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 and Instagram at @emily_brande. She blogs at

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