Why Real Love Is Not a Feeling

The feeling of love is about oneself—how we feel about a person or how a person makes us feel is completely about us, not the other person. And that’s not love—not real love. Real love is about the other person and how we treat the other person, how we act towards him or her, how we choose to show up moment to moment in our relationship with that person—whether we do so with love, honesty, courage, openness, warmth, gratitude, appreciation, care, concern, an open heart; or whether we show up petty, resentful, moody, bitchy, depleted, unmotivated, dishonest, fearful, unopen, closed off, armored up, resistant, impenetrable, and vent ourselves on that person.

The moment a relationship becomes more about how another person makes us feel rather than the type of person we are to the other person, we doom the relationship, because how we feel about another person is completely about us, not them. It’s how we treat another and act towards him or her that shows whether we actually really truly Love and value the person or not.

From “The Art of Loving,” by Erich Fromm—

If two people who have been strangers—as all of us are—suddenly let the wall between them break down, and feel close, feel one, this moment of oneness is one of the most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life. It is all the more wonderful and miraculous for person who have been shut off, isolated, without love. This miracle of sudden intimacy is often facilitated if it is combined with, or initiated by, sexual attraction and consummation. However, this type of love is by its very nature not lasting. As the two persons become better acquainted and more familiar to each other, their intimacy loses more and more its miraculous character, until their antagonism, their disappointments, their mutual boredom kill whatever is left of the initial excitement. Yet, in the beginning they do not know all this: in fact, they take the intensity of the infatuation, this being ‘crazy’ about each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.

This experience of sudden intimacy is by its very nature very short-lived. After the stranger has become an intimately known person there are no more barriers to be overcome, there is no more sudden closeness to be had. The ‘loved’ person becomes as well known as oneself.

Or, perhaps I should say, as *little known* as oneself. And valued even less.

If there were more depth in the experience of the other person, if one could experience more of the infiniteness of his personality, and the other person would never be so familiar—the miracle of overcoming the barriers might occur every day anew. But for most people their own person, as well as others, is soon explored and soon exhausted. And the result is that one soon seeks love from a new person, a new stranger. And again the stranger is transformed into an ‘intimate’ person, and again the experience of falling in love is exhilarating and intense, and again it slowly becomes less and less intense, and ends in the wish for a new conquest, a new love—always with the illusion that *this* new love will be different from the earlier ones. (pp. 4, 48-49; my abridgement and adaptation)


And from “The Road Less Traveled,” by M. Scott Peck—

The experience of falling in love is invariably temporary. The essence of the phenomenon of falling in love is a sudden collapse of a section of an individual’s ego boundaries, permitting one to merge his or her identity with that of another person. The sudden release of oneself from oneself, the explosive pouring out of oneself into the beloved, and the dramatic surcease of loneliness accompanying this collapse of ego boundaries is experienced by most of us as ecstatic. We and our beloved are one! Loneliness is no more!

The experience of merging with the loved one has its echoes from the time when we were merged with our mothers in infancy. Along with the merging we also re-experience the sense of omnipotence which we had to give up in our journey out of childhood. All things seem possible! United with our beloved we feel we can conquer all obstacles. We believe that the strength of our love will cause the forces of opposition to melt away. The unreality of these feelings when we have fallen in love is essentially the same as the unreality of the two-year-old who feels itself to be with power unlimited.

Just as reality intrudes upon the two-year-old’s fantasy of omnipotence so does reality intrude upon the fantastic unity of the couple who have fallen in love. Sooner or later, in response to the problems of daily living, individual will reasserts itself. He wants to have sex, she doesn’t. She wants to go to the movies, he doesn’t. He wants to put money in the bank, she wants a dishwasher. She wants to talk about her job, he wants to talk about his. She doesn’t like his friends, he doesn’t like hers. So both of them, in the privacy of their hearts, begin to come to the sickening realization that they are not one with the beloved, that the beloved has and will continue to have his or her own desires, tastes, prejudices and timing different from their own. One by one, gradually or suddenly, the ego boundaries snap back into place; gradually or suddenly, they fall out of love. Once again they are two separate individuals.

At this point they begin either to dissolve the ties of their relationship or to initiate the work of real loving.

By my use of the word “real” I am implying that the perception that we are loving when we fall in love is a false perception—that our subjective sense of being loving is an illusion. Real love does not have its roots in a feeling of love. To the contrary, real love often occurs in a context in which the feeling of love is lacking, when we act lovingly despite the fact that we don’t particularly feel loving or particularly even feel like we like the person at the moment. (pp. 84, 87-88; my abridgement and adaptation)

Cover of "The Road Less Traveled"

The Art of Loving

The Art of Loving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


26 Responses to Why Real Love Is Not a Feeling

  1. Sebastian says:

    Wonderful post and blog site! Thank you for visiting my blog and liking my post: “Don’t Blame God”, The very subject of Love is good to have an occasional post on but to devote an entire blog is simply outstanding! Thank you for this site. — Sebastian

    • John says:

      You are welcome, Sebastian; and thank you for reading my blog and for commenting!

