MARY E. HOTVEDT, C.M.F.T., PH.D. President, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
When clients ask, usually with a touch of sarcasm, "What is love?" I try to understand the underlying circumstances. Have they equated love with unconditional acceptance and so become paralyzed by feelings of resentment? Or has love been so highly conditional for them that they are unable to tolerate another's idiosyncrasies and imperfections, expecting instead that the perfect person would enable them to open themselves to love? By contrast, some couples struggle to stay current and honest with each other. They can trade off on giving and taking, accept their own and their mate's imperfections even laugh about them--and cherish the complexity of their lives together. They never ask, "What is love?" I think they know.
MICHAEL W. ROSS, PH.D., M.P.H., M.H.P.Ed. President, Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
Many psychologists distinguish between "passionate love" (an intense longing for union and strong physiological arousal) and "companionate love" (a deep attachment and commitment to an intimate partner). Sexologist John Money draws the line between love and lust: "Love exists above the belt, lust below. Love is lyrical. Lust is lewd." There is general agreement on the intensity of the experience of love and lust, which often become separate entities about six months into a relationship. Culture and society, however, provide a heavy overlay, and definitions can vary across gender, age, culture and class, among other variables.