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What Is Love Essay

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A Phenomenology of Love


Love is a very timely phenomenon, and phenomenology is a study concerning phenomena. In this paper titled, ‘A Phenomenology of Love’, we tackled and discussed our new perspectives about love — to which we connected it to the following: loneliness and admiration, infatuation and friendship, honesty and truth, sacrifice, and freedom.


Love, Freedom, Sacrifice, Truth, Lies

Hundreds of years have passed since people started to ask, “What is love?” Several individuals have already tried and contributed their answers to the discussion regarding its true meaning. A lot of works have been done and published on this subject, but it seems that the question brings in more questions whenever the topic is brought to life. The curiosity and interest of people in answering this question proves how love is: a part of us and our lives; that it is a part of our nature as human beings, which means we are naturally capable of loving; and that it plays a vital role on the philosophy of man.

When anyone is asked about their experience with love, some will smile instantly while others will have a confused face like they are remembering some lonely moments in their lives. It is proven in this generation that the word ‘love’ means an infinite definition. When ordinary students are being asked about love, they will think about couples, girlfriends, boyfriends, or crushes. Maybe in their point of view, that is what they call love. In terms of love, people only seek someone to love them not knowing that there are people who already loved them for a long time. This scenario results in people getting the words ‘I love you ‘you’re mine’ and ‘I won’t leave from the person who does not know how sacred and complex these words are.

Nowadays, love is perceived as feelings felt and shared by two lovers towards each other. They admire the things that are beautiful in every aspect of their partner’s life, which makes them feel like they are, in some way, “connected”. Here, love is associated with admiration.

People also tend to find happiness in the simple things or “efforts” done by their partners, to which they find sincere and meaningful. They do not seem to care about the rest of the world they are the only ones that matter to each other – where they would say that as long as that they have feelings for one another, there is “love”. As a song goes, “You got a way of making me feel insane, like I can’t trust my own brain …” In here, lovers are dependent on one another.

As time pass by, people tend to equate love to sex. They are saying that when one truly loves the other, one will give in to their eroticism and sexual desires. This is where they find love and happiness through their contact physically.

People also tend to find love in labels. They act like when two strangers developed a romantic relationship and labeled themselves as a “couple”; they would go back to being strangers or at least friends. Thus, this made friendship inferior to love and love being superior to friendship.

And last but not the least, people always define love as an interpersonal connection. This means that love is always found between people. Based on Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love (2004), stated that love comprises three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment. In his theory, the ideal form of love is the combination of the three components which he called “consummate love”. He also describes other combinations of the three components, such as:

Romantic Love = intimacy + passion

  • No commitment; typically happens in the teenage years.
  • Thus, contradicting the thought that age doesn’t matter when it comes to love.

Companionate Love = intimacy + commitment

  • Typically on close friends

Infatuated Love = passion only

  • Admiration; is commonly experienced at the beginning of the relationship

Empty Love = commitment only

  • No intimacy or passion; can change to other forms of love as times pass by; for example, an arranged marriage

Fatuous Love = passion + commitment

  • is like getting engaged after dating for three weeks; feelings result in impulsiveness

Anyways, to start our phenomenology of love we must set aside these preconceptions about love. Now, let’s go back to our goal – to make a phenomenology of love.

Love exists in many and varying forms – one just needs to notice it and make the best out of it.

Loneliness and Admiration

The experience of love starts from the feeling of loneliness. As human beings, we are capable of being self-conscious – being aware of what is happening to ourselves and to our environment. Being able to reflect, we then realize that we are all unique, or completely different from one another, which pushes us to love ourselves first. This difference between people also causes arguments and fights due to difference – thus, making us feel misunderstood by the world and that the whole world is against us. The feeling may lead us to question where the fault is: within ourselves or within the rest of the world which promotes uniformity and creates specific standards for things and people. This may trigger negative feelings and thoughts which may later lead to the realization that we are lonely despite not being alone.

As individuals, we try to overcome loneliness by ourselves. This is where we develop our interests in other things since we try to distract ourselves from the thoughts of being lonely. Consumed by the thought that every human being is unique, we tend to always see the difference one between and the other – leading us to appreciate or admire those who have similarities to us since they are making us feel understood in a judgmental world. Admiration actually happens on a daily basis since we gather new experiences and explore new things every day. Admiration can happen between us and others, although it can happen inside you – you can admire even your other family members, strangers, even a part of yourself that you just discovered and appreciated. It is a part of the nature of human beings to see beauty even in times of darkness, and we can only be affected and devastated by that darkness if we chose and allow it to do so.

