Love — Crafting Your Very Own Personal Brand
I like to think of love as my most actively developed product for the people I care most about. I think they deserve my best, which is a combination of work and deliberate design. Of course, we all fall short. I once had to put the marketing department on “permanent leave” after dealing with a couple of ill-timed AD campaigns in my teens. Since then R&D has carried most of the weight and even has its own customer service hotline. Their sometimes precarious experimentation doesn’t always result in useful data initially, but keeping track and paying attention seems to always make it useful in the long run. Dynamic and evolving customers need a dynamic and evolving product. I pretend to hate it but their slogan, “They can’t all be winners”, fits their process well and gets the job done with results. It works well for them so it works well for me. It only very occasionally burns the executive branch.
You can call it R&D, or anything else, but there is a conscious piece of you that loves on purpose atop natural attraction. There is tons of literature out there that tells us what love is, is not, and or what it should be. I personally find these to be too prescriptive for my own style and I see often that I am not the only one that feels this way. What I want to do differently is share how I’ve noticed and or learned how love works for all types of people. What you will find in the paragraphs below is a broad and inclusive framework for understanding and crafting your own personal brand of love so you can custom build your own product for the right person.
About Me: Where All This Comes From
I’m not an expert with love by any means. I’m not sure there is such a thing, except perhaps with their prescribed version of it. Every connection is best served unique but it takes time to grow and get there. Tailor-made love affords room for tailor-made experiences and those are the ones you are going to remember. It’s the best part, IMHO, and it’s what makes it fun and fulfilling. Fortunately, unique doesn’t need to mean anyone has to start from scratch with every connection they make. There is plenty in common between any open and healthy connection and that is a good place to start. Nailing the basics will give anyone more of a foundation to build off from so you can build breadth and depth.
I have practiced monogamy, ethical non-monogamy, and polyamory and have enjoyed all of them. I don’t think any style is better than the other, they are just different styles to fit different people. Love doesn’t have to be complicated. No matter what kind of love or personal connections you establish, all we are doing is practicing connecting and maintaining connections with other people. If we aren’t sure about something, just ask.
I wanted to share this model because it is something valuable to me that I have developed and learned over the years. It’s not perfect but I plan to share more and more of it over time. This is just the framework I use to hold it in place.
I want to give a broad definition of love, its components, and how the bigger pieces fit together as well as where you can insert your own customizations.
The “I Love You” Concept
Like everything else, love is a concept that exists inside each of our minds. Our goal is to make it exist outside of us too with designed and intentional expression. If you like it more free form then design it that way. I don’t want to take the mystery out of it but intentionality is key so that the people we care about know that we care about them. The figure below describes how we define love individually and how it gets to be a real thing outside of us.
- Love Definition — Love is an abstract concept and that concept is given definition and shape by our experiences, our culture, and what we’ve been taught. As a result, no one's love concept is exactly the same as someone else's.
- Love Language — Similar to the love languages you already know, we draw on our unique concept of love to create groups of love actions. These groups generally correspond to various people or groups of people like a spouse or coworker. Ideally, a love language is cultivated and eventually tailored to your recipient(s).
- Love Action — Individual actions are the building blocks of a love language between yourself and another. Culture will help provide a place to start by giving you an idea of how actions should be grouped and or executed. In the end, however, any openly and safely negotiated action between consenting adults can be a love action.
One primary theme for me is intention. If you are not doing it on purpose then you aren’t doing it.
Love is something you can do intentionally and or not. The better you know your person the more creative you can be with this. Over time you can move from loving their eyes or the way their hair falls around their face to more interesting things like being a dedicated mother or maybe a kick-ass lawyer (Michelle Obama!)
Love has several definitions so it is helpful to see them side-by-side so we can draw a contrast between them and avoid confusing them with each other. Let’s add some conceptual resolution to Love!
Self-Love: Love is an attitude towards yourself
In my experience, the idea of needing to love yourself is probably one of the most confusing ideas in love literature. Especially for men. I have a personal mnemonic for this to help me remember.
You can only see as far into someone else as you can see into yourself.
Love and affection can have infinite variety. This variety comes from culture and personal preference but so do an uncountable number of possible motivations which can be much more complex and interesting. Our ability to understand, anticipate, or even notice these subtleties depends largely on our practical knowledge and experience with our own feelings and thoughts. If we are unable to imagine why we should be loved in the first place. We’ll never notice or believe it when someone shows it to us. I have been on both ends of this last one…
Understanding and interpreting love actions from another person is capped by how much time and practice we’ve put into knowing and understanding ourselves. Without development, we can only support and maintain the most simple of relationships with others. One common side effect I see often is not being able to maintain healthy relationships with the opposite sex outside of a romantic relationship. To do this you just need more internal surface area so that your special person can still be and still feel special. So, how do we build this breadth and depth?
