What Does Love Mean Anyway?

A Single Red Love Heart on Pile of Plain Wooden Hearts – What Does Love Mean - Sandra Harewood Counselling

I was in the queue waiting to pay for some shopping when I heard a toddler ask his mother, ‘Do you love me?’ She looked at him, smiled, and said, ‘Yes.’

Seemingly unconvinced, he pulled at her jacket and said, ‘But do you love me?’

At this point, his mother looked somewhat confused but again said, ‘Yes.’

He looked down at the ground and fiddled with his toy, absorbing what he heard.

Sometimes, romantic love is difficult to understand. You only know it when you feel it. Then you recognise it. When you fall in love, you feel bewitched and excited. You see the world differently; it feels full of new possibilities.

When you fall out of love, you feel abandoned, hurt, and miserable; your heart aches.

This is often the point when you find yourself in couples or marriage counselling.

So What is This Love Thing Anyway?

In an earlier edition of Psychology Today, Dr. John Gottman, a renowned couples psychologist, reflects on the mathematical formula he and mathematician James Murray devised in the late 1990s to work out in which relationships love lasts.

Helen Fry’s TED Talk on The Mathematics of Love explores this further. Love is a popular topic; this post has had over 3 million views.

My first feeling on reading Dr. Gottman’s formula was what a reductionist view of love is!

Where was Eros? What had happened to the mystery, imagination, magic, and energy of love to which it is so difficult to give words?

Perhaps that’s a paradoxical thing to say when writing a blog post about love. And maybe not everything has to be about words and be explained.

We feel the love in the butterflies fluttering in the pit of our stomachs. Don’t you want to feel love, not think about it? After all, love is one of the most powerful human emotions.

Love is …..Nurturing Growth

So maybe there is more to love

In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck says love is an act of will. Love is not about feelings at all.

Genuine love, on the other hand, implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom. He goes on to say love is,

The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.

When I think of this, I imagine two people in a relationship being devoted to one another. Two people are experiencing each other as separate, legitimate individuals, not as objects to meet the other’s needs.

The engagement of will also implies the action of work. We have to work on this thing called love and not just put the responsibility on our spouse, partner, or lover to make us feel good.


Mixed heritage couple, man kissing woman on the cheek. - In Love - What Does Love Mean Anyway? - Sandra Harewood

Perhaps I haven’t done Dr. Gottman’s work justice because at the crux of this paper is something about work.

The couples who dare to be vulnerable, be responsible for their feelings, confront each other, and not brush anything under the carpet are the ones whose love seems to last the test of time.

That all takes tremendous courage and hard work. If you want to avoid the work, then maybe you’re not ready for love.

Love as a Practice

Psychotherapist David Richo says it takes practice to show love.  Our work is then to practice.

Practice involves a repeated commitment to nourishing the connection with our partner. Perhaps that is a more soulful way of thinking about the work we have to do in a relationship.

Here are some things to which we might direct our energy when practising love:

  • Attending to the needs and feelings of ourselves and others
  • Understanding how we feel and show affection
  • Fully valuing ourselves and others
  • Compassion
  • Patience
  • Gratitude
  • Play
  • Humility

We also benefit from practising self-expression and accepting our partner’s full expression of their deepest self. Because ultimately love means we are ourselves.

In the All or Nothing Marriage author Eli J. Finkel says:

There isn’t just one true and proper way to love…..Any style of relationship is the right one, as long as it’s a decision made by the whole person and not the hole in the person.  Eli J. Finkel

In the end, authentic love is based on the reality of who we are and who our partner is, not assumption or fantasy.

Over To You

How do you nourish your love? Are you still trying to figure it out, or just happy to be with the experience?

Maybe you’re stuck because that you ‘love’ your partner but don’t feel ‘in love’.  Your not alone. Get in touch for a clarity session.

I offer video sessions online via a secure platform. 

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.


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© Sandra Harewood 2023

About Sandra

With 13 years of experience as a psychotherapeutic counsellor and relationship coach, specialises in guiding couples and women through marriage crises. With 10K+ client sessions, she believes in the transformative power of relationships. Her approach combines expertise with empathy, fostering healing and growth.