      God is Love, and so for me, studying Love, learning what Love really is (instead of what we want it to be or instead of defining it as a “feeling”), and actually trying to love others is in essence applied theology.

      Not to mention, we were made in the divine image, so learning about Love–learning how to Love and how to outgrow our innate selfishness, narcissism, reactivity, immaturity, erraticness–is really also about self-knowledge, learning about who and what we can be and what we’re capable of growing into.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting!

      Kindest regards,


  2. Sebastian says:

    Hello John. Believe me it is indeed my pleasure to read and be influenced by such thoughtful scholarship and writing. Thank you for following your passion, indeed we all need a fuller understanding of the love of God and how it should be expressed through our lives! Thank you again! May God bless you in your efforts!


    • John says:

      Hello Sebastian – a much delayed thank you for this very kind comment–I’m sorry to have missed it and not been able to responded in a more timely manner. God is Love, and God is truth, and so my religion is Love and Truth–that is how I worship–by trying to learn more and more what Love really is and by trying to see things as realistically and truthfully as possible.

      Thank you again for your kind and encouraging words, Sebastian! 🙂

      Kindest regards,


    • Anonymous says:

      Unfortunately we People of this millenium cannot tell the difference between Feelings, love or truth. When we are be able to understand the real value of Feelings, we will to turn back to the nature and God.

      • Sebastian says:

        Good point! Feelings has its place but it was never intended to replace love or truth. We must spend time in God’s Word to experience Truth and to live a life of real love.

  3. This is one of my favorite blog posts! I’ve read it before (I also just sent it to a friend), and it has helped me tremendously in my relationship. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with the world!

    • John says:

      Thank you, PS, for reading and for commenting–and for passing this forward to a friend. In my opinion it’s a very good and sound–and badly needed–message. I’m glad to hear that this sort of perspective on Love has helped and is helping you in your relationships!

      Kindest regards, and blessing to you, PS,


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  6. Randy, Sugar Lan,TX says:

    I have contemplated, considered, read volumes, prayed, and meditated; The only real problem is the lack of Love. I am convinced this is the Truth.

    • John says:

      Hello Randy, thank you for reading and commenting. And I agree, the lack of real Love in life, on this planet, in our interactions with each other and ourselves, is a huge problem, made all the worse because there is so little agreement about what Love actually is or what it looks like in a given situation or interaction. What is the truly Loving thing to do? a great question for all of us–and more and more of us–to contemplate and reflect on and try to embody the answer to.

      Kindest regards, Randy, and thank you again for reading and commenting!


  7. msanjana says:

    The post is good, I liked the practicality you have able to see through the wonderful magical thing called love. You may love to read this too- http://bindasspirituality.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/the-honeymoon-that-never-ends/
    Will wait for you 🙂

    • John says:

      Thank you for reading, and for commenting, Msanjana. I’m not a big fan of Osho. I prefer Krishnamurti to Osho. But having said that, there are certainly aspects of his idea about Love that I agree with, and there were certainly parts of the excerpt from Osho that you posted that I also agree with, but there are also parts I disagree with.

  8. Pradyumna says:

    This is well written article. My beliefs resonate with what you have presented us with. Thank you John. Keep up the good work.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “The feeling of love is about oneself—how we feel about a person or how a person makes us feel is completely about us, not the other person.”

    Speaking from my own experience, my feelings for the people I love have a profound impact on “the other person.” My wife may appreciate the sacrifices I make, but she as much wants to know I delight in her; that I find deep feelings of pleasure and satisfaction due to her. I also want more than her selfless acts on my behalf. I want to know she finds me a source of joy. Finally, I desire God to delight in me, not just act on my behalf.

    From this, I have come to believe it is not necessary – and potentially harmful – to sever the link between agape love and the emotions that provide evidence it really exists. I can muster up the willpower to act on a persons’ behalf; it requires an act on God’s part to move my heart to feel love for the person as I act on their behalf. And the receiver is much more blessed.

  10. Jon Huhn says:

    I get what the author is saying here, but I gotta call BS on this one. I married a woman based solely on what I could give her, not what she could give back. And it’s been 20 years of hell. If you really believed that love is all about selfless giving, then you should all go out and marry the first mentally unstable homeless person you find laying in the gutter. That would be “true love”, would it not? But none of you will do it because you stand to get nothing but pain in return for your sacrifice. Face it… marital love was MEANT to have a selfish component of feelings to it. Otherwise you end up destroying yourself giving all you have and getting nothing in return.

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  12. The Truth says:

    Real true love really happened in the old days when most of the good old fashioned ladies were around.

  13. DL says:

    I have been around Christendom since the 70s. I have heard “love is not a feeling”. And i know why people say it. But i’m starting to respond “..what is love *without* a feeling? What is art, poetry and yes – human relationships without it somekind of feeling? Emotions suck as a compass but they make great indicators at times, they can lie, but they can also express the deepest of who we are. Peace all

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