
      April 12, 2012

      Thanks for the kind words, Kyla! I am excited for you to rediscover love. I watched my parents divorce and then remarry partners much more suitable for them than their original match, so I have an interesting point of view on love. I suppose I am a hopeless romantic half-jaded product of divorce ;)

  • Reply
    Paul
    April 12, 2012

    Having been around the block more times than I’d care to admit it took way to long to figure out what love really is vs. attachment. So for me its knowing that the person I’m with gets me and while we don’t have to agree on everything we at least want to share a similar path towards a future. We support one another and most importantly we can talk about everything and I do mean everything. Attachment is the thing that makes you crazy cause you want the person around till you no longer do and their prescence is just so you don’t have to be alone. As for the movie, totally loved it but more for Natalie Portman from my perspective, although I did enjoy the characters and storyline.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2012

      I’m with you on every bit of this….especially on Natalie Portman. She is No. 1 on my lust list…Mmnmnmmm…

  • Reply
    April 12, 2012

    Yes, love truly is a big word and has many facets because the english word “love” that we use so loosely today is a translation of a big idea and many words in Hebrew like the word “fileo” which is Hebrew for “brotherly love” cannot be interchanged and confused with the word “eros” which is a Hebrew term used by husbands and wives to their partner and means “passionate and erotic love” or the term “agape” which means “unconditional love”. I liked what you said that love is about making the other person happy and it’s not all about mine, mine, mine because love in it’s truest form is never self seeking, it does not boast, it is never proud nor does it keep any record of wrongs but love is always patient, gentle and kind. Great blog Z! Keep ‘em coming.

    • Reply
      April 12, 2012

      I love how there are specific words for different types of love in other languages…damn English for being so limiting…

  • Reply
    April 12, 2012

    Great post! I also hate when I see people losing their identity in love or trying to complete themselves through their relationships…but it’s always so much more clear from the outside!

  • Reply
    April 13, 2012

    What a brilliant read! I’m also a big big fan of Closer, maybe because it’s so messy and real and it does not have the billiantly crafted Hollywood/Disney ending. It’s raw – pretty much how life is. Gosh, I wish I liked men less…

    Anyhow, again, brilliant read. It was pretty spot on, especially after my post yesterday (http://howitwassupposedtobe.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/i-am-not-rihanna-i-do-not-love-the-way-you-lie/) – so thanks for “liking” – I’ll definately be snooping around your blog often!

    • Reply
      April 13, 2012

      Hahah “I wish I liked men less…” I can’t tell you how many times I have had that thought…

  • Reply
    CL
    April 13, 2012

    You’re sort of on the right track regarding attachment. To take your thoughts a little further, the difference perhaps is between grasping attachment (which is what you are talking about) and being bound. If your hearts are bound, parting will be painful and that’s always a risk. One has to risk in order to love fully. It’s mutually assured destruction (MAD).

    I think there is a balance here and that love, in the long run, is a choice. Infatuation is the feeling, but loving someone in spite of their faults goes beyond that. The early stages of a relationship can be heady stuff and there is an addictive quality to it, but there is a cycle in a long term relationship; sometimes it’s hot, sometimes mushy or silly, sometimes indifferent, etc.. Nothing to worry about so long as it keeps coming back and the lows are not too extreme.

    The reason making love with the same person over and over is more appealing to you than meaningless sex is that the bond grows deeper through the physical union. This is the written on our hearts.

    Anyway, interesting post and thanks for the ‘like’!

    • Reply
      April 13, 2012

      Mmmm yes, “if your hearts are bound, parting will be painful.” I agree, that’s what I meant when I said attachment is often present in love. But I disagree with the idea that love is a choice…You can try to love someone who you know would be good for you, and be unsuccessful. Similarly, trying not to love someone you know is bad for you is also often impossible. Staying in the relationship is the choice; loving is not.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2012

    1. Hate is for Hitler HAHa made me chuckle lol. Secondly, great topic!! Ive been battling these two issues lately. An old flame and a new one I like to call them Rubies and Diamonds. Rubies my old flame plays on the word comfortable he never has said it flat out but its in the air.

    And i must see this movie now !

  • Reply
    April 13, 2012

    Great post! You might want to check out Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving and Thich Nhat Hanh’s Teachings on Love.

    I can’t believe I didn’t hear about your awesome blog until today. I’ve been thinking about the same thing after my last big breakup and recently wrote a few posts on it. It does seem like people at the end of a relationship identify what they are feeling as “love” when they really mean comfort.

    When “love” is attachment, and one becomes intolerably uncomfortable from being apart, all this “love” is is an addiction. An addiction to what? To a narrative that helps one make sense of oneself, ones world, and the people she shares the world with. When relationships are ending, one’s sense of self is annihilated, but instead of facing that uncomfortable truth, people fight for their “love” which is really only an attachment to one’s former self. The discomfort is the anxiety of not knowing who we are, who we will be, and who we were. So really, when people keep saying “I love, I love you, I love you”, they are trying to secure their identity but an identity without integrity. This is “love” between an ego and a love object, not two selves. In other words, it is a response to someone who cannot cope with the impermanence of identity, a person who seeks to stabilize identities by stitching them together with “love.”

  • Reply
    April 15, 2012

    One of the moat eloquent and real posts I’ve read on the subject. I have a bit more to say, but you’ll know when I do

    • Reply
      April 15, 2012

      Oh I will will I? Haha that sounds mildly threatening…

  • Reply
    April 16, 2012

    This is the best blog I have read in a long time! It waas actually pretty funny whilst talking about serious things. You bought up several good points but the one that truly resonates is thus: When you’re in love, you want the other person to be happy. When you’re attached, you want the other person to make YOU happy… Truer words have never been said. Brilliant blog, once again.

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