on the difference between falling in love and loving

everyone in my life (facebook) knows right now that i’m revelling in ‘all about love’ by bell hooks. i put up a long quote from the book approximately once a day. i have been doing this since before i finished the book over three months ago. it’s that good. you should read it. i’ll buy you copy. seriously. i have bought six already and i’m contemplating getting copies in bulk. email or tweet at me.

one of the concepts that stuck the most with me is the difference between falling in love and loving someone. hooks subscribes to the following definition of love from m. scott peck: “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”

through the book, she expands and deepens her notion of love as action. and it’s a very specific type of action. it is different from care and it is most definitely not a feeling. given my upbringing in the christian tradition, this makes perfect sense to me. in fact, it clears up a lot of the confusion i had as a teenager about what jesus meant when he said to love all people.

hooks takes it farther though. she believes that the ideas of "falling” or “being” in love are patriarchal constructs. at first, i was like ummmmm… but then i got it. she explains… (paraphrase) 

“the language of having 'fallen’ gives the illusion that one is helpless during the process. it implicitly indicates that an individual is unable to be responsible for the situation, nor should they be. they have fallen and that’s that.”

it also gives the out that once the feeling fades, the relationship should end. because we (usually) can’t control our feelings, the loss of feeling means the end of the relationship. this is consistent with the helpless frame of thinking. 

however, if loving someone means doing things that promote their growth, it actually has nothing to do with feelings and can persist even in voids of feeling. in fact, you could actually dislike someone and still love them. 

this thinking isn’t new to me (shoutout to tallahassee christian youth groups - kumc, killearn lakes, calvary, etc.). but hearing it at this stage in my life in this way is rocking me and my world view.


ps - an old co-worker, maanav, shared the five relationship stages framework with me. this framework provides some helpful complexity to this story. check it out. i mostly took from it that there is a significant transition between infatuation (stage 1) and the power struggle (stage 2). this, and the rest of the framework, map onto the hooks’ explanation of love really well, but i think that’s a different post. i’m already at twice my word limit. XO

pps - below are some links to relevant quotes from hooks and people she references regarding love.