Sometimes people ask why, in my book, "Love and Its Disappointment" there is no attempt to define love. The reason for this is that I hold to the view that love is the alpha and omega of life. A definition establishes the boundaries, reasons for or causes of something in terms of other things, but love does not reduce to other things in this way. Love is the reason not the result. This is when we think of love in its most general form.
When we think of specific instances of love, ranging from the most trivial to the most all-encompassing, there are, of course, contributory conditions. We find some things loveable and others not so. One way of thinking about spiritual practice can be to see it is a progress toward finding the loveableness of an ever greater range of things, a progress that leads to life becoming ever more blissful.
The incidence of love in our own lives is thus a "two way street". On the one hand we can become more loving and more able to love more things (people, situations, scenes, objects). On the other hand, when it comes to relationships, there is a huge factor that we call "compatibility". We cannot control whether or not we will meet "the right person".
If one is attracted to another person a relationship might begin. It might be romantic. The term "romantic", of course, implies both intense pleasure but also elements of delusion. Our romaniticism blinds us to the elements in the emerging relationship that are not going to work in the longer term. Thus it is that relationships that start with good intention often fall apart once the initial romantic phase fades.
Real love, therefore, does require particular conditions in which to flourish. Even in this case, however, it is a tough job trying to define what these are. An element of mystery remains irreducible. This is because love is profound and much of its working is unconscious.
There is a good deal of self-help literature that suggests that it is possible to find one's way through this maze in a rational way and that there are strategies that can be applied to "keep one's marriage alive" or to deepen one's relationship or to negotiate one's way out of trouble. The problem with this kind of thing is that real love is indefinable, unconditional and unilateral. Anything done because it was part of a trade is not really love in the fullest sense. Love is not a matter of getting one's need met, it is a matter of giving unconditionally and receiving appreciatively. If the relationship continues one-sidedly it is likely to come undone sooner or later. Correcting such imbalance by negotiation may produce a workable alliance, but it does not constitute love.
Love is undefinable because it is unconditional. In real life, nobody actually is totally unconditional, but love is. Love transcends persons. It may work through us, but it is purer and higher than we are. We may exerience it, recieve it, be touched by it, and know that it is the very meaning of our existence, but we cannot possess it, control it or define it.