Our Love Affair With Love

Americans love. We “love” everything. We love our dogs, our cars, our sports teams…everything. The multinational fast food chain McDonald’s had a whole marketing campaign about it a while back: “I’m Lovin’ It” – developed in Germany surprisingly. Yet American society in general has created an environment where men and women have a really difficult time showing love and affection in a healthy appropriate manner to each other. Communicating our words and actions around “love” can be tricky if we use the word for everything.

Let me try first to explain what I mean with a little example. There are lots of concepts or words that can take on many different meanings. I live in the San Francisco Bay area — we get lots of fog. Yet there are many different kinds of fog (13 I’ve learned so far) and those who pay attention to it can identify which kind rolls in and which one just sort of settles. By contrast, there’s a common misconception that Eskimos have a large number of words for snow. From what I have read, their different words for “snow” are no different than our own words for the various types of snow conditions like “powder”, “blizzard”, “flurries”, “sleet”, etc.

Think of it another way: Sexologists (sex educators, therapists, & counselors) deal with concepts and words around sex and sexuality more than other professions and typically use more accurate/descriptive terms to describe human sexual behaviors— what a non-sexologist calls “sex”, the sexologist identifies as “penile-vaginal intercourse”, “fellatio (blow jobs)”, or “mutual masturbation” depending on what is happening. This does not mean that the sexologist & (pardon the pun) layperson are observing two different behaviors, nor does it mean that the sexologist would be confused by the idea that intercourse and fellatio are sex-related. It’s simply that there are more descriptive terms that exist to describe the behavior.

We do a disservice to others, in my honest opinion, and ourselves to say we “love” everything. I wish we used many different variations for the word LOVE in our everyday conversations, much like we have different words for snow. Perhaps we need many different words for love in all of its different phases and types.

Put simply, “Love” is defined as an emotion of strong affection or personal attachment. In ancient Greece there were 5 words for love: Eros is the erotic or passionate love; that passion you feel for another without knowing the other person very well. Philia is a sort of friendship or “brotherly” love (Philia = latin for brother). Agape is unconditional love – no matter what the other person does or says you still love them. Storge is like the love of a mother or father and child; a natural affection. Xenia is hospitality, kindness to strangers, repaid by genuine gratitude. Personally, I find it tough to distinguish between Storge and Agape since I feel unconditional love for my children. Also, I’m not sure my kids would understand “I storge you”.

If we look for other ways to communicate love there is a fantastic book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. This book posits that there are 5 different languages that we humans use to communicate and feel “love”; Acts of Service, Loving Touch, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, and Quality Time. The idea is that you feel and show love in one of these 5 ways. The link above points to a short, fun quiz to see your love language for yourself. Get this: It’s possible that the way you feel love is not the way you show it. It’s also possible that your partner “speaks” the language you feel love in but may they not feel love from you because you are not “speaking” the language they need to hear. Pretty powerful stuff, and it has the great potential to help us communicate love to each other more effectively – but doesn’t address our misuse/overuse of the word…

There was no lesson to be learned here other than to give you something to think about and to offer you a challenge: I challenge you to think about your use of the word “love” over the next day or so. Evaluate if you think there are other, perhaps better words to use instead. Also, think about how you show love to those you love. Does it match with how you feel love? Let me know what YOU think.


The MamaSutra ™

The MamaSutra

Mother of two girls. Holds a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Certificate in Women's Studies from UW-Madison. Graduate of IASHS as Master of Human Sexuality. The articles you read here have goals in two main areas. 1) I strive to normalize conversations about sex and sexuality between parents and their children. To me this means helping parents accept and nurture their daughters' budding sexuality so they grow and learn to respect their bodies and accept their whole selves as they grow into strong, beautiful, powerful and healthy women. 2) Female Sexual Empowerment. Women deserve to learn about and explore the pleasure that can be felt through a full sexual life - however each of us may define that - without guilt, shame, or embarrassment.

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