What first drew me to language was its fluidity. Every word can have multiple meanings not just in the vernacular at large, but also to different people depending on an individual's memories and associations. Theres something complex and beautiful about that, and it's a huge reason I wanted to become a writer and editor. Something else complex and beautiful? Love. You can roll your eyes at me now actually, you should but its true. Love is one of the words that probably has the most varied definitions since our experiences with it are all so intense.
Without spilling the sordid details, I'm experiencing quite the upheaval in my life right now (sup, Saturn return) so much so that I'm reevaluating everything I thought I knew about love. Many things I thought to be true are not, and I'm learning new things about what it means to love and be loved all the time.
But, for now, heres what the concept means to me: when a song that sounds nothing like a typical love song has somehow become one to you; folding all your shit Marie Kondo-style to free up a drawer in your dresser; someone getting incensed on your behalf when youve been wronged, who will also tell you if youre the one who's wrong. It's closeness that also allows for space and freedom and room to figure out whatever those two words mean to you, because those definitions change as well. It's trusting that the person you love wants to be there, that their love is both a choice and a feeling, and feeling safe and excited in the knowledge that you can make whatever kind of relationship you want together. Love is also 143 pounds of Mr. Rogers (the weight he reportedly stayed his entire adult life, which he thought was God's way of telling him he was loved).
Sometimes love is wanting to do things for someone that feel like obligations when you're asked to do them for someone else. It's shared T-shirts, playlists, and appetizers. Right now I'm grappling with the fact that in these times, especially as a person with depression, love can sometimes make you feel like the folks who played music as the Titanic sank; it's gorgeous, selfless, and important, but it can be temporary and heart-wrenchingly sad at the same time. Love is also so much more.
Because I'm still figuring it out, I was interested in hearing from you about your ever-evolving experiences with this concept. I wanted to know what came up for you when you tried to intellectualize the thing that inhabits our every nook and cranny when we feel both the most at home and the most excited. I asked people on the Internet with a Google form what they thought about love (and asked for ages, pronouns, sexual orientations, and relationship statuses) heres what you had to say:
Love Is When You Build Each Other Up
"Love means enthusiastically answering my many, many questions with an unexpected level of depth, taking care of me when I am sick, indulging my need for spontaneity, making mundane chores manageable (if not fun), and truly seeing my light and looking to amplify rather than dim it." Alia Stearns, 41, She/Her, Bi, Open Relationship With Boyfriend
"At its core, love requires the basics of care. It's people helping each other meet needs, like food and warmth and play. It's trust that my partner is an accurate and healthy mirror for self-reflection and knowing Im the same for them. It's acting for one another as a framework and foundation for personal evolution." Alice, 30, Unsure, Queer, Bood Up
Love is a space for refuge, for pain, and for growth.
"Love is like sinking into a warm bath at the end of an awful day. Its being brave enough to give someone the parts of you that are messy, complicated, and not Instagram-perfect. Its knowing that although they hold all the tools to break your heart, theyll build you up instead." Olivia, 22, She/Her, Heterosexual, Single
"Love is creation. Healthy love is generative. A healthy partnership allows those in it to be more of themselves, not less. Humility isn't necessarily humiliating. This game is a long game. Be gentle." K, 31, She/Her, Queer, Domestic Partnership
Love Includes the Necessary Space for Pain
"When we say, 'I dont know how well get through this except that it will be together,' and I believe us." Eric Mersmann, 40, He/Him, Bi, Married
"Love is a trust I place in someone. Love is a space for refuge, for pain, and for growth. Love is walking through a world of cold, dead pain and knowing there are human hearts beating somewhere and that one of them beats for me, and then my heart flutters like a dream come true." Hellion, 27, She/Her, Queer, In Love
"Love is when my partner asked me to go to the animal shelter on the anniversary of my moms death just to make me smile and we took home two bonded cats." Alaina Leary, 25, She/They, Queer, EngagedGetty Images / Allure: Rosemary Donahue
"Love is my partner sitting beside me during a panic attack, not telling me to stop or change, not prescribing, just being there, grounding me. It's coming with me to my therapists office after a self-harm scare to make sure I was safe from myself, and my therapist saying, 'He really loves you.'" Anna Swenson, 28, She/Her, Queer, Married
Love Is In the Smallest Things
"I'm not sure about romance, other than it's absurd. But my best friend and I sent each other the exact same e-mail this morning and if that isn't love, I don't know what is." Elizabeth, 27, She/Her, Queer
"My emotions wheel says love is a feeling of lightness and security, but Ive never felt that way. So, to me, love is being present, and the rare moments in the day when I become so absorbed in the sunlight or snowflakes or taste of my ginseng tea that I forget to feel anxious, unwell, or that I should feel like less of a person for taking up space in the world." Christian, 34, She/Her, Straight-ish, Terminally Single
"Love looks like doing the dishes. Im an 'Acts of Service' person and I hate doing the dishes, so my husband has taken it upon himself to never let a dirty plate fester in the sink. Its selfless and humble and deeply loving, and Im thankful he takes pains to show me love in the language I hear it." Skye Sherman, 25, She/Her, Heterosexual, Married
Love Makes Room For Change and Growth
"Feeling safe to be a true, authentic person. Having room for individual and shared passions. Knowing when everything else gets stripped away, your partner will still hold you close." Joy Overbrook, 30, She/Her, Pansexual, Married
"Love is when I am challenged, seen, excited, amused, provoked into thought, and most of all, safe. When someone wants to know me and remains curious and thoughtful. When I continue to be supported and support another, throughout healthy changes." Kate, 27, She/Her, Bisexual, Married
Love is when I press myself into your back at night and feel our future.