Moreover, love is not loneliness – It only starts from it. As we start trying to fill that gap between ourselves and others, we learn how to appreciate things that resemble us – as a sign of comforting ourselves from the thoughts and the feeling of being lonely. Then, loneliness ends when one finds comfort in other people through admiration. Lastly, we grow to care about the people we admire; just because we all want the best for them and we think that we can help them with that since they helped us in the first place.

With the help of others like friends, family, or even strangers, you will eventually learn how to love yourself. This will later lead to finding comfort coming from within you, thus becoming an independent individual, at least, emotionally and mentally.

Infatuation and Friendship

With admiration, we become infatuated which sometimes causes us to be obsessed with the thought of possession. We become preoccupied with the thought of owning someone. It is because we are probably scared that we may become lonely again once they are gone since they are the ones that “fixed” us. This is being infatuated with the person.

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Love is different from infatuation. With love, you become in love with the person as a whole – not with the thought of being with that person and owning him/her. Since we are now somehow dependent on others, we seek advice and opinions regarding our decisions –especially if our decision will affect other people. Once enlightened, we will realize that becoming obsessed with the thought of possessing someone is not good for both parties, so we will just settle for friendship.

We all know that some love stories started from being strangers to friends, to being best friends to best man. Being called a “best friend” means a lot. It will feel like you are trustworthy as a person. You can be the happiest person when your best friend is around. When you fall into this kind of relationship, it will lead you to some sacrifices.

However, love does not need to be romantic in order to be called “love”. There is love in friendships, which proves that love is not indeed blind. In a friendship, you get concerned about their decisions, actions, et cetera since you want them to be a better person every day. You inform them if they have done anything wrong or are just about to do so, and you do something about it. You serve as a guardian towards their better self, not the controller of his/her life.

Love exists in a friendship, and it is often unnoticed. Furthermore, with the help of friends, you slowly learn to love yourself. This will later lead to finding comfort coming from within you, thus becoming an independent individual, at least, emotionally and mentally.

Honesty and Trust

No human was ever lived without saying any lies from their mouth. We are all suspects of being a liar. Any form of not telling the truth is definitely called a lie. They say that telling lies is natural for us as a human but these lies mean a lot in terms of love.

Honesty is rare nowadays since people tend to lack sincerity whenever they are showing their “love” for others– it is always that they lie in their actions or words, sometimes it is even both. “Actions speak louder than words,” but that does not mean that words do not matter. It is just that honesty requires actions to be inclined with the words, with sincerity and truthfulness, or else they are all just lies. People always fail in showing honesty because even if their actions and words match, their intentions are different.

Honesty means having to say the truth, even if it is good or bad. You have to tell the truth, especially if that truth is capable of affecting both of you: if it’s good, you will get trust; and if it is bad, you will get trust, respect, and even a lesson that you both can learn that can help you grow.

However, human beings are good in nature. But being bad and doing things that are not good does make you less of a human – as said, human beings are naturally good and it is our choice to choose otherwise.

Trust is not something that is easy to get or give to and from someone. It requires honesty, experience, time, attitude, and many more to prove that you are trustworthy. Honesty plays a vital role in gaining and giving trust to anyone. When one doubts and lacks trust towards the other, their bond weakens which may lead to worse situations.

Love is fostered whenever there is trust between one another. It allows the people and their relationships with one another to grow. Every word and action means a lot. Everything you do should be from your mind and heart. We all know that love needs mutual feelings to be nurtured but what if the other one fell out of love. This situation is very common in failed relationships. When your partner failed to love you throughout your relationship, lies take place. He/she can say all the sweet meaningless words in order to not hurt you instantly.

Love is Sacrifice

Sometimes, love requires sacrifice. But as a whole, love is not so much a sacrifice as it is a compromise. No matter how compatible the two people are or how much they have in common, they’re never going to agree 100% with each other all the time. They might agree 99.9% of the time, but there are inevitably going to be disagreements.

