I am a working woman and I am very confused on my personal perspective on "love". What is love exactly? I love my parents and I also love my boyfriend. But whom so ever I choose, the other one will be hurt. (Because of our separate religious backgrounds, and in the culture which I belong to it has high implications). Till what extent should I let the culture influence my decisions, especially regarding whom should I love?

There is a tradition going back to Plato that there are two aspects of love: when you love another person you desire their good (their fulfillment / well being / happiness) and you also desire to be united with them (in a matter of friendship or Platonic relations this may be just a desire to be in their company, but in romantic love it is a desire to be united with him or her sexually or through eros). The first aspect of love may know no bounds --you may love many people, but in the second aspect of love, that is when (as you note) people can be hurt --in deciding to be with one person, you are deciding not to be with another, and you may decide that if you really love someone (really desire their happiness) you may decide not to seek to be united with him (being in a relationship with some people you love may not be good for anyone).

As for the balance of culture, religion, values, and your individual choice, there is no magic, self-evident set of rules from philosophy! Maybe the one VERY GENERAL point can be made from the history of philosophy: it is (in general) good for persons to make up their own minds when it comes to action and values. With Socrates, philosophy began with asking questions. He thought there was something wrong about going through life without self-examination, without seeking to love wisdom. He and many other philosophers would be very reluctant about an individual making an important choice SIMPLY or ONLY on the grounds of one's culture or religion. Culture and religion can be important matters, and truly valuable, and so many philosophers would simply want you to think carefully about what is or would be good for you and the person you choose to love, while taking culture and religion into account (as they can either be hurtful or helpful, depending).

We wish you every success!

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