Love is an interesting construct. If you ask an anthropologist, they will say a construct is both social and cultural appropriation, used to define something familiar to us. If you ask a psychologist, they will tell you it is a notion that can be felt but not measured. If you ask a philosopher, they suggest that the existence of this conceptual ideal depends upon the individual’s mind.
Put these definitions together and you have something that cannot be directly observed despite multiple first-hand accounts of feeling them. Because people feel and experience things that cannot always be labeled or measured.
Like love. Or fear. Motivation. Passion. Determination. These are constructs that evoke a certain sensation in all of us, but everyone experiences them differently. Which makes them hard to quantify. Because constructs are tricky things, researchers have done their best to find a way to measure them anyway. Humans are funny that way.
So, let’s indulge.
If we’re talking about love, how do we measure it? In racing pulse and heartbeats? With a scale of 1 to 10? Perhaps it can be counted in the amount of times we do something for a person we love in any given day. Or with a tally system designed to measure how many times we think about love.
It is difficult to quantify because love is not a quantity, but a quality. Love is rarely conditional, if at all. Ask a parent how much they love their child and they will be hard pressed to find the words. Ask a person how they know they love their partner and they will struggle to define this knowledge.
I have this running gig with my husband. It has an ironic resonance with this month’s theme.
“How much do you love me?” I ask.
He always tells me the same thing.
I say, “Ten thousand and what?”
“Ten thousand and one,” he replies with a smirk.
I love that smirk. How much? Don’t ask me to measure it, I’m no researcher. Despite that, I think that love can be measured. But not by instruments and data collectors. It is measured in thought, in feeling. In taste and smell. It is captured by poetry and used tissues and broken hearts and power ballads.
I can’t take the credit for that last one. When I got engaged, many years ago, my co-workers threw me an engagement luncheon- Pizza Hut style. I’ll never forget what one of the older, wiser women in the group stated through bites of cheesy goodness.
“You can only hope to grow together, not apart,” she said, raising her plastic red cup to the sky. “You’ll never be the same people you were the day you got married. We all change. It’s not easy, and it won’t happen with hope alone. It’s hard work. So, make sure you put in the work.”
I think this is a beautiful notion because it applies to all types of love and relationships. It shouldn’t be, but sometimes it is hard work to love your friends, family, co-workers, children, partners, and self.
This lovey-dovey talk is getting lengthy, so I’ll leave you with this fascinating tidbit, dear reader. There is evidence that suggests the electromagnetic field around our hearts can detect and influence others’ heartbeats and brainwaves. At a mere conversational distance! The heart is the most powerful source of electromagnetic energy in the body and produces the largest rhythmic electromagnetic field of any organ in the body. This electrical field is 60 times greater than what the brain generates and can be measured in the form of an electrocardiogram.
More, there is evidence that shows heartbeat synchronization between mother-infant, person-pet, partner-partner, and so on. Ask anyone where they feel love at and they will usually point to their chest. So, it begs the question… can love be measured? Is our biology to blame for the butterflies in our stomach and the warm fuzzies tickling our nose?
If your brain and heartwaves are tingling just thinking about it, I suggest you read up on energetic communication. There are a lot of great articles out there, but I enjoyed this one most because it shows the research findings and collected data. Be forewarned, there is a lot of research jargon throughout and can be tricky to chew through—à https://www.heartmath.org/research/science-of-the-heart/energetic-communication/
So, yeah, love is an interesting construct. And timely, what with the red and pink candy hearts floating around every store, office, and venue this short month. We spend so much time loving other people it can be difficult to remember to love ourselves. This month, indulge in a little YOU time. Read a book. Have a cappuccino. Go to the gym. Sketch or color. Listen to music.
Do whatever it is you must because you are worthy of love and you deserve it!