How Do You Define Romantic Love or Relationship? words are superficially adequate to define, but are much hard in reality. Two of those words are love and relationship, as in the romantic kind and not familial, professional, friendship, etc. I’ve known this for a long time, and didn’t have any sort of good answer, even, but I didn’t really try, having had an intuitive sense of how challenging it would be to even get an adequate definition, never mind a good definition. I have some quotes about some aspects of what I think they are, like love is the ultimate lottery, or true love is made, not found, but they are not really, or full, descriptions of what they are. The two words are attached here because, in many ways, to me, a good definition for a relationship is just a manifestation of a good definition of romantic love, that if I had a good definition for one or the other, I could probably have a good one for both. Well, today I heard of one. But before you read on, maybe see if you could give an adequate or good definition of (romantic) love or relationship for yourself.

First, a little context for reference. I was listening to Episode 4 of the Monica and Jess Love Boys podcast mini-series, which I am enjoying. It’s embedded below, as I cannot with many podcasts on WordPress but I love it when I can! It’s self-described as

“a series that follows the relationship struggles of two opposites. Jess, who dates too much and Monica who dates too little. They approach relationships from opposing ends but ultimately find that the underlying issues are universal. Jess dates in the gay community, while Monica dates in the straight one. They get to deep dive not only into individual patterns but societal ones as well in the different dating scenes. Through meeting with different experts, they explore and uncover traps and patterns that we all fall into as humans and they ask the age old question- why do we do what we do? However, in keeping with the true armchair spirit- Monica and Jess know talking about problems is not enough. Action is necessary to evoke change. At the end of each episode M&J are given a challenge in an attempt to break bad habits. As they learn how to partner healthily with others, they grow into healthier individuals as well.”


In this episode, they had a therapist named Harry in. They only describe him otherwise as the therapist for Dax Sheppard and Kristin Bell, the former being co-host of the Armchair Expert podcasts that I would recommend, co-hosting with Monica Padman of the podcast I’m referencing.

In this episode, Harry paraphrases Carl Rogers, an American psychologist who was among the founders of the humanistic approach (and client-centered approach) in psychology, with a middle name is Ransom, interestingly enough. The paraphrase is below, with the item in brackets being insinuations that weren’t said, but seems obvious, as I will break it down later to show

a (good) relationship (for you)
is (a situation) where you gave someone
all the powers to destroy you,
but where you trust they won’t use it

Boom! Mic drop for me! Book drop for Harry!

(as it seems Harry was referencing Carl’s On Becoming a Person that Harry was reading, though I’m not 100% sure on that).

I can’t find the exact quote online, but I saw one that seems to be inadvertently misattributed someone else speak of (true romantic) love in the same way. Carl’s quote might have been on romantic love more than relationship, but I’ll treat them both as being applicable here, and go with the “relationship” version because I think that can apply to any relationship, not just the romantic one.

What makes the definition so much to my liking are that it describes the intimacy of what a true relationship could me in saying “where you gave someone all the powers to destroy you”, and in that context. In a truly intimate relationship, you could know “everything’ about someone else, and we all have our strong vulnerabilities, not just vulnerabilities. With such knowledge, they could destroy you, which, in many relationships where a person doesn’t even know “all the powers” to destroy their partner, they have! It’s that destructive frame of reference that resonates so well for me from seeing how something that should be so good for people turn so destructive to them!

As for the insinuation I inserted, especially the “good” and “for you” part, it’s because relationships are hardly equally beneficial or destructive. In fact, it’s often destructive because one person is unfairly taking advantage of the other, not because it’s mutually destructive or equally destructive to them both. In such case, you could have a destructive relationship for one partner, and what might well be a “good” relationship for the other because they might have given their partner those weapons, but their partners didn’t choose to use them when they might have in revenge for what the person is doing to them. That’s why the “for you” insinuation was inserted. That said, if we kept this quote at “love” instead of “relationship”, then it might make more sense without the insinuation because one is clearly experiencing love, while the other is not. Thus

love is where you gave someone
all the powers to destroy you,
but where you trust they won’t use it

Carl Rogers might have said this instead. I don’t know. I only got the paraphrasing from Harry. Regardless, until someone gives me better definitions, I’m sticking with this for both. That’s because on the “relationship” interpretation, I think you can apply that definition to all kinds of relationships, whether familial, professional, romantic, friendship, or otherwise. You can imagine a Parent, sibling, friend, colleague, being given the same “power” to destroy you in some maybe more limited capacity, like at a workplace, and trusting them not to it, as a sign of a good relationship.

So all that said, anybody care to give me a definition of relationship or love that they like more? This might be a short lived favourite definition! LOL


824 words (without quotes or podcast description)

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