Warning: This is a post grad level blog post. It implies that you’ve been through some sort of preliminary relationship training. That you understand the importance of self-love before a relationship and are capable of saying “no” when necessary and “yes” even when it’s intimidating. This is for hardcore lovers, the people who’ve been in relationships that dragged them to ‘Nam and back.

If there is one thing that I get a preachy about, it’s how little awareness we have of what love means. Not philosophically, which we could babble on about for hours, but how the meaning of the word love has real life implications.

Love is a big deal and you better know what the fuck you’re getting into before you start to toss around the idea. 

It’s easy at the beginning of a relationship to use the word “love” kind of willy-nilly. It’s a genuine feeling that starts as excitement and titillation. And they should be, because things are going great, and hormones are throbbing.

“We’re in love!” “I can’t wait to see him, it just feels nice to be in love” “I love him so much I just want to squeeze him forever and carry him around in my pocket!” (that one I made up and is a little freaky, sorry)

But those words start to bear serious weight as people get deeper into a relationship; good or bad.  Relationships get complicated and when partners have different ideas of what love is, it can get messy.

There has been ongoing arguments for centuries about whether love is a feeling or an action. Of course, other arguments have come in to the mix. Love is a neurological reaction to a flood of hormones to your brain. It’s biological and dependent on a complex chemical concoction of pheromones and bodily fluids. It’s evolutionary, blah, blah. At the end of the day, the argument is often generalized down to feeling vs. action.

But is it really that simple?

Yes. And you can’t have one without the other.

Here is the best example I have and I apologize that it’s a total shot in the dark. Likely, only me and the Santa Cruz hippies will get the meaning. But here goes…

I drive a car that runs on recycled vegetable oil. It saves a ton of money and smells like Burger King. It’s the shit. But in order to start my car I have to use diesel oil. The veggie oil is too thick and complicated for the car to get going in the cold. The diesel starts like a dream and after a few minutes I flip the engine to run on veggie oil which it’s a better running long-distance and cost-effective fuel source. Voila, I save money and the planet and things are great. (I lost you didn’t I….)

Similarly, you need that dreamy uber-sweet lovey feeling to get the relationship started. When you first meet your partner they should look and feel perfect. They are kind, they listen to your stories and like the same music, swoon. We get hooked.

Because let’s be honest, if we were getting into a relationship with a person that we knew was cranky in the mornings, farted in bed and actually DOESN’T like Lisa Loeb, even though they said they did; we would turn and freaking run the other direction.

But we would miss the most amazing and mind exploding good things that happen in the thick of a longterm relationship.

This is where we kick into gear the action love.

This is the moment where we as women have to take responsibility for our relationship beyond our feelings. The word “love” takes on a whole new meaning and it is fucking awesome.

Because when you take responsibility for your relationship you have no impulse to blame anyone else for things that don’t go your way. You have a partner to lean on when things get tough, but you stop letting life and love simply happen to you.

You didn’t fall in love, you took love by the balls, looked it straight in the face and said “yeah, let’s do this.”

My relationships changed DRASTICALLY, when I realized love meant (for me) PARTICIPATION.

Not just action, but an active collaboration.

The same way I don’t want love to be something I feel, it also shouldn’t be something that a person does for me, or that I do for them. I’ve been in too many situations where my generosity and passion, two things that come standard when being in a relationship, have made it easy for my partner to sit on his fat butt and allow love to happen to him. Asshole.

Participation love means there is ebb and flow. We decide to participate in love together and we create our own path as we go. And we talk about it. No assumptions.  Hopefully it has room to grow and evolve and there’s no mandatory rules that it has to follow.

There is no set bar that defines what is love and what is not.

There are 3 major complications that I see people get into when they let love happen to them


Different pages in different books

What one partner sees as love, the other partner may see as good sex or great conversation.

The problem: We wait in anticipation for someone to say “I love you” and then we never talk about it again. But what love means can be drastically different from person to person. What it looks like and what we want it to look like.

My unsolicited advice: Know what love means for you before you go on a first date. And don’t be nervous or afraid to ask what it means for your partner. Wouldn’t you rather know now that they’ve never been in love, or see love as something completely different than you. It’s a great moment to really come together and take the guess work out of a great relationship.

Staying above the bar

When a relationship is above the bar, you are in love. When things start to get tough; when communication goes off the rails or there’s a dry spell in the bedroom, you think that love has died.  Your feelings have dipped below the bar and you start to question the relationship and the “love”.

The problem: The bar is most often set at the moment someone says “I love you.” Boom. This is the starting point for a linear relationship. Things must get more intense and more intimate for things to stay above the bar. This wouldn’t be worrisome except for the fact that the first time you say those words is often a fluke, or a time and a place thing. and that’s ok. The significance people put on those words, are disproportionate to the reality.

My unsolicited advice: Be ok with saying “I love you” and letting the relationship naturally grow or fade, with no forced emotions or preconceptions.

Levels of Love

Love is not a bracket you break into or a level you reach in a video game, that lets you screw up and go back to the beginning of the level to try again. That’s simply not how it works. But many people treat it like that because “they’re in love”.

The problem: People stay in relationships too long, and I’m not even going into the implications of abusive relationships. In general, people use “love” as an excuse to stay in a washed up relationships. Maybe it’s fear of being alone, or just being in a routine, but people stay and become unhappy. Think of the years we’ve wasted in relationships where love faded and we kept saying the words.

My unsolicited advice: Check in more often. Don’t assume because you say “I love you” that the relationship is built on love. Maybe it’s worth reigniting with some passion and you need to go back to sweeping each other off your feet to reboot the life you’ve got together, but also follow your intuition and when it’s over, be glad it happened and move on. That’s the benefit of frequently checking in on a participatory relationship.