What Does Love Really Mean?

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Closeup of happy beautiful young couple in love on the beach
 

We throw the word love around in all sorts of contexts and to all sorts of things; I love you, I love ice cream, I love spending time in the outdoors… But, what does the word love really mean?

Love is an action word. It means that we make unconditional tolerances for those we love. We don’t judge through love and we don’t condemn through love. We build others up through love and we long to be with people we love. In this article, I share 14 things that love is from a biblical perspective.

Love generally goes much deeper than what we might actually consider. It is more than just a catch phrase that we use when we like something. It has meaning and importance and contains certain characteristics and behaviors. When we truly love something, we act a certain way towards that which we feel love towards.

Related: 3 Ways To Show Support In Relationships

To better sum up what love means and to get a detailed definition of what love is, I would like to share a bible verse. Whether you are a Christian or not, you can still use and apply this definition of love in your own life. Showing love to your husband or wife like this is one key secret to unlocking their heart and awakening a foundation for love that lasts a lifetime.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV version)
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Is this what comes to your mind when you think of what love is? That wasn’t the case for me. But, I learned of this passage and definition many years ago, and I do my best to follow it. It is a tall-order and I fall short often, but I think it is a great thing for couples to practice in their relationships.

These actions of love can be applied to any relationship; friendships, marriages, and even towards complete strangers. However, for this article, I am going to break it down for marriages.

How we can apply this definition of love to our relationship

1. Love is patient

In our relationships, our patience can be tested. After all, we are living with a completely different individual with completely different beliefs and behaviors. Sometimes, the things they do can drive us crazy; leave socks on the floor, leave the toilet seat up, leave a mess where they were sitting. These are minor things of course.

There are also major things they can do that can really test our patience; substance abuse slip-ups when they are supposed to be clean, overspending, causing lack of funds for household expenses, tell a family member or friend that they can come live with us without consulting with each other first (this last one also adds a lot of strain to a relationship by the way).

Whether it is a big thing or something small, it can wear on us. The immediate response might be to scream and yell and maybe tell them, “get out, I’ve had it!”, but we should be patient with them. We must realize that we too make mistakes, and we are human.

However, if a person is doing these things, perhaps a long talk about what it is doing to the relationship and how it makes you feel will be necessary. To be patient means to practice grace, or favor. It means to give them as many chances as we would want.

2. Love is kind

In a relationship, kindness towards our partner should be obvious; but it isn’t always so.

If we want a relationship where both individuals feel safe and secure, then we need to create that space. This might be easy for some, and more difficult for others.

There are countless examples of domestic disputes between a husband and a wife. It is generally the husband that loves with a heavy hand, however, there are also many instances where it is the wife who provides the discipline to the husband.

Whatever the case, a healthy relationship won’t be able to tolerate such actions. At first chance, the abused will be looking for a way out.

We must treat our spouse with a delicate, loving hand and attitude. We must build them up and help them to become all they can be. This makes them better, and as a good side effect, it makes living with them better as well.


 

3. Love does not envy

I know, how can we be envious in our relationship, right?

Well, we can. Suppose you have a good job. Suppose you are happy being the bread-winner in the house bringing in the large income and providing. Now suppose, you lose your job, or your spouse gets a promotion that brings them to a higher level then you.

This can leave a person feeling envious of the other and possibly with feelings of resentment and bitterness.

It is important to realize that a marriage is a union of two people and what is theirs, also is ours; and vice versa. This means when they get a win, especially financially, this helps the whole house.

Marriage isn’t a competition. We shouldn’t act in such a way. If we do carry this attitude, it won’t be long before we are looking for a new relationship where we can be on top again.

Instead, be happy for our partner, build them up, and help them to excel at whatever it is.

 

4. Love does not boast

This, and the next point, is really an extension on the last point. Being boastful about what we have achieved might make our partner feel like they are less than we are. This can work in a negative way towards their self-esteem and confidence.

As mentioned in point 3, we want to build them up and help them grow in their achievements, not tear them down in an effort to make us feel better. This might not be our intentions, but it may come off this way to them.

5. Love is not proud

To further illustrate the previous point, we can sometimes become conceited and possibly arrogant when we accomplish certain things. This can give us a high and mighty attitude and this attitude can have a negative effect both in and out of the relationship.

