The best defining characteristic of loving someone is that you can think outside of yourself and your own needs to help care for another person and their needs as well.
Some people get into a relationship as a way to compensate for something they lack or hate within themselves. This is one way of getting into a toxic relationship because it makes your love conditional, you will love the person only as long as they help you feel better about yourself. Such a toxic relationship never lasts long.
True love is that which is deep, unconditional, and eternal and it is the kind of abiding love that is impervious to emotional whims. It is a commitment to a person regardless of present circumstances. It's a constant commitment to a person who you understand isn't going to leave you at any cause and a person who will need to rely on you, just as you will rely on them.
That form of love is much harder because it's dealing with another person's insecurities and fears even when you don't want to. But this form of love is also far more satisfying and meaningful. And, at the end of the day, it brings true happiness.
Many of us idealize love. We see it as a cure for all of life's problems. And because we idealize love, we overestimate it. As a result, our relationships pay a price. The problem with idealizing love is that it causes us to develop unrealistic expectations about what love is and what it can do for us. These unrealistic expectations then destroy the very relationships we hold dear in the first place.
A realistic perspective of love is to know that love is like the ocean, full of ever-changing waves and tides. Feeling this way about love is understanding that what is love exactly, isn't easy. Love takes hard work, which in the long run, will prepare you for a healthier, more fulfilling, and longer-lasting relationship.
When we believe that "all we need is love," then we're more likely to ignore fundamental values such as respect, humility, and commitment towards the people we care about. After all, if love solves everything, then why bother with all the other stuff.
But if, we believe that "love is not enough," then we understand that healthy relationships require more than pure emotions. We understand that there are things more important in our lives and our relationships than simply being in love. And the success of our relationships hinges on these deeper and more important values.
Love for me lives in a realm far deeper than the emotions, and in that deep and rich place, words don't carry a lot of meaning.