Firstly, don’t take the “love” part of loving you too literally. This is a simple matter of a restricted definition of love. I think many of us end up avoiding “self-love” because no one wants to be full of themselves. Since we scarcely have time or the ability to describe the difference, the problem persists. This is not the case so, let’s talk about the kinds of “love actions” that are designed just for you.
What you want to be able to do is just have a decent idea of who you are. Try imagining playing yourself as a character in your own game and think of the skills and abilities that you have and the ones you want to work on. Loving yourself means:
- Finding time to think about who you are and who you want to be.
- Finding milestones in your personal development and tracking your progress. Think achievements and skill levels.
- Finding as many reasons as you can to put effort into developing yourself.
Notice the word “find” there. We need to be active in our own development. Interest isn’t inherent, it is developed.
If you have ever heard that you can’t love someone else until you know how to love yourself, what they are really saying is that all the things that you don’t understand will be invisible to you. When you look inside yourself and CAN find ways to be curious, then you can show a potential partner all the reasons why you are the best thing since sliced bread. The more you believe it the more they will. A rich personal development opens any number of dimensions that you can then share and use to develop connections with all kinds of people.
We all struggle to find reasons to put effort into ourselves. If you don’t have any reasons they aren’t going to fall out of the sky. You need to FIND them, or, usher them into existence. Start small if needed. Also, don’t be afraid to pick reasons that no one else will appreciate. This is something you do for yourself first and always. You don’t want to fail at launch because you are worried about being efficient with your time. You can always roll reason into each other to make more dynamic ones later. This is a fun process I can talk about later. It’s work but it’s work for you and work that will pay dividends your whole life. Just keep iterating until you find what fits, then stash it and keep going!
Shared-Love: Love is a shared concept
The love you have for yourself usually has a very different flavor than the love you have for someone else. Probably a good thing for anyone who is afraid they might become a narcissist. Shared love is a different concept and thus a different language with unique love actions.
Unfortunately, saying “I love you” can convey anywhere between infinite meaning to no meaning at all. Where you fall along that line is determined by how much time you have spent communicating about what your shared love means with your partner. It also includes how much effort you’ve put into taking communicated preferences into account when crafting your love actions.
Increasing definition, or conceptual resolution, is what makes concepts more and more real to each of us. Whether it is explicitly said or not, our partners consciously decide to wake up next to us every morning. I want them to always have an abundance of reasons to choose from to help them keep deciding to wake up there with me. In this way, love is a shared confidence in a mutual partnership. We can’t always nurture it all the time but previous and diligent investment can give it the strength to weather anything.
When someone says that they love their partner more and more every day, what they are referring to is a better and more calibrated love concept between them. It is important to know that there is no such thing as a finish line or end to this process. Even if you achieve a harmonious calibration, there are an unlimited amount of love actions that can be developed to build any number of shared memories. Loving someone more and more every day can very literally be true since there is no cap on love and the memories that support it. The only cap is in your capacity to show love which will increase for as long as you put effort into it.
The Love Model and Template — From my R&D to Yours
What I have below is a broad template model of love. These are the major components and their subcomponents that I have noticed and or learned over the years. Like everything else, it is not perfect and improves all the time along with me.
What I want you to see is simply a template for asking yourself questions about what you know and what your preferences are. I also want you to see and get an idea of what kind of variety is out there so you know what to do when you encounter it. So, not all of this will be relevant to everyone.
What I don’t want you to see is my personal touch as a prescription for how you should do something. I just want to give enough detail so that you all have ideas on how to fill out your model on your own. Also, if you have any ideas or suggestions for improvement then please let me know! Concepts and love are like cognitive technologies and I like having the absolute best at my disposal. Questions are welcome also!
Understanding the Layout
There are 3 primary categories. They separate your definitions of love (top) from the culturally available definitions (bottom) you’ve learned or encountered. These stand atop of our universal components (bottom) which act as a pipeline that connects you to other people. Universal components include the ways or pretenses we all communicate under and our energy for carrying out any actions, loving or not. Love forms and love language exist in each of our minds. Actions are built and executed before they are realized externally.
Try and see what you do know about your brand of love and pick out things you’d like to add now and or in the future. Try to establish a contrast between you and the more broad cultural definitions we are usually presented with. Just know that I am not especially familiar with other cultures outside the US so you may find my examples limited there. When I run into this in my personal life I know myself well enough to know which assumptions to drop. Otherwise, I might miss an opportunity for something awesome that is outside my realm of knowledge. I like the unfamiliar so I make sure all those doors are wide open and I am ready to be patient and attentive.
Lastly, the colors correspond to the channels we use to communicate with each other. In the text, you will see the words colored which are my subjective interpretation of which channels they primarily take. If you see anything that doesn’t fit or feels off, that is the perfect place for you to start making it your own. Good luck!