“There is not a single law in any country or period that has ever controlled or condemned love as such. True love has always been free, and even more, it is the active principle of all human freedom. Love is freedom itself. The only real obstacles to love are in ourselves: barrenness, spiritual wounds, the anxiety of pride turned into mistrust of others, and especially self-contempt.”
—Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World, Princeton University Press
You are free to love! Make that decision, that choice today. Don’t let the naysayers get you down.
Yes, there are thinkers and writers who are bend on even reducing any faint glimpse of love into impersonal, socio-biological functions operating mechanically and deterministic underneath the realm of appearances (love is an expression of the sex drive, etc.). For these skeptics, the cup of life seems most always half empty, and we will not follow them all the way into their rabbit hole.
The realm of appearance, the here and now so to speak, the presence that sentient beings experience everyday is what makes up the stuff of our living. Really, who cares about what the cold fingers of science point to? Love, if there is such a thing, surely transcends all.
Still, what matters in the end is how the lovers signify the experience of their particular relationship: is it worthy to them, as it is, of being called real love? To lovers, it matters little what others have to say about it.
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
As a verb, love is a form of behavior, mannerism and/or action, is it not? “Take my hand, I am caring for you.” This is choosing to love, there is an element of choice in loving. Hopefully, the act of loving is inspired by a genuine emotion of affection — by the heart’s free response to the other.
However, the motivation and intention behind behavior and even loving acts is always veiled, even perhaps to the behaving and acting lover. Loving mannerism is harder to fake, while noble actions can be rather calculated. Real love is not very compatible with hidden agendas.
Not to overlook, we also know of the biblical imperative to love — as in “I command you to love your neighbor as yourself.” This, for example, is willed ethics on a societal scale, but not about the authentically personal love we are interested in on this site. However, the experience of sacred love may sponsor in many jaded folks the capacity to also love authentically and personally.
When will it be real love? When love appears, perhaps, as both types of phenomena, as in being in love (noun, passive) and choosing to love (verb, active)! Then it will be unforced love, as in two people with a loving heart gifting it at each other — that is without much calculations of benefit, without the restraints of duty or obligations, and that is as real and good as it gets.