In the 1980’s, an English musician called Howard Jones released a great single called What is Love (Anyway).
Today, I find myself asking that question more and more. It’s not like I haven’t been in love before; I have a few times, but I don’t consider those times as “real love”. It’s something I’m still waiting for.
So, what is it that constitutes real love? Well, that’s where I draw a blank. Despite the fact that I have been in love, I find it virtually impossible to describe what real love is. We all believe we have an idea, of course.
Maybe real love is the fires of passion, experienced only briefly and then fading like embers at the end of a long winter’s night.
Perhaps it’s the kind of love you see in movies, where you hold each other in the pouring rain as the credits roll, all expectation and suggestion.
It could be the “honeymoon” love which exists before you’ve really gotten to know the other person and started to get annoyed at their foibles and quirks. When your hunger for each other is insatiable and you’re at it like rabbits (not if you’re Christian, unless you’re married, of course).
Or is real love the love that settles in after the honeymoon period is over, after the bitter arguments and drawn-out compromise. Maybe it’s a longer term, settled love, when you are living with your better half and things are quiet and comfortable.
Possibly real love is the type that is nurtured slowly, like the slender sapling that grows into a mighty tree, shedding leaves and carpeting the ground with autumn.
Or maybe real love is when you are both old and grey, spending little time together, where the only words you say to each other are weather or food-related?
Perhaps real love is love of the unrequited kind, where your desire smoulders for one who doesn’t know how you feel, or even whether you exist, whose every word leaves you hanging, whose absence leaves you sad, whose smile lights up the room and sets your heart beating like timpani?
Maybe real love is all of these things. Maybe we just fail to recognise it when we’ve got it. Maybe we don’t know how to recognise it when it arrives.
What is love, anyway?