Feb 20

Our Romantic Heart Needs To Be Known

Dealing with love requires philosophy

A shorter version of this article was published in The Concordian newspaper in February 2020.

I believe we should be asking ourselves “What is the meaning of love?” more often than we usually do.

It’s not uncommon these days to end up seeing someone without knowing exactly what the outcome will be. We don’t know where this intimate bond stands, either between friendship and committal love or outside of these two poles, and that’s why current generations emphasize the open-ended ambiguity with phrasings such as “seeing each other”, “being friends” or “dating”.

One thing remains unchanging while developing interest with someone, be it from a two-date period to a defined relationship, which is our self and our psychological attributions. Our projections of insecurities and natural attitudes remain, but in the face of a romantic phase they take place against a seemingly different world.

The infamous statement “It’s not you, it’s me” allows you to shoulder the blame without explicitly confronting what the problem is. Following a break up, more often than not, we reflect on what we should or shouldn’t have done. In the preliminary stages of dating, however, some of us scrupulously analyze our text messages, become incredibly vigilant about seduction strategies, and readily try to figure out what their potential partner likes. We readily accept to go on a quest to know what our romantic interest likes in order to hide our qualities that we think would repel them. Sometimes we simply shut ourselves to an increase of opportunity for various reasons. We can stop a relationship from growing for reasons unrelated to our partner.

In the aftermath of a relationship, the motto “just be yourself” is of no help when we fall into thinking that we did something wrong – which is why this advice is usually given before the relationship stage, otherwise it’s useless. Most of us are ready to compromise our identity in a heartbeat for the chance to succeed in loving someone. More even, this adaptive behavior can even take place subconsciously due to the sheer presence of the other that makes us have an intuitive minimal burst of adoration for them. Sometimes a simple glance at our partner makes us freeze and lose confidence that we have no issue nurturing with other people. Experiencing the other, by encountering and interacting with them, makes us change in various ways somehow, for better or worse.


What do any of these examples say about us and our view of love?

I believe these exemplified behaviors reveal a crucial lack of rational decision making and understanding of our subconscious belief about the meaning of love. Before, during and after dating someone, we should be asking ourselves more than once about the meaning of love.

“What is love?” is a question that is more complicated than what it appears to be. It’s another way of asking, “What does love mean to me?” Figuring that out, or at least being aware of the uncertainty about the answer, can help us be careful and healthy in our romantic life so as to decrease the chances of becoming traumatized from relationships and the views projected onto us by social discourses. We can begin to understand the kind of person we are when it comes to loving someone other than ourselves. This is a crucial step to personal growth, considering that we can become much more different when we are exposed to someone other than ourselves.

In this way, to be in love is both a challenge and a revelation of our most innate attitude toward the world, which explains the cruciality of understanding our core beliefs underneath this mindset.

Some of us feel comfortable diving head first into a new relationship weeks or days after the previous one ended. Others would rather take it slow to avoid being hurt again. Asking “what does love mean to me?” often leads us to more philosophical questions that are crucial to maintaining a healthy mindset when we fall in love. Why do I love this person and not someone else? What am I ready to give up for a partner? What do I see (or miss) in the affection given to me by my partner? What do I want out of my romantic relationships?

The one question that fascinated me when I began to search for the meaning of love in my life was: Where does my adoration stand between my relationship and my romantic partner? In other words, do I only value the outcome of the relationship and what I build with a partner, or do I only value the partner for who they are as themselves? Am I even able to see them accurately without bias? Is love supposed to be the praising of something built by two (or more) people together, or should it be the appraisal of the person for who they are (or who we see them to be)? Perhaps it’s both. Perhaps it’s neither. In any case, this thread of puzzlements has revealed to me to be a fundamental issue in philosophy, specifically in philosophy of love and morality. Valuing the whole of a relationship or the sheer existence of a person turns out to have significant entailments about one’s personal beliefs, with the most obvious example of this showing through our apprehension of a heartbreak and grief.


Regardless, once we have set clear expectations, we can comfortably let love sweep us off our feet, because we’ll know we have the appropriate psychological resources to take hold of ourselves when our mind starts to run amok amidst all the action love generates. Similarly, when we wind up on our own, love-less again so to speak, the pain might not be as hurtful as it could have been if we had figured out what love means to us, and understand the beliefs that create our emotional turmoils.

Many stoic philosophers have suggested we prevent the loss of our beliefs rather than heal them. I think we should, too, prevent rather than heal the deception of our personal beliefs about romantic love in order to avoid facing the worst of ourselves in times of heartbreak, such as self-doubt, trauma, and depression. This looks even more necessary as we grow in an era that prioritizes self-endeavours over interest for others.(1)


(1) See The Atlantic’s dossier on current generation’s decrease in dating and sexual relationships: “Young People Are Having Less Sex – The Atlantic.” February 8, 2019.

See also: Rabin, Roni Caryn. “Put a Ring on It? Millennial Couples Are in No Hurry.” The New York Times, August 7, 2018, sec. Well.

This is also evident through major dating applications (Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, etc.) emphasizing its users to adopt a consumerist behavior in order meet people and develop connections with them.

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