If we do start getting pride issues, we can miss out on opportunities, as well as much needed help.

Consider when a person in a household starts getting depressed or develops an addiction such as gambling or drugs. These can have a devastating effect on a marriage in several ways. If not addressed, the relationship usually can’t withstand the pressures of the addiction, or the side effects and behaviors of the addicted individual.

If there is a pride issue with the person who is entering this kind of scenario, it is very possible that they won’t want, or accept help from the other. Again, there are countless examples of households that fell apart due to addictions, and many suicides of good people who just wouldn’t reach out and accept a helping hand; people who felt they had the situation under control on their own.

If we see that we are falling prey to something that will be damaging to us or our relationships, we should embrace the help of our partner, and out of love and respect for them, do what we can to better the situation.

6. Love does not dishonor

Our actions can bring dishonor to both our relationship, as well as our partner. For example, acts of infidelity do this. Criminal acts also do this.

When we are in a relationship, what we do often affects both in the relationship; even if they had nothing to do with it.

We must be careful to build a good reputation for ourselves, and for our relationship. We want people to see that we are good people and are on the right course in life.

Also, we want to be a walking testimony to the youth around us, as they need positive role models in life to look up to and get an idea of how a good marriage looks. And finally, we don’t want our spouse to go around our community with their head held down in shame because of something we did.

If we are going to tell a person that we love them and want to live the rest of our lives with them, then we must protect that relationship and its reputation.

We must make them feel important and act like we mean it. Again, this is part of making the other feel safe and secure, and creating a reputation for them where they can be proud of being married to us and telling others of how great their relationship is.

7. Love is not self-seeking

This is something I write about often in relationship stuff. If we are going to have a successful relationship, we really need to get rid of any form of selfishness.

In a healthy relationship, we seek that which we can do for the other; not, what the other can do for us.

The relationship doesn’t last long when we are only in it for what we can get. People like to be nurtured and cared for, and if we don’t provide that for our spouse, they won’t do it in return for us; at least not for long.

One of the greatest ways of showing our love for the other in a relationship is how we care for them, regardless of what mood we are in. If we can come home after a long, hard day at work, followed by a terrible, slow commute home, and then give our spouse our full attention and concern about how their day was, then we are on our way to showing them how deep our love is for them.

If your marriage is broken and in need of repair, take some time to check out this resource:
7 Secrets to Fixing Your Marriage, with Mort Fertel.
Mort has one of the highest success rates in helping couples to fix and restore their broken marriages.

8. Love is not easily angered

I was angry for many years in my own relationship. Not with something my wife did, but for many other reasons. The problem was however, my anger went with me everywhere I went. It was worsened through alcohol, which was a big part of me for the first several years of our marriage.

What I eventually learned was that my wife could only tolerate so much of this behavior and she finally gave me a serious ultimatum, quit or leave. Something about her made me believe that she was serious this time, so I quit.

As I worked to help repair what I had broke down, I started to learn to love with a soft hand; meaning, I was careful of my actions, or reactions, when she would do something that bothered me. This also meant that I was careful of my reactions everywhere I went.

Back to the first point, love is patient. This is true for this point too. To avoid being easily angered, we must learn patience. We must learn to look at the situation for what it is, how bad is it, how much damage has it done, and how helpful will it be for me to get angry about this. If we need to walk away for a moment to keep our head, then we should.

9. Love keeps no records of wrongs

What happened in the past is behind us. No one can successfully move forward for long without looking ahead.

When two people come into a relationship, they each come with a past. Sometimes, the things that happened in their past was a result of a habit or behavior that they have or had. If this wasn’t dealt with at some point, then they are likely to re-offend.

When they do, we have two choices; we can forgive them, or we can forget them.

If we choose to forgive them, then we must do it fully. We must not use their wrong as leverage for ourselves that we hold over them every time we want something. To forgive means to forget. It means we have mercy on them and let them off the hook. We don’t bring it back up.

10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth

It is true, some people can do things to their spouses that are just down-right evil. But, I am not talking about silly pranks that we do to each other; putting a spider on their leg, putting plastic wrap under the toilet seat, hiding hot peppers in their food. Rather, I am talking about things that hurt one another and damage the relationship.

These can be things like being dishonest, or, disloyal. They can be certain acts that undermine the other or belittle the other’s character.