Life isn’t always going to go smoothly. Sometimes, things out of your control come along. It is when you disagree or hit a cosmic bump in the road that the need for sacrifices and compromises arises. When we say “love is sacrifice”, it suggests the meaning that we must give things up for the person we love and that is sometimes true. Yet, love does not always have to be a sacrifice, and also not all sacrifices will benefit your relationship. There are sacrifices that you don’t have to make, you should decide on what things are worth sacrificing and worth fighting for.

Also, when we say love is sacrifice, it does not always mean that the love you are making a sacrifice for is a person; it can be a love for your dreams. It is hard to choose what dream you’ll go for especially when you have two different dreams and one needs to be sacrificed; it can be a love for our country like how our national heroes sacrifice their lives for the freedom of our country. Sacrificing in love depends on how people think, and on how people interpret the word love.

Love is sacrifice, but not the way you think that it is always a sacrifice because love doesn’t always have to be a sacrifice. For example, if your partner’s actions suggest that you should sacrifice your mental health, emotional wellbeing, integrity, or safety, you can say no or even walk away. Those sacrifices do not benefit you or your relationship, and you don’t have to make them.

Love is Freedom

Showing your love needs to have freedom, for example, one asked, “What is the difference between ‘I like you’ and ‘I love you?’’ Buddha answered, “When you like a flower, you just pluck it but when you love a flower, you water it daily”. So, when you love a person you’ll never set a boundary for her to explore and wander around. You must let the person you love grow in different aspects of life, see the beauty of life, and let the person you love find and know himself or herself.

According to Steven Stosny, Ph.D., to be free to do something, you must be free not to do it. We are free to love only to the extent that we aren’t forced into it by guilt, shame, fear of abandonment, or, worst of all, the interpretation of vulnerable feelings as emotional needs. No matter how seductive ‘I need you’ may sound in popular songs; the partner who needs you cannot freely love you. If someone needs you, he or she is more likely to abuse you than to give freely of love and support. Most painful conflicts in committed relationships begin with one partner making an emotional request – motivated by a perceived ‘need’ – that the other, motivated by a different ‘need,’ regards as a demand. Any disagreement can feel like abuse when the perceived ‘need’ of one party to be ‘validated’ crashes headlong into the ‘need’ of the other not to be manipulated.

‘If you loved me, you’d do what I want (or see the world the way I do),’ one argues.

‘If you loved me, you wouldn’t try to control me,’ the other counters.

To love is freedom because when you love something or someone, you’ll never control his or her life; you’ll support and guide the decisions he or she will make; you’ll let him or her grow as a person with full of love.

Sometimes, love is an act of possessing or being possessed by another person like when we say “I love you” sometimes it means that “You are mine”. According to Erich Fromm, the popular notion of love at present is “falling in love”. It implies that there is only love when one is “in loved”. You have no love life if you are not in love. Fromm attributes this popular notion of love to three reasons: the emphasis on being loved rather than on loving, the emphasis on the object loved rather than on “love” itself. People talk about “ideal girl”, “knight in shining armor”, or “prince charming” but not so much about “how to love this man/woman…” and the confusion between infatuation and love.

By trying to overcome the feeling of loneliness, it leads us to look for a person who will appreciate us for who we are in this world full of judgments; who will comfort us when we are feeling down and it is natural for us, humans to see the beauty even in times of darkness. But still love is not loneliness, it only starts from it. Being infatuated starts from admiration, we want someone to own us because we are scared to become lonely again so, we are longing for someone to fix us yet, love has a deeper meaning than infatuation; it has a stronger feeling. However, love does not always need to be romantic because sometimes the love that we are looking for can be found in our family and friends.

No human was ever lived without saying any lies from their mouth. Honesty is rare nowadays and sometimes people who show their love lacks sincerity. Action speaks louder than words but action without words is sometimes confusing, it must be inclined with words with truthfulness and sincerity. Love requires sacrifice. But as a whole, love is not so much a sacrifice as it is a compromise. We must let our loved ones grow in different aspects of life; let us not limit their world just because we love them, if we really love someone we’ll let them explore the adventures in life.


  1. Breines, J. (2012, August 9). Love, Decoded. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from Psychology Today:
  2. Stosny, S. (2010, September 13). Freedom to Love. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from Psychology Today: entitlement/201009/freedom-love
  3. Entenman, E. (2018, June 25). Love is Sacrifice But Not in the Way You May Think. Retrieved February 3, 2019, from The Datemix:

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