According to Forrest Carter in his controversial book The Education of LIttle Tree, love and understanding are pretty much the same thing. He describes his Cherokee grandparents' language of affection "I kin ye" as meaning "I love you". His grandma told him that you "couldn't love something you didn't understand" and his grandfather said that back in the day "kinfolks" meant any folks you had an understanding with, that it meant "loved folks", not simply the connection by blood that it tends to mean now.
Unlike Carter's family in Little Tree, the culture I grew up in tends to accept the illusion of intimacy rather than the actual knowing of how another thinks and feels and values. Skilled artifice seems to be rewarded and being physically intimate is often accepted in lieu of taking the time to learn who another is. As individuals, we are often taught to think and feel in accordance with consensual reality rather than our own. How can we know ourselves or another when we are acting and speaking in ways we think we should be instead of as who we are? Probably half of the work I did as a marriage therapist involved translating spouses to each other when fear and anger had compromised the ability to listen and the willingness to understand each other.
Choosing to put our attention on what we want rather than what we are afraid of or don't like is a place to start. It is easier to choose love instead of fear when you have a working definition of love that makes sense to you. To try on Carter's concept and look at 'practicing love' as 'seeking understanding' offers a way to improve our relationships, to bring compassion and acceptance to our interactions with others. I like the word play of intimacy: "into me see". I think it may be in the willingness to know others that we learn to know ourselves. Steven Covey in his book Seven Habits of Highly Successful People emphasized "seek first to understand, then to be understood", suggesting that we put aside our ego in the interest of connection. It seems to me that when you open yourself to understanding another it is an invitation for love to enter the room.