In some instances, people do these things on purpose, and others do them on accident. Whatever the reason, they are hard on other people, destroy trust, and damage relationships.

If we are practicing love in our relationship, we are going to try not to do things that cause distress to the other. If these do happen for some reason or another, we are going to try to show that we are sorry and work to help correct the situation as soon as possible.

11. Love always protects

This might be the easier one and possibly the more natural one out of all of these points. As a man, I feel good when I stand up for my wife. Sometimes this just means stepping in to a conversation where someone is belittling or disrespecting her, or it could mean being her protector and keeping her safe in a dangerous situation.

It also means that we must protect the relationship that we have built. If someone is tempting us in a way that could lead to other things, we must remember our love for our partner, and get out of the tempting situation as soon as possible.

Acts of infidelity can happen in a very subtle way; a little at a time. We get more-friendly with the other, start confiding more in the other, and soon enough, sharing intimate actions with the other. This is where we need to be aware of our actions and be protective of our marriages.

If something is going on at home between you and your spouse, keep the issue between the two of you. This means going home and having an open conversation with your partner, no matter how difficult, and asking them to work on it with you. When you both get through it, you will come out stronger, and your relationship will have a stronger trust about it too.

12. Love always trusts

In a relationship, we must trust the other. This can be difficult if they have given us a reason not to trust. Sometimes, we can do things repeatedly that steal away a bit of our partner’s trust at a time until it’s all gone.

We don’t want to let our relationships get to this point. If it is us who are insecure, it might actually wear on us more than the other.

But, if we choose to forgive, then we must let go of the past offences and give another chance. In some instances, especially in abusive relationships, it is difficult to restore the trust.

But, we can learn to give the benefit of doubt and let our guards down some if we see that the person who broke our trust is putting in an effort. If they don’t change, this won’t be possible.

So, let’s say for the sake of this article that they have changed, or we are in a good relationship; when we love someone, we try to believe that what they say is true and we don’t hold suspicion over them and make them feel like they are constantly living under surveillance.

13. Love always hopes

In marriage, we must have dreams and vision for our future. Otherwise, we are effectively agreeing that whatever we have, or, wherever we are is good enough now, and for eternity.

But, in reality, I don’t know of anyone who is good with that.

In my marriage, I am happy with my wife and am hopeful for improvement. This improvement involves our finances, our living circumstances, our characters and behaviors, and a very long-term marriage; till death.

This hope is seen as possible for me because we do love each other, and we do know how to handle the situations that come up in our marriage. This has much to do with being married for 20 years and learning many coping strategies for the times when we aren’t perfect.

The term “love always hopes”, means that no matter what has happened, or what went wrong, that we will get through it and past it and be better for it.

14. Love always perseveres

And finally, love always perseveres. As our love for each other builds, so does our endurance. As we go through hard times and difficult situations, we pick up new tools that we can use to improve our marriage.

Perseverance is important in many aspects, but, in relationships, it is what gets us through the worst of it.

Having hope is important but persevering through the times that seem hopeless is the way that the eventual dream will be realized.

Perseverance requires self-discipline, and continuous self-discipline requires vision. Use that vision of a better future when going through hard times to help build the motivation to persevere.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Just Hope For An Amazing Relationship

Conclusion

Although this article was a bit extended compared to my normal work, I didn’t want to cut any corners here. I believe that any marriage is salvageable with effort and desire. Fully understanding what love is and how it fits into a relationship and doing away with pride while we work on it is the key.

Whether you are in a solid relationship built like a rock, or in a relationship on the rocks, showing true and pure love to your partner is necessary to get it on solid ground. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, living up to all the examples here of what love is, is a tall order. But, we do what we can, and we improve over time. This is what counts; that is what makes us easy and desirable to live with.

Good luck!


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Happy couple giggling and embracing in each others arms by the lake. Love that lasts forever.

2 thoughts on “What Does Love Really Mean?”

  1. Excellent post! I love how you take each line in the bible verse and break it down by providing a personal example. As someone who’s in a long-term relationship myself, I know a lot about the power of patience (and yes, I also realize my partner has had to exercise lots of patience with me so it goes both ways)!

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  2. I love this one, what a wonderful job you have done with breaking this down I hope you share a lot more like this. Keep up the wonderful work

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