Love is a Taught Construct



How do you know how to love? Did you sit wide-eyed in front of a large screen as colourful costumed characters hugged one another to a saccharine sound-track so this imbued you with the concept of what love was? Did those cartoon characters explain to you what it is to love? Did their exaggerated voices and crazy antics, followed by the moral of the story teach you what love is?

Perhaps you read about it in love, heard it in songs and studied the many ways in which this ultimate emotion appears and affects people. Chances are that you have been affected by those hugely affecting passages from the great works dedicated to love. Chances are you have been captured by haunting lyrics and catchy jingles which also profess to tell you what love is.

They have all played a part. You may have learned about love from the version churned out by the media, of Hollywood romance, dashing heroes, fair maidens, tarts with golden hearts, the good man who rides to the rescue, the wayward soul saved by love. Love may have been explained to you from the pulpit as a higher love, something which transcends all earthly manifestations, a love so powerful and complete that it sacrificed its only son in order to demonstrate its love for humankind.

This godly love is all around you, it touches each and all and is mighty in its effects. Love may have been learned from furtive fumbles down alleyways, sneaking into bedrooms when so young, the exploration of warm and urgent body parts accompanied by those ever so sincere protestations of love.

A haphazard journey through galloping teen years as nothing and everything makes sense all at once. Then again, love might have appeared to you in the form of something small and furry, an unconditional (so long as it was fed) love which was loyal, giving and ever so cute. So many erudite tutors, learned lecturers and wise proponents of what love is.

Love thy neighbour, love yourself, love is all you need, woman in love, it must have been love, crazy little thing called love, to know him is to love him, we found love, how deep is your love? Love is all around us, in us, between us, lifting us up and letting us down. It is everywhere and you may well have been taught by many of the above and more besides as to what love is.

However, love most likely will have been taught to you by those who created you, those two people who came together and through their own pleasure created you. Two people who decided that they would shoulder the responsibility of creating life, nurturing it and bringing a new person into the world.

Those two people accepted many, many responsibilities from such a decision and act. Chief among them was the responsibility of teaching that person what love is. Through their offices they have furnished each and every one of us with the notion of what love is. A deep-seated and visceral understanding of this is how love feels, this is what it looks like, this is what it sounds like.

This is love. From those two people more than anything else we are first grounded in the concept of what love is. This grounding lasts a considerable time and whilst there are other factors to be considered, as I have mentioned above, it is this lesson which is learnt invariably first and the one lesson which resonates beyond all others. So often we are in their hands when it comes to being taught about love. So, what is this taught love? It has so many, many facets.

Love is being told to never trust anybody.

Love is being made to re-write the entire essay because of one spelling mistake.

Love is being sent to stand outside on a cold winter’s day until all three verses of Ode to Autumn are recited correctly.

Love is knowing nothing is ever good enough.

Love is understanding that someone else knows better than you what is best for you.

Love is turning away from the reality.

Love is standing straight against a wall for several hours for speaking out of turn.

Love is for the weak.

Love is being told that when I am gone nobody else will look out for you.

Love is succeeding.

Love is building a wall as high as possible.

Love is trying until it hurts and gaining that final curt nod of approval.

Love is being seen and not heard.

Love is fulfilling your potential and securing that legacy.

Love is hurting you even though it hurts me, but someone in this household has to do it and it won’t be him will it?

Love is reading to yourself than being read to.

Love is living in the shadows and hoping not to be noticed.

Love is being the best.

Love is the preserve of the powerful.

Love is being denied a birthday party because the other children are too stupid.

Love is being undermined in order to prevent conceit.

Love is a begrudged recognition and the injunction to try harder, go further, climb higher, run faster, study longer.

Love is burning your hand but not crying.

Love is don’t tell anybody about our secret.

Love is a righteous beating.

Love is being distant and pretending things never happened.

Love is being sent away.

Love is not being told.

Love is splendid isolation.

Love was taught this way.



Is it Love?

8 thoughts on “Love is a Taught Construct

  1. Joa says:

    It’s hard to define Love.

    It is heat generated between people. Circulating energy. Exchange.

    Being seen, accepting, understanding – yes.


    Love described by HG … I immediately straighten, flex, grow and hear feathers rustling in the wind. Protection and defense mode this boy are activated. Regret is heartbreaking 🙁

    Unfortunately, I still see “my” narcissist as that little boy. Even though he has outgrown his mother.

  2. David says:

    This is sadly perhaps the story written by someone who has never been loved ? When one feels loved, even if it is later in life, one knows what it is. It is a sense of being SEEN and appreciated and valued.It makes one feel they belong. It appears some of us have never experienced it. It is observing ones classmates who all feel like they belong, and have a right to be themselves. – to someone (s); and you observe that you do not feel that way-you feel like an outsider , and after much consideration, realizing it is because they feel loved…and you know you do not.

    1. Asp Emp says:

      David, the last part of your comment, I would be inclined to agree to a degree. Yet, how does a child know the difference, especially when they were ‘taught’ one way (ie by parent) and get shown another way ie by another relative in the family? Thank you for sharing your views and they were interesting to read.

    2. WiserNow says:

      You make some great points and I agree that the sense of being seen and accepted and valued makes one feel loved. When it comes to feeling ‘love’, and being able to define what ‘love’ actually is, it is quite difficult.

      When I look back, the things that happened to me because of narcissism made me feel angry, frustrated or confused. These feelings occurred because the abuse offended my sense of justice or hurt my pride. I was angry about the unfairness and the lies that nobody else would acknowledge. I felt undermined and I was angry about the burdens that seemed to be for me to carry and deal with.

      At the time, I didn’t think to myself, “I don’t feel loved”. However, the way I tried to deal with it was to show love through actions. I tried being more honest, caring and respectful. From what I have learned here from HG, that was ‘flawed logic’. My actions didn’t lead to me being more loved. My attempts at being more ‘loving’ actually caused more abuse and more exploitation from the people I was trying to ‘love’. Now I see that it’s important to consider who it is that you want acceptance from or who you want to show you ‘love’.

      When you say that “observing ones classmates who all feel like they belong” – it makes me think that you may be generalising a little. There were probably other classmates who had narcissists for parents or some kind of ‘abusive’ family situation. This is simply because the statistics show there are a certain number of humans in the population that are narcissists.

  3. WiserNow says:

    If the concept of ‘abuse’ is placed to one side for a moment, all of the things in the list above of what love is are extremely demanding and punishing, especially for a child. Expecting a child not to cry when they’ve been hurt, demanding they be the best, or giving them a righteous beating? That’s just extremely irrational.

    When a baby or child is experiencing these things, they cannot and do not think to themselves, “this isn’t love, this is abuse”. They have nothing else to compare it to. They try to live up to and fulfill the demands. They have nowhere else to go, so they endure the harshness and punishments. They try to appease the abuser and conform to the expectations. It’s a day-by-day, constant and consistent experience, so it becomes the child’s ‘normal’. But it is still extremely irrational.

    Later in life, the adult children again don’t (or can’t) think to themselves, “what I experienced wasn’t love, it was extremely irrational”. They have their well-developed, built-in instinctive defense strategies and then ‘relate’ to other people using those strategies.

    It’s incredible to me that parents treat their innocent, defenceless children in these ways. I’m sorry these things happened to you HG.

  4. PQ says:

    This is devastating to read… my heart hurts for that child.

  5. Eloise Simpson says:

    This is heartbreaking. Early abuse and neglect set you up.

  6. Asp Emp says:

    This article (and many others on this blog) ‘taught’ me so much. I now understand the difference. There is a massive difference. Massive.

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