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How To Love

How To Love

Just in time for Valentine's Day, we're kicking off a week-long series about love (not just the Hallmark holiday kind, either!). From self-love to BFF love, stay tuned for girls' takes on everyone's favorite four-letter word.

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in relationships is getting love confused with love. As it turns out, the word has many meanings.

First, you can feel love towards someone. You might be familiar with this type of love. Butterflies float around in your stomach and you can’t stop thinking about the person. This type of love is portrayed nearly everywhere you turn in media; at this time of year, Ifeel like I can’t get away from it. The carefully-crafted concept is the kind of love we associate with Valentine’s Day. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with the feeling of love, there is an important distinction to be made between the feeling of love and the action of love. We know the feeling of love, but the action of it is harder to identify. Kindness is the best reference point.

“If we treat love like a word with no real meaning behind it, then we have lost love in its entirety.”

That second type of love—action—represents something. Something bigger, something impactful, something intentional. Often, I ask myself what it means to love, as an action. Singer/songwriter Tessa Violet outlined the concept best when she said that it is “working towards the good of [the person], the good of you, and the good of the world.” The act of loving someone is showing them that you are bettering them. The English language has really cheated me in this lack of differentiation.

In relationships—whether romantic, platonic, or familial—people will hurt you. There was this guy I knew, who manipulated me into doing what he wanted. I would hug him, tell him I loved him, help him with things; working against everything my body was telling me, just to keep him from crying. If I leave him, I was thinking, he might kill himself. And this relationship was platonic. We both struggle with mental illness, and he used that to his advantage. It drove me to breakdowns weekly, but I put aside my constant discomfort because he told me he loved me. And he did. But here’s the catch. He loved me in feeling, and forced me to show love to him in action. 

This relationship was not good for anyone. Not for me, not for him, and not for the world. For a while after, I didn’t show love to anyone at all. This kind of negative energy I had absorbed bounces from person to person, until soon everyone you encounter is affected by the kind of negativity you are feeling. It is not good for anyone. Love in action, or the lack thereof, has a much bigger impact on the world than love as a feeling.

If you were to ask anyone who knew me at this period in my life, they would most assuredly tell you that he did not love me in action. But no one told me this critical difference between love and love; I thought that because he felt love towards me, his actions were justified. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through this. Now that we all know the difference between love and love, ask yourself if you are being loving. Not just to your partner, if you have one, but to everyone. If you find yourself in the midst of manipulation, take a step back and search for the actions in the relationship.

Are they loving, or are they hypocritical to the words being spoken? It's really easy to tell someone you love them and cut off the obligation there. But if we treat love like a word with no real meaning behind it, then we have lost love in its entirety.

So, let me remind you of how to love: Don’t tell someone. Show them.

By Danielle Leard, 15

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