Is it Love? 10 Signs It's TRUE Love
Hot and heavy is how it feels in the beginning. Those sensations and perception are what leads to love...or not. Years ago I assisted in research psychology. The studies involved the very human components of sensory and perception. While the studies were pretty basic, leading to more complex questions and conclusions, it gave me insight into how love is completely related to these areas within our brain and body. We know that love, or feelings associated with various stages of love, is similar to a drug. Our senses and perceptions can fool us, making it difficult to know what reality is when overcome with strong emotions or sensations.
That's my professional explanation for why love can be so confusing. My personal experience is that love is a test of time- meaning it changes the longer it lasts and it will last longer if it does change. Everyone has a theory about love. Everyone is an expert, but we all know it can be narrowed down to a short list of important basics. I'm insinuating there is no secret to love, no blueprint than basics. The kind of basics we often forget because multiple theories and advice exist today.
For as many theories on love that exist, there are equally as many definitions and stages of love as well. There is the popular romantic notion of 'Love at first sight', but that would be more adequately identified as lust than love. Yes, lust at first sight can grow into love- most initial strong feelings of love are not love at all. Those are the feelings that fool us. However without those feelings people wouldn't be led to pursue love so I won't bash lust and desire or romantic love, but I want to focus on that long-lasting love...true love.
Goal = Consummate Love
I haven't found anything better than the psychologist, Robert Sternberg's explanation of true (consummate) love. Please see diagram below.
If love could be wrapped up into one neat and tidy explanation, this would be it. But there are more details involved in love than the simplicity of this explanation. I'll expand upon this because like I said before we don't always recognize where we're at or what we're experiencing if fooled by our sensations and perceptions. And of course love changes so a complete consummate love package isn't always what equals love.
Love finds us...and other words of wisdom
Before I get to the nitty gritty of true love signs, I just want to touch on some basic wisdom. Long ago I worked at a popular breakfast chain restaurant and frequently the customers were elderly. Many had maintained a 50+ year marriage. Kudos to them! Even though I wasn't married at that time, I listened intently to the wisdom they bestowed upon me.
Love finds us: It's hard to grasp the idea of love finding us in the day and age of online dating and cyber sex or perfectly planning our futures, but often love finds us when we're not looking. Cliché? Yes, but true. Today we plan everything, our entire lives. We have this order to life now: education, travel, having fun, casual encounters all come before the big "L" word.
Along our path (and plans) we search for love when we want it, when it's convenient for us. Often you hear those in love say, 'I had given up' or 'I wasn't looking for love' or 'it was bad timing'. I don't think we know when we're ready for love and that's why the kind of love that catches us off guard is the kind that has lasting potential. Sometimes if we want love so bad, we find something that really isn't there, we settle. When we don't care or 'give up', it hits us.
Foul or friendly advice: Sometimes it's necessary to forget what your peers are saying to you. Men will get teased that they're 'whipped' and women will get nagged by their girlfriends about how he doesn't fit certain criteria, how much money he makes, etc. It's happened to all of us. We get off course with these unnecessary distractions and thoughts circulating in our brain.
Time away: Oh yes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. You never know how much you love someone until they're gone. Take some time off if you've been spending a lot of time together. Take a mini vacation from each other. This is so crucial to step away and get and objective perspective. It's hard to see clearly when you're super close to the situation so take a step back and reflect on the relationship.
Reflection is one of the most under-appreciated tools in life. Most of us don't have time to reflect, but making big mistakes can be an even bigger waste of time.
Divorce? Speaking with elderly couples, you know they've been through a lot. Some with spouses in World War II, deaths of children, health conditions, poverty/The Depression. During tough times most wouldn't even think of mentioning divorce- you had to stick together to make it. They actually needed each other.
We have this idea now that we don't have to put up with anything. Any inconveniences and couples start to fall apart. How sad because these older couples explain those tough times were a glue that bonded them. I've been through some really rough times in my marriage and I can't believe how much it has brought us together.
Good Old Fashioned Values: Another cliché, but is a similarity among lengthy marriages. Some of those old fashioned values are what holds a marriage together. Respect, honesty, hard work, believing the other is a good person.
With roles changing, women working, dads staying at home with kids, we are learning a new norm. This is fine, but it seems we've also added an extra does of independence in there that no matter who or what your partner does, a single person can still manage things by themselves. We've lost the value of what it means to have a partner. Now more that ever with women and men participating equally in gender typical roles, it should be an opportunity for true partnership.
Is it Love? 10 Signs
- Time- You want to spend all your time with the person, not to control them or fill a void for yourself, but you honestly want to share aspects of your life with them. Likewise, they make you one of their priorities for time as well. You are already past the initial obsessive stage when you're caught up in lust, when you tend to spend time together a lot. However, if it's purely physical, the time spent in each other's lives beyond the bedroom starts to dissipate. The kind of time you put in begins to measure the type of love you have. It also takes time to get to know someone so if you've tried the test of time, it may be true love. In relationships, tests of time usually begin to show up after 6 months to the one year mark.
