What is love?

There is so much information out there about love and relationships. It’s as if everyone is so afraid of commitment because of the high divorce rate that we have psychoanalyzed love to “make sure” it will work. Articles range from topics such as “How do you know if he/she is the one,” “quick fixes for your relationship,” and “signs you are in love,” to name a few.

The information overload is enough to make anyone’s head swim—and even give up on love altogether.

But, what if love is not that complicated? I interviewed couples who have been married 50+ years, and here’s what they say love is:

What is love?
Love is when that person in your life becomes more important than your own life—when you think about that person first, before you think about yourself.
– Jules & Rita—married 55 years

I have no idea what love is. I wish I could be of more help. But, I don’t think about it very much. Love, Grandpa.
P.S. Grandma was no help ether. 

Russ & Marge—married over 65 years

Love is the unselfish-giving of yourself. It means to give of yourself, agape love, unconditionally. Putting the other person first… The longer you are with them the more you love them. 
Paul & Peggie—married 60 years

How did you know you were in love?
We met as a result of a blind date and we liked each other right away. My parents were not that enthusiastic, for Jules had only high school and I had my AA degree. So, Jules went to school and got a degree, so he could support me. Isn’t that love?? We lived two hours driving from each other, and distance in those days…was a problem. We saw each only every six weeks to two months.
– Rita

The questions you ask… people should just take care of each other and do what God says. 

Paul made an effort to spend time with me. Our relationship endured physical separation. Our relationship continued even though Paul went to Canada to live for two years before we were married. He would go out of his way to spend time together. 

Now, not all of these answers are identical, of course. But, a common theme I noticed is that true love is self-sacrificial.

It is practical, not an unobtainable ideal. It is hard, but worthwhile. It requires effort, but reaps lifelong rewards.

It means putting the other first. It means practicing self-denial and foregoing immediate pleasures for long-term goals that ultimately bring lifelong satisfaction. It means showing love with actions instead of falling back on fleeting feelings that change from moment to moment.

It’s less of a feeling, and more of a choice. It’s less thinking, and more doing.

Love is, then, self-sacrifice. As Christ laid down His life for us, so must we lay down our lives for each other. A complete gift of self—love is an image of the cross.

[Click here to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s insights on the secret to a happy marriage.]


Emily Brandenburg-2

Emily Brandenburg is a Catholic Youth and Young Adult leader in the Diocese of Orange, California. She hosts a large Bible study and Praise, Worship, and Adoration evenings. In addition, she is concertmaster of St. Martin’s Orchestra, holds a J.D. from Pepperdine School of Law, and is a full-time attorney. You can connect with her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/emilyannebrandenburg and Instagram at @emily_brande. She blogs at TheNetofLove.blogspot.com.


  1. Great blog post as always Emily. The line that I loved the most was “Love is, then, self-sacrifice.” I have so many friends who don’t get that. I mean no disrespect towards women when I say this, but I have so many female friends on Facebook who post things about how they want a man who does this and that (usually cooking is at the top of the list). Many people I talk to about love want someone who is willing to do something for them. After having a conversation with them that usually goes nowhere, I just lift them up in prayer and hope that one day they will get it.

    By Andy | 6 years ago Reply
  2. My grandmother told me when I got married that the secret was “to wait on your spouse hand and foot and hope they do the same.” What I strive for.

    By Emily | 6 years ago Reply
    • Great advice from your grandmother, Emily! And, nice name 🙂

      By Emily | 6 years ago Reply
    • Great advice from your grandmother, Emily! And, nice name 😉

      By Emily | 6 years ago Reply
  3. I loved this blog. So many people look for love in all the wrong places. If they don’t first love themselves, how can they begin to know what love is. From someone who had a failed marriage after 12 years and found true love a few years after learning to love myself again, I know what love is not. For the last 6 years though I find out more and more what love is everyday. Its the unselfish act of putting them first, its that walk you took without one word spoken, its the hug of reassurance when you feel like the world is caving in on you, its the surprise note in your lunch or the text message that brings a smile to your face. It’s that look in their eyes when they are watching you. Its the comfort of knowing your best friend is right there for everything. Its definitely putting their needs above your own and willing to put them first.

    By Tracie | 6 years ago Reply
  4. Thank you for the comment, Andy. Yes, both genders definitely have a lot of expectations on what their significant other can do for them, instead of how they can serve that person. 🙂

    By Emily | 6 years ago Reply
  5. Did you ever wonder how many of these old people didn’t get divorced simply because it was so taboo back in their day?

    By Rachel | 6 years ago Reply
  6. Beautiful. Thank you MCC.

    By Lawrencematthewventline | 6 years ago Reply

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