No other word in human language has been misconstrued, mistrusted, celebrated, worshipped and cursed more than love.

We all want love, right? But do we have any clue what love really is?

Love is like a mist. All around us, yet seemingly impossible to grasp.

Yet, one thing many of us know about love: It has let us down. Love has brought us to tears. Love has Indiana Jonesed our heart, ripping it out without even putting us under.

Love cures us and makes us sick, sometimes in the same look.

What is love? How do we get it? And how do we keep it?

To answer these questions, we need to first figure out what love is not. We need to remove some lies we believe about love to get down to the core of what love really is.

1. Love is not effortless.

Whether you’re dating or married, love is not effortless.

My wife and I are eight years and two kids into our relationship, and I would say that this past year has been the most intense yet.

Not a bad year. But a really good, bonding, intense one.

I think mainly, this year has taught my wife and me that sometimes being in love means fighting for each other.

Not a polite, politically correct little skirmish either. No, an all-out, gloves off, doing whatever it takes, brawl against all the forces, distractions, bad habits and complexities that try to squelch your love.

Love is war. Not against one another, but for each other.

In a relationship, you have to fight against everything that is trying to keep you fighting. And that might be waging war on your own faults and insecurities that you’ve tried to pretend don’t exist.

The movies make it look like love should be effortless and easy going, when marriage requires more effort and intentionality than you ever knew you had.

Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is get on your knees in the muck and mud and start pulling the weeds that are trying keep your love from reaching its full potential.

You have to work the hardest for what you love the most.

2. Love is not sex.

Somehow love and sex have been intertwined like a pretzel. But trying to make love equal sex will only leave you flat on your face.

Call me old-fashioned, but it seems like most of our society is giving away sex these days like free pop-tarts—buying, heating and consuming in less than a minute and a half.

Sex is not love. For many of us, sex has become the easiest escape from love. Easing all our insecurities and fears into a moment of escape that does nothing to alleviate our pain. No, most likely it only heightens the pain once the deed is done.

Sex is an amazing expression of committed love, not the pathway to it.

3. Love is not self-sustainable.

If love is not completely altering your life, it’s probably not love.

Love can’t exist purely within your own convenience. Love is sacrifice.

After all, the ultimate form of love is a reflection of God’s ultimate sacrifice for us.

Some of us want love to just happen on our own terms. In our timing. Under our conditions and if it doesn’t interfere with our plans.

Love is not self-sustainable. It can’t run well unless you’re putting in the right fuel and taking care of it.

This year especially, my wife and I have had to learn a whole new translation of what it means to sustain love.

When a 1-year-old is crying in the middle of the night, and you get up even though it’s your partner’s turn—that’s love.

When you’re willing to sit down and look each other in the eyes, and have an honest, (mostly) calm conversation about ways you could be supporting each other better—that’s love.

Love is a dance where both partners lead and follow throughout the song. Both partners supporting each others weight, moving with each other’s rhythm, with each other’s step. When one person pushes or pulls too hard, the whole dance topples.

Love does not complete you. No, it should challenge and inspire you to work on your incompleteness.

Love & Money content is created in partnership with brightpeak Financial

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