- Work- When we love something, we're willing to work for it. Love takes work and effort. A lot of times, that's how you know you have a love that lasts. Sharing our pasts and pains is part of this work. Being humble and honest is a test in love. It may not be glamorous, but it's giving a part of ourselves and requiring that same effort from the other person. When you and the other person are working for it, then you might be in love. However, it shouldn't be ALL work- that would be an uphill battle.
- Trust- People build walls up, a façade, a social image, and trust tears those walls down. If you feel like the other person is holding back, trust may not be there yet...and neither is love.Trust takes work but it's a good test of love. Do you trust this person with some of your deepest secrets? Do they seem to trust you with their secrets, willing to put themselves in a position of getting hurt or rejected.
- Feelings- Yes, love is the feeling we're focusing on, but you can't have love without concern, passion, and a myriad of other feelings that signal to you love is in the air. Those feelings are what drives us to love. Also, how we feel around this person is paramount. In psychology we discuss how a person feels when they're in the presence of the other is as important as they're feelings about that other person. Earlier I discussed how lust, desire, and romantic feelings are what led us to love so they're very important in the equation. Without those feelings, Robert Sternberg would describe that as "Empty love"...no fun! To add to this, manipulation, control, and intimidation are not feelings of love either.
- Body Language- Listen to their language with your eyes. Watch what they're not saying. One of my favorite songs...'You Say it Best when You Say Nothing at All'. Some signs that signal love from men are caring about his appearance and even better posture while you're around, adjusting his position when you approach, and anything a bit more masculine than the normal- protruding chest, spread out sitting position. Women play with their hair, make frequent eye contact, and genuinely act interested when they are with the one they love.
- Connection and Attachment- Whatever it may be that makes two people connect, is very important. Interests and hobbies are an aspect of connection. Similarities are as well, but the focus should be on common values, shared goals. If both of you want to get married and have children, you share a common life goal. attachment and connection takes it further...common goals AND shared interests is really what makes two people form an attachment.
- Fights- Bet you didn't think you would see this on a list for true love, but it's extremely valuable in a relationship. Have you had that first fight yet? Fighting fair is one of the leading reasons people can maintain a lasting love. Do you problem solve constructively? Is there name-calling? How far is anger taken? Too much fighting is not good, likewise no fighting is also something gone wrong, perhaps lack of feelings. On Sternberg's diagram we saw passion as one component of True Love- a love with passion will always stir up some arguments and it's OK but most therapists will agree it's the way you fight, namely whether or not you fight fair.
- Better together- If you're a better person when you're with them, then it can mean love. If you can be yourself, but better, that's a true love bonus! We all change in a relationship, and even a relationship changes. Once my husband and I had kids, we were forced to work together for this life. He is a better provider because of a family to support. We are better together and able to conquer more together. I've known some couples who separately each person is great but get them together and dishes are flying. Some people are worse together and it's something to pay attention to early in the relationship.
- Commitment- Obviously it's not true love if there are others- meaning one or both partners are seeing/dating other people. A mutual commitment is a sign of true love. Do they mention you in front of friends? Do their friends know who you are? Do you include them in various events or things you enjoy? Commitment is pretty standard if you want to be assured it's true love you're dealing with. You don't want to see anybody else, neither do they, and the grass-is-greener feeling fades. Nagging questions of sincerity, exclusivity, and commitment begin to vanish. If you are committed and suppose the other person is a single parent or lives far away, when you love that person, the children involved are part of the commitment and a long distance relationship is a commitment of sorts too.
- Compromise- Life is full of compromises...so are relationships. I didn't believe that in my 20's and only got a glimpse of it in my 30's. I used to think I shouldn't settle and I could c every star in the sky. The relationships I fell into, I felt I was settling. What I didn't realize was it was an aspect of being with another person. When a guy liked to take me to action movies, I thought 'Ugh I'm not going to like this for the rest of my life'. But in the end when I finally fell in love (and grew up), I loved doing the things that person enjoyed and vice verse.
A Love that lasts...and lasts...and lasts
We tend to focus on that other person when we start thinking about love, whether they are possibly in love with us and/or we are in love with them. But we need to take the time to think about ourselves:
- Are we willing to be humble in our pursuit for love? Are you in pursuit of love for other reasons?
- Forgive and ask for forgiveness? It's important to ask for forgiveness if necessary and forgive for long-lasting love.
- What are we willing to accept? Not accept? You need to think about deal breakers before you completely fall in love. Once in love, it is easy to accept things we shouldn't. And this boils down to the little things that annoy us. Eventually you will have to deal with snoring and other bad habits.
- What are we willing to do for them? And them for us? I talked to a single woman who said she didn't want a guy who liked Nascar and if he did she wouldn't participate in any Nascar functions with him. This was pretty specific, but the general problem here is I hate Nascar but if someone I loved was into it, I'd participate periodically to see their joy.
- Are you in love just because it's exciting right now- realize love is for the long haul.
"Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being "in love" which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.” Captain Corelli's Mandolin
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