Defining Love

Photo by Sydney Gordon Student Publications

How does society perceive love and modern romance?

Discussions of falling in love, the meaning of love and love as a whole are often a notable topic of discussion around the start of February. The grocery store aisles are lined with red and pink, and people find themselves asking their partners, “Will you be my valentine?” However, in spite of all these conversations, a hard definition of love continues to elude contemporary society. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we at the Technique wish to discuss how we define love, the complications of modern romance and how society treats the various types of love differently. 

Love is difficult to define. Oxford Languages defines love to be “an intense feeling of deep affection.” However, to some, this may not sufficiently encapsulate the feelings they experience when they feel a sense of love. In truth, love does not have any one definition; it varies from person to person. More so than ever, people feel a need to define everything and place themselves into boxes. Romance is no exception. Irrespective of love, modern romance takes on many forms: the classic relationship, the “friends with benefits,” the “situationship” and more. 

The “situationship” is generally defined as when both parties have feelings for each other but do not want to commit to a relationship. However, the socialization of the concept is far different; it is often seen as one-sided or as a fear of commitment. This is a valid sentiment given how such circumstances tend to play out, but it does place immense weight on labels. The complicated part of a monogamous relationship is the weight of choosing one another, and only one another. This often arises because of how sex is demonized. There exists a high wall between friendship and romance and the idea of crossing a line and never being able to return is often visualized in media.

An example of this is in “Little Women,” with Theodore “Laurie” Laurence and Jo March. Jo values their platonic relationship, but once that changes, they are unable to go back to normal. This is also exemplified in the movie “When Harry Met Sally.” However, this precludes discussion of the various types of love, as well as how love might change over time. In Sally Rooney’s “Normal People,” she weaves a tale of two people who come in and out of each other’s lives, but implies that they loved each other the whole time, albeit in different ways. Romantic love is neither the only or the most important form of love, however. Platonic love is often treated as a “lower” or less important form of love. Socially speaking, romantic relationships are held on a higher pedestal than friendships. It is treated as though 50% of one’s time and efforts should be dedicated to their partner and the other 50% must be disseminated among many friends. 

Concerningly, “being nice” to a romantic interest is also seen as a gesture of flirting or romance. Kindness has become a commodity for love, and the standards for what is appropriate in a romantic setting versus a platonic setting are very different. While in the context of familial love, for example, kindness is often not considered “regrettable,” this does not mean kindness should be used as a means to get what one wants, especially if what one wants is a romantic relationship.

Romantic love is also treated as deeper than its platonic counterpart. In truth, all types of love can be equally deep and often, love between friends lasts far longer than that between partners. It has become far too normalized to abandon and refuse to prioritize friends due to romantic relationships. While we are quick to say “I love you” to our friends, that does not allow us to treat friends worse than we would a partner.

It is important for love stories to be told in the context of both platonic and romantic love. Love stories do not have to treat friends as side characters to support and prop up the main characters. We as a society must treat all of our relationships as an intricate web, rather than a hierarchical tree. In the meantime, we can try our best to value the people in our lives — romantic, platonic or familial — because they are the people who help imbue our lives with intrinsic value.

The Consensus Opinion reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board of the Technique, but not necessarily the opinions of individual editors.