My Mum once told me that I had a cold heart. And more than one partner in my life has asserted that I do not know what Love is, or what it entails. That I am emotionally crippled in some ways.
All this negative lifelong indoctrination has accustomed me to thinking that I am incapable of giving or receiving Love in its fullest sense. So much so, that it hardly seems worth investigating what it may be all about! After all, if others (who profess to know) find you deficient, why then struggle? You are what you are: surely locked forever into your own ignorance and insensitivity.
And yet, from my own point of view, Love does not seem incomprehensible. Merely difficult. And the same people who sadly dismiss my capacity to engage in Love will nevertheless recount past moments when I did make a loving gesture, or acted selflessly in the name of Love. The picture is inconsistent. Both their memories and my acts.
I suspect that several things are going on here.
First, that Love as a concept is multi-faceted and some emphasise one type of love, some another. It's not easy to be sure that we are talking about the same thing.
Second, Love is often - indeed usually - conflated with lust and desire and passion, and the supply of satisfying sex. Clearly these are all related, but there are types of love that do not involve any sort of physical expression - the love of a home, of a place, or one's country, for example - just as there are types of love where the gratification of desire is absolutely essential.
Third, Love generates huge emotions and feelings. It can make you feel completely wonderful and uplifted. It can take you down. Certainly, 'being in love' is a much better, healthier state than 'being bereft of love'. Medically speaking, love that goes well may be very good for you indeed. But love given in vain, and the jealousy arising from a type of uncontrolled love, can corrode and destroy. Nor are loving impulses always wise or good in their effect, even though they may be well-intentioned (and because of that, often excused, 'because they were done for Love's sake').
Fourth, Love is a mental thing too, a focus for the highest, most perfect ideals imaginable. But Love, and the person or thing or principle loved, tends to end up on a pedestal. For those who are idealistic, this is clearly dangerous, because where idealism comes in, reality goes out. So much that is unloving has been done in the name of Love.
Fifth, there is the notion that Love is cleansing, pure, untarnishable, a solemn sacrament, a promise never to be broken. All the stuff of the White Wedding. The real-life effects of pressure from family and society, personal selfishness and other failings, the passage of time, and inevitable ageing and ill-health, are all ignored. And so a gap opens up between the dream and what is actually achievable. Love is fragile. It takes a battering. It may get chipped and dirty. It may not endure. This reality underlies every discussion of Love.
Sixth, Love requires effort and intensity, and plenty of time. You need to feed it and nourish it. It's hard work. It's a challenge to keep it fresh. This is no problem to the inventive and energetic. But laziness and time-starvation are the enemies of Love.
Seventh, Love is often given a very personal slant by people, based on their own lives and experience, and they develop an attitude from that. A lot of people have strong and implacable opinions about Love, and will explain The Word to you whether you ask to hear or not. Some have been treated well by Love, and some have been hurt. If you have been damaged, and few escape that, it may sour and warp your judgement on the merits of Love, and whether you will ever seek it again. I fancy that the doctors and experts who write in magazines about Love, must surely base their advice on no more than what they personally know. For whatever that is worth. It's the only way to write with conviction.
Eighth, Love requires intimacy. If you can't let your partner into your heart, into your head, and into your body, then there will be problems ahead.
Ninth, Loves requires warmth, tenderness, kindness and gentleness. Nothing that generates hurt can be Love.
Tenth, Love has many unsaid subtexts. When someone says 'I love you' it can be a short way of wrapping up many messages. They may really mean any or all of these things:
You are my rock.
You put me first.
You give me all your attention.
You make my bad day seem so good.
You heal me.
You make me so happy.
You make me smile.
You make me laugh.
You make me feel so important and wanted.
You are my protector.
You are the strong arm around my shoulders.
You stop me worrying.
You are so generous.
You give me so much.
You are so gentle and forgiving.
You make me forget all my errors and mistakes.
You make each day seem a fresh start.
You make me lose myself in your eyes.
You make this moment so very special.
You understand me.
You listen to me.
I can't live without you.
You are mine.
I am yours.
I am so proud of you.
You need me.
I need you.
I love your touch and your kiss so much.
You make my eyes shine.
You make me want you so badly.
You have only to say the word and I'm yours.
I want you.
I want us to be together like this forever.
Lines from any love song ever written.
Eleventh, and perhaps most important of all, Love between two people means an intense bonding within a private world. For most people, this must be the most attractive and welcome and best-understood aspect of what Love is. It's a commitment, of course, and life-changing, and not to be lightly undertaken. But also an adventure. A way of finding fulfilment. A way also of wiping the slate clean and starting again, getting it right this time. No wonder so many people see a Relationship as the most important thing to yearn for. No wonder it falls short for those with the wrong attitude or insufficient ability to share and compromise and generally give Love total priority.
Well, those are my ideas of what Love may be about. If some things are missing, then these are the aspects I fall down on, that reveal what I have never known about Love. Do point them out, and I'll see what I can do.