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How do you know when it's love?

 

How does one answer the question "How do you knowwhen you are in love?" This problem usually arises with romantic love, but it can occur in the other loves as well.  Perhaps we can borrow a technique from philosophy to help get us started.  A standard method in philosophy is to first carefully define the terms you are discussing.  

After defining your terms, you arrive at criteria or principles to verify when you have an example of the subject you so carefully defined.  Maybe this method of definition and verification can be of help to us.

Here is my definition of love: Love is a choice to becommitted, vulnerable, and responsible to the one for whom you care.There are a lot of heavy words in that definition, ''choice,''''commitment,' ''vulnerable'',  ''responsible''.   Let ustake a careful look at these terms in the order I have given them.

What do I mean when I say love is a choice?  Love is a decision we make, a matter of the will.

Love is not to be identified with emotions alone.  Feelings are certainly a part of love, and our emotional response to people is one way of finding someone we could choose to love.  

What exactly do we choose to do in loving someone?  One of the things we choose is to make a commitment.

When I use the word commitment I do not mean blind devotion such as "My lover right or wrong."  One writer describes commitment as "the capacity to dedicate oneself to another person or cause".  

We choose (there is that word again) to have a personal stake in the growth and life of the one we love.  When we make a commitment to the one we love we say to them "I believe in you. I believe in who you are and in who you can become." 

By saying "I believe in who you are" we accept the one we love, imperfections as well as strengths.  In affirming "I believe in who you can become" we recognize that people grow and change, even in love.

We challenge, in the name of love, our loved one to grow beyond their comfortable limits for the sake of love.  All of this talk of believing, growing, and commitment is risky business.  This brings us to our next word, vulnerability.

Being vulnerable in love means that we willingly accept the pain and struggle of love as well as the joy and happiness of love.   When we are committed to someone by believing in them, we cannot escape the disappointments and upsets that come with loving imperfect people.  

The joy of love cannot be separated from the pain of Love.  Unless we accept this paradox we will run from love every time it becomes painful or difficult.  Choosing to be committed and vulnerable to the one you love is a decision to be responsible, the last word in my definition of love. 

Responsibility in love means we are accountable to and for the one we love.

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