Tough question. I think love is when you care about someone or something as much as or than you care about yourself.
The definitions get trickier when you talk about being "in love" as opposed to "feeling love" etc. It could be romantic or it could be compassionate.
"I love my job" in most cases is not the same as "I love my dog" or "I love my spouse/child/mom/family etc."
You have self love too. (Not conceit or vanity, just a degree of healthy self awareness and appreciation.)
One thing is sure about love, it is a subjective feeling or idea that as as individual as all of the people who can feel it, and as universal as any thought or drive on the planet.
Love is a tough thing to define since we all see it so differently.
Lady don't hurt me, don't hurt me, don't hurt me...
Yeah could't help but to bop my head a little when I read the title of this discussion. Damn you Haddaway!*
*no inference is being made that there is a skydaddy capable of damning Haddaway.
I think this one adds to our understanding as well!
(you have to refresh the page to make it stop. Sorry about that!!!)
But then there is the problem of someone who claims they don't like a family member, but they "still love them."
That to me is modern religious hypocrisy... Throughout history, family members have been banished for 'non compliance' with (insert whichever rule/action) family/community law. Today I think due to nuclear families, the expection of love towards thy family, above and beyond even liking them, stems from a guilty religious conscience. I cannot 'love' whom I do not 'like'. I cannot place family ties above my own values. "Blood thicker than water" is a very modern concept. As recently as medieval times (recent in evolutionary terms) it was routine for sibbling and/or family members to kill each other fighting for bits of land and for power.
between parent and child ... nuclear families are a recent phenomenom in Homo sapiens history. Historically, weaning occured between the ages of three and five, period of intense maternal 'love'. Beyond that children were raised by extended familial groups of women.
between partners... monogamous couples are even more recent in human evolution
between friends... if by that you mean group/tribal belonging, yes that dates back very far in history. But I've always used the word love sparingly in that context. I have known people who shout it constantly tho, ever so annoying.
So it's not only that we may disagree on the meaning of love, but also on it's historical/evolutionary relevance.
To me love is the same thing that morals are.
It is to be defined by the person defining it and nothing more or less.
It can be very oppressive in nature.
It should not be used lightly, or spoken of lightly..
Having said that, I love my children and my husband of 8 years. I love my younger sister and several of my friends.
But they are all different forms of love. They can all be defined differently.