Love is an emotion. Like anger, happiness, sadness, pickles… it’s a feeling we get in response to stimuli. Part chemical, part magic, it’s one of the wonderful things that allows us to look in the mirror every morning and pretend that we are more complex than the other creatures meandering around on our planet.

Like its fellow emotions, love affects the way we act. When you are angry at something, you act differently toward it than if it made you happy. In extreme cases, emotions can make us do things that we would never think of doing in a calm state of mind. This has even led to different degrees of emotions taking on new words. Irritated, Rage, fury, elation, contentedness, bliss, miserableness, gloominess, depression (not the clinical kind).

This, however, is where love starts to stand out a bit. In English, there aren’t really any words to describe varying degrees of the wide-spanning emotion we call love. This seems to relate directly to the fact that we put love on a pedestal above the other emotions. If love starts to fade, or weaken; or if we don’t believe that what someone is expressing is “true” love, we find other, lesser, descriptors to associate with the feeling. Infatuation gets tossed around. We come up with cute terms like “crush” or “twitterpated” (thank you Bambi). We have elevated and romanticized it to the point that it doesn’t even really count as an emotion anymore.

Ask yourself: When is the last time someone told you “I am angry at that person,” and you responded with, “Are you sure it’s really anger, and not something else?” When your friend tells you, “This makes me sad,” do you ever think to yourself, “I wonder if they are talking about true sadness.” Let’s be honest, you haven’t. You can probably see where I’m going with this. If I go back and replace either of those emotions with “love”, suddenly those sentences make sense to you, and aren’t comically stupid. Let’s see if I can write a couple sentences without using quotation marks.

This cloud castle that we have decided love resides in has upsides and downsides. I’m going to try to discuss both, but I’ve got to be honest, the downsides have been slapping me in the face here recently and I’m probably going to argue them a bit more fervently.

The first thing that comes to mind, is that we allow love to be a “reason”. Bear with me, despite the fact that the quotation marks have returned already. All emotions tend to make us do stupid things at times. Get too angry, fly off the handle, do things you wish you hadn’t. Get too happy about something, you might overlook pitfalls and wind up yanking the rug out from under yourself, or not notice that someone else is trying to (probably because they are mad at you for being happy.) Allow sadness to saturate you, and you will miss out on things that could turn your frown upside down. When any of these things happen, though, most people sit down and try to find a cause. What made me so angry that I lost it like that? Why was I so happy? I need to figure out what caused that so I can do it again, and keep it going longer next time. What on earth has me so depressed? I need to find out what it is so I can fix it and get out of this slump. We look for the reasons FOR the emotions.

Love, on the other hand, often just gets used AS a reason… a lot of times as a reason for very stupid actions. Why is that woman allowing that man to punch her repeatedly, telling the police that everything is fine, and taking the same abuse the next night? She’ll be the first person to tell you, “because I love him.” Why is that guy constantly pining after that girl? She doesn’t give him the time of day, and seems much more interested in getting beat up by her boyfriend then talking to him. Obviously, he is in love with her. What made that [Insert a gender here, it’s like a “choose your own adventure” book!] give up everything for that [Insert another gender here. It can be the same one, I don’t care. My blog is officially liberal friendly!]. LOVE LOVE LOVE! And that’s as far as it goes! No one ever looks any further. Can you imagine if we did that with other emotions? (From now on, whenever I say something gender specific, just pretend that I did that clever bracket thing instead.)

“Why did you punch me in the face?”
“Because I was angry at you.”
“Why were you angry at me?”
“Isn’t it enough that I was angry at you?”
NO. OF COURSE THAT IS NOT ENOUGH. THAT IS SILLY. Time and time again, though, people do stupid things, and just let the reason be “love”.
“Why did you allow that man to treat you much more terribly than you ever deserved to be treated?”
“Because I was in love with him.”
“Why were you in love with a man who treated you that way?”

How is loving someone an excuse to allow them to treat you terribly?

Now, I promised you I was going to try and talk about upsides, and they do exist. People do nice things without considering their motives, because it can all be summed up in a single word. Buying gifts, taking care of needs, going out of one’s way to help someone else. Love will sometimes drive folks to do positive things for others without taking the time to dissect why they’re doing it.