"Love is having total acceptance and the ability to trust and openly communicate, without the fear of judgment or rejection. That shouldn't just apply to romantic love but also to love among family and friends." Rho Rho, 94, She/Her, Widowed
"Freedom is essential to love. Without the ability to be yourself and express the quirky, dark beautiful sides of your nature, love suffocates and quickly evaporates." Lilly Harlow, 37, She/Her, Straight, Committed Relationship
"Love is looking at someone and knowing that who they are today definitely wont be who you see tomorrow, or the next day, or 10 years from now, and loving them for that reason alone. To love, we have to embrace the fact that who we first became attracted to can, will, and should change. The best part of love is watching it grow in new ways as each person evolves and maturing your love language along the way." Wandy Felicita Ortiz, 23, She/Her, Heterosexual, In a Relationship
Love Is Sharing Food
"Love is knowing that, for the first time in your life, you dont have to apologize for feeling everything at once. Love is beginning to heal from past trauma and learning that being hurt is not a required part of the relationship package. Love is also guava and cheese pastelitos." Ashley, 24, She/Her, Pansexual, In a RelationshipGetty Images / Allure: Rosemary Donahue
"Love is when I press myself into your back at night and feel our future. And when you send 40 Diet Cokes via Postmates to my doorstep in Brooklyn after a bad work day." Cortne B, 25, She/Her, Straight, In a Relationship
"Love is willingly looking after someone with the flu. The only time I envy people in relationships is when I'm full of fever and fending for myself. Bring chicken soup to my sick bed and I'll love you forever." Jay Birch, 29, He/Him, Single
Love Is a Feeling of Comfort
"Love is not what I grew up thinking it was. Love isn't turbulent, it's no whirlwind; it's comfort, companionship, and acceptance, calm and quiet, and better to me than any great drama. It's the way I sleep best when I can hear their breathing, the way that I wake from a long nap with my hand still in theirs because they didn't want to move and wake me." Artemis, 22, She/Her, Asexual/Homoromantic, Engaged
"Love means that I dont feel pressured to add haha or lol to the end of every text message. I feel comfortable enough sharing my thoughts with the person I love, romantically or platonically, without attempting to cancel them out with some filler phrases." Liz Sheeley, 29, She/Her, Straight, Single
"Love is sometimes forgetting youre beside each other because its as comfortable to be with them as it is when you're alone. Its praising them when theyre nowhere nearby; its wanting to share them (and pictures of them and their accomplishments and sweet actions) with every friend you have. Its waking up without any questions. Its dating someone in Queens when you live in South Brooklyn, tbh." Caitlin, 23, She/Her, Straight, In a Relationship
Love Is When Someone Starts to Take Up Space in Your Mind
"Love is what gets us through this whole thing called life. Its what and who we think about when we fall asleep. Its what we feel in our most vulnerable and emotional moments. Its everything." Rebecca Rranza, 21, She/Her, Bisexual, Single
"I know we're all thinking about Mary Oliver lately, but I really do think attention is the beginning of love and devotion. Someone who loves me will notice the things that bother me or make me feel good, not discount them, and then alter their behavior accordingly. It's really, really hard to actually be thoughtless or cruel or indifferent when you're paying attention." Caitlin VH, 28, She/Her, Bi, SingleGetty Images / Allure: Rosemary Donahue
"Love is lending a book. It's your roommate turning on the French press when they leave for work so its ready when you get out of the shower. Bringing flowers. Making a shared playlist. Being in a room full of people but consciously or subconsciously realizing that in everything you do, youre turning toward someone." Catherine, 22, They/Them, Lesbian, Single
Love is comfort in uncomfortable places.
"Love is when another person starts to naturally take up space in your mind, and their needs and desires start to matter more and more to you over time. Its about prioritizing someone and delighting in the things that make them unique. Its who you see in your mind as soon as you wake up and who you think about when youre falling asleep." Emily, 28, She/Her, Pansexual, Committed LTR
"Love is the difference between feeling lonely and being alone." Finch, 25, They/Them, Queer, Spoken for
Love Feels Like Coming Home
"Celebrating each others successes and comforting each other through losses. Feeling like home to each other, like a refuge, a safe place to rest your head. Feeling seen and known, in all your authentic weirdness." Kate, 26, She/Her, Bisexual, In a Polyamorous Relationship
"Love is the comforting, warm sensation you get from good wine, hearing the opening chords of your favorite song, sinking into a hug, curling up on the couch, or eating a really good meal. I wouldn't call it 'coming home' exactly that's not it. It's more like having the assurance that there's a home to go to." Kendra Syrdal, 29, She/Her, Queer, Committed and Content
"Love is comfort in uncomfortable places. The feeling of coming home after a long day." Maggie, 20, She/Her, Bisexual, Single
Love Is a Fucking Mess
"Love is that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you don't know if you want to throw up or fall into a fit of happy tears. It makes all emotions fly to the surface, because you are finally comfortable enough to let go." Missy, 23, She/Her, Bisexual, Single
Read more about love and relationships:
- Why My Partner and I Want to Be In An Open Relationship
- How Each Zodiac Sign Handles a Breakup
- Coming Out as Transgender Only Made My Relationship Stronger
What this genderqueer person loves most about the way they look:
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