A friend of mine asked people on a yahoo loop to define what love meant to them. This was a while ago, and with my selective memory I'm afraid I've forgotten most of the answers. I do remember mine though.
I saw a one frame comic in the funny pages years ago that said, "Love is letting him have the last cold tablet." Yup, that about sums it up.
Like in the classic story, "Gift of the Magi" Della and Jim are more concerned about each other's happiness than their own, thus one Christmas Della sells her gorgeous long hair to buy Jim a chain for his pocket watch, not realizing that Jim sold his watch to buy Della tortoise shell combs for her long hair. No, they didn't bicker about it afterward. They realized their real gifts were the love they shared.
Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by the late M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled. That talk had a profound impact on my psyche. His assertion was that mature love meant wanting the other person's happiness as much or more than your own. That's been my litmus test ever since.
For anyone who wants to understand mature love, our spiritual connection, and relationships in general, I can't recommend his books enough.
Has a book ever impacted your view of love, life, or the world? Perhaps a movie or lecture or some other delivery system? Has that understanding helped you in your own life? Does it affect the theme of your stories if you write romance? Or perhaps, affect your view of how realistic the romance is if you read it?
I'd like to say my parents taught me what love is since they were happily married for 56 years, but unfortunately I interpreted the message incorrectly and wound up divorced...twice! My parents were complete opposites, and I thought that meant you could make a marriage work with anyone. Obviously I was wrong.
M. Scott Peck taught me what I needed to know after my second failure. Well, better late than never. My third (and hopefully final) marriage has been incredibly happy for 16 years. Twenty years of successful togetherness.
Please share (if you're brave enough) who or what taught you what love is, and if you have anything else to add to the definition.