Still, especially in the case of intimate relationships, the explanation behind the emotion can make the act a lot more meaningful. Take, for example, giving a girl flowers. Let me use some more quotation marks to illustrate.

“Oh my gosh, you brought me flowers! They are so pretty! Is it a special occasion or something? Why did you get me these?”
Standard answer: “No special occasion. I got them because I love you.”

Awwwww, isn’t that sweet? He got her flowers simply because he loves her. Wait… Simply? Isn’t love a pretty big thing? What if he thought about that for a second and came up with the actual motivation behind the flowers.

Not using love as a reason: “I saw them in the store, and I remembered that they were your favorite because I care about the things you think and say, and I just knew they would make you smile. Seeing you smile makes me smile. If I could find just one way to make you smile, every day, then I would never have to go a day without smiling. We can both just smile every day forever.”

Did a tear come to your eye just now? No? Well you obviously wouldn’t enjoy this romantic comedy script I wrote.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that simply using the word “love” to sum up feelings that you may not always have the time to write a book about is a bad thing. I’m just saying… THINK about it.

To get back to the negative aspects of this concept (I don’t think I ever truly left them), putting love on its pedestal, and then using it as a reason, also allows us to not take responsibility for our actions. Obviously, if we can’t control who we love, and love = a reasonable response when someone asks us why we are doing something… then our actions are absolutely out of control and apparently we are ok with that. I have personally done some very stupid things for love, and although it would be nice to just blame it on that emotion and walk away, eventually you have to sit down and analyze these things or you will keep making the same mistakes over and over again. The flower analogy up there was sappy and cute, but let’s take a look at a more detrimental effect that this can have.

“Dude, that girl treats you like garbage. She is always flirting with other guys, really doesn’t seem to care about anything going on in your life, doesn’t support you in anything you try to do, and just takes advantage of how much effort you seem to put into making her happy. Why don’t you just leave her?”
Standard answer: “Because I love her.”

Isn’t that both handy, AND dandy? By using this answer, you don’t have to examine this terrible situation any further then the fact that all of your actions are based on a magical emotion. Now let’s go ahead and try to break this down a bit. Let’s explain it, as though you are trying to explain to someone why you are angry with them.

“Being single is scary. I, like most humans, have a natural need for companionship, and even though my current situation is terrible, I genuinely fear launching myself back into the world of being ‘alone’. There is also the fact that I have vested quite a bit of time into this relationship, and I feel like if I cut the cord now, I would be making all that time useless. No one wants to feel as though they have wasted large amounts of their time. When I think on this further, I also realize that she has become a regular facet of my life, and that fact alone has caused an emotional attachment to form. I may not actually enjoy her being there, but it feels as though she is supposed to be there. If I were to be COMPLETELY honest with myself, there’s also the factor of physical attraction. She is beautiful, and I like looking at beautiful things. Sex is wonderful, and it is nice to be able to have it, safely, on a regular basis. To wrap everything up, because I have allowed this to go on for so long, I have not only become accustomed to it, but have given myself the impression that I could not find a more fulfilling relationship OUTSIDE of it. I feel like if I sever this attachment, I will not be able to find another attachment. It is even possible that being mistreated for so long has caused me to believe that this is all I deserve, and that trying to find something better would not be appropriate for someone like me. Even a leaky boat is better than no boat, ya know?”

Now, obviously, I didn’t cover EVERYTHING there, but HOLY CRAP. That whole “because I love her” thing can contain so much vital information. Information that deserves to be examined and acted upon.

I made the statement to a friend a while back that I was losing my faith in love. This alone is an example of putting the emotion on a pedestal. Could I lose my faith in anger? Could I lose my faith in sadness? Why is love so special that it is something I could even HAVE faith in, let alone lose it? I am taking back the statement publicly. I’m not losing my faith in love, I am simply becoming very tired of the way people mistreat the emotion and the word. If you tell me you love me, don’t be offended if I ask you to explain what you mean.