The Importance of Love as a Verb
It’s about the doing, not the feeling
Lust, romance, and attachment… plus a bonus 4th meaning.medium.com
Thomas P Seager, PhD wrote the above piece in response to a response I posted to a different response to a response of his. See what we did there? If you said, “Wasted a lot of time burying some interesting ideas in responses, while flirting a bit”, you’d be right. A little back and forth never hurt anyone. It’s a fun dance to be sure, but it brought up some interesting thoughts worth expounding on.
Tom posited that there are three different kinds of feelings that we describe as love and a fourth that isn’t a feeling, but it is something we do. Love as a verb.
I think that’s right on.
Lust/Wanting, Romantic/Possessiveness, and Platonic/Familial attachment all fall under our understanding of the word love. Also categorized as love is that which is least frequently regarded as such: verb love.
Tom argues that verb love is the most important. I happen to agree. Verb love means doing things that foster the well-being of the other, even at the expense of our own well-being. It means helping the person you love become the person they most want to be.
I want to look a little deeper into what this means and how the feelings and actions interrelate.
If the verb is the important part of love, what is the point of the feelings? What purpose do they serve? Are they inherently selfish?
We are humans. We are all inherently selfish by virtue of our survival instinct. We are driven to eat. We are driven to sleep. We are driven to seek shelter and safety and to reproduce. Unless we execute cognitive overrides, our most basic instincts revolve around keeping ourselves alive and passing on our DNA.
It is not a moral failing to be selfish…to a degree. It’s nature.
And love feelings are, indeed, kinda selfish in that they provide us with something we want: dopamine. We want it because dopamine makes us feel gooooood.
Not everyone can do that for us. There is no such thing as unconditional love, otherwise, we would get our dope hits from anyone and everyone and our lives would be a literal and figurative cluster-fuck. (Which brings up the fallacy of “Oneitis”, which is covered in another article here.)
No, it takes a certain man or woman with specific qualities to ring our personal bells.
And those bells (feelings) are important because they are catalysts for the fourth, most important type of love. The verb kind.
When we say to someone, “I love you”, what exactly are we telling them? Why does it feel so good to hear? It’s not likely that when we hear it, we translate it into, “Yay! My partner feels possessive and obsessive because I stimulate his/her dopamine receptors.”
There’s more to it than that. The feelings aren’t the crux.
The doing is.
What we are hearing, at least in our subconscious, is, “You, my darling, stimulate my dopamine receptors to the point that I will pretty much do whatever I can to keep you around. I am driven to make myself important to you so that you don’t leave me and take away my drug.”
Or, more simply, “I have singled you out as someone who makes me feel SO good that your well-being is as important to me as my own and I will act accordingly.”
Those three little words serve two important purposes: to make us feel safe in our connection and to communicate that our partner is motivated to do the love.
The feelings are important because they serve as motivation.
So while simply having the feelings of love may not qualify as verb love, they are still important individually in that they create conditions in which we desire to act in the best interest of someone else.
The feelings make us want to do the verb.
It could be argued that even saying, “I love you” is an act of verb love, because you are offering your partner reassurance that you are on their team. Reassuring our partners that we care about their well-being and stimulating feelings of safety and security is something which most, if not all, people crave in their intimate connections.
Now, does verb love require the love feelings to execute?
But they help. Because doing anything is easier when we are motivated.
And that explains why it is easy to do things for the people we love that we won’t do for ourselves — because the connection motivates us. The connection supplies the dope.
Without a partner, we can get sad because our dope has been taken away. And that’s why we are often tricked into calling shopping trips and indulging in spa treatments or our favorite treats “self-love” because we are supplying ourselves with dope, absent of a partner.
But is that kind of behavior really “self-love”?
Not so much.
Verb love is putting the well-being of your partner first. It’s hard to imagine how going into debt for a ridiculously expensive pair of shoes fosters someone’s well-being.
Because it doesn’t.
Self-love is doing the things that will get you closer to the person you wish to become: reading books, going to the gym, challenging yourself to be more social, tackling a personal improvement project.
Self-love is working toward becoming the person you most want to be, which, interestingly, will, in turn, make it more likely that you will find the dope-drenching love connection that we all seek.
Now this whole love thing kind of sounds transactional, right? “You give me the feelings and I will verb love you to keep you around.”
That’s wrong. Love is not a transaction.
We don’t deserve love, verb or feeling. None of us do.
We can do love all the live long day and not receive an iota of reciprocation.
And getting okay with that idea is about the most valuable thing we, as humans, can do.
Loving without expectation is for the strongest of the strong and the bravest of the brave.
And an extension of that love (which falls under the aforementioned self-love) requires knowing when its time to walk away from someone who doesn’t verb love us the way we really need.
Doing the love — verb loving — is the only iteration of love that we have limitless access to. It’s the most powerful and the most vulnerable. The one that makes us both valuable and brave.
No one owes us their love in any form. When we learn to love others freely, without fear, and without expectation of compensation, we are far more likely to receive verb love in return.
But even that is just a happy side-effect.
It’s not a matter of “Do the love and love will come to you.”
Just, “Do the love.”