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How Can You Tell When You're in Love?

Updated on September 19, 2012

What a question! “Mom, how do you know when you’re in love?” It was not asked idly. The oldest of my sons was in high school, a junior or a senior, and I had seen the symptoms already, so the question did not come out of the blue. I really didn’t think it was my only chance to talk things over, but it was an opportunity I didn’t want to squander. I wanted to make it meaningful.

Well (I began), one thing that happens when you are in love is that you really enjoy being around the other person; you like being in their company. Also, you tend to think about them a whole lot when you are not around them, and you wish you could be with them. Most of all, though, is that you care a great deal about the other person’s welfare. You want to help find what is best for them, even if it is not necessarily what you would like, and you want to help them achieve their goals. Of course, one of the biggies is that you want to have physical contact with them. You would like to have sex with them someday, even if you have made the commitment to wait until you are married, as I hope you have done and will continue to do.

…So, that was the essence of my conversation at that point. There were other conversations, including strong reminders that every act of sexual intercourse opens the possibility of creating a new little human life. Even the very best of birth control methods is not 100% reliable. In fact, someone once pointed out to me that if a birth control method claims to have 99% reliability, that means that out of every 100 couples who use it accurately and adequately, one of those couples will become pregnant. Or, put another way, if one couple uses that method accurately and adequately, then out of 100 uses, they might expect to become pregnant. Of course, the reality is not quite that simplistic. There are many variables, including the relative fertility of each couple. But it does still make one think, and it definitely should!

I included in this particular discussion with my son another reminder: that when a person actually is in love and wanting to do what is best for the other one, they will take appropriate precautions when they do have sex. A young man who truly loves a young woman will not want to put her in the position of having a baby when she is not ready, and the young woman will not want to put the young man in the position of being a father when he is not ready. So another check of true love is whether the couple takes the trouble to discuss birth control and then to use as many layers of birth control as they need, once they decide to express their love through sex.

It was not a surprise to me that my son decided that, yes, he actually was in love with the girl in question. (I hadn’t doubted it.) After several years of dating through college, they got married and have been married for four years now.

Despite the similar title, this Hub has no connection to this book, an excellent one by all accounts.

Changes Over Time

There was more about love that I didn’t tell him at the time, and I don’t doubt that as they have matured in their relationship they have discovered this on their own. Another great secret to being in love is that love does not remain static. It does not feel exactly the same after three years as it did at the beginning, and it won’t feel exactly the same after fifteen or twenty or thirty years.

A lot of that heady rush, that giddiness of first love, will abate. In its place will grow a continual warmth, an increasing respect for one another as well as increasing tolerance of one another’s imperfections and an ongoing desire and commitment to help out when appropriate and possible. One great saying I have heard about relationships (specifically about marriage) is “If, after five years, you think alike about everything, then one of you is superfluous.” Even with great compatibility, there will be and should be differences. We are unique. Our differences can balance and complement one another, contributing to the relationship instead of pulling us apart.

Even now, as I think back on that conversation from many years ago, I remember a different conversation even longer ago. I was in junior high school, and my brother was in high school. One day when he came home from school, Mother asked what he had had for lunch, because she could smell on his skin some type of flavoring (probably onions, which he is allergic to). As they talked, the light dawned in his eyes. He said, “Now I get it! There have been times when I was in class after lunch, when my heart was beating so fast, I thought I must be in love with some girl and didn’t even know it! I’ve been trying to figure out who it was. Now I don’t have to worry about it.” Silly story? Maybe. He does have a sense of humor, my brother. The point, though, is that physical symptoms from other sources can mimic some of the physical symptoms of love; taken alone, they do not constitute love at all! So much more is involved, and so much is at stake. It is worth investigating the question with depth and insight, instead of trusting to the glib answers of our popular culture.


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    • cocopreme profile image

      Candace Bacon 7 years ago from Far, far away

      I think you should start a campaign to teach all young people the difference between onions and love. This hub summed it up perfectly. Very nicely written!

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thank you, pamplemousse. What a beautiful paragraph you have written! Thanks for reading and for commenting.

    • pamplemousse profile image

      pamplemousse 7 years ago from Austin, TX

      I loved this sentence: "In its place will grow a continual warmth, an increasing respect for one another as well as increasing tolerance of one another’s imperfections and an ongoing desire and commitment to help out when appropriate and possible." As much as you hear about hookups and casual sex among teens and twenty-somethings, that's not the whole story. That warm, deep love keeps quiet: you won't see it grabbing headlines, but it's truly what makes the world go round.

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thanks so much, Internetwriter. I so totally agree with the comment that in marriage we have to give so much more than we expect to receive. (Probably good advice for all relationships, including friendships, but intensely true for marriage.)

      And isn't there a huge difference between "falling in love" and "growing in love"! I wish more of us could communicate that adequately - especially the depth and richness that growing in love offers.

    • Internetwriter62 profile image

      Internetwriter62 7 years ago from Marco Island, Florida

      That is a very beautiful hub, on a subject that everyone wonders about sooner or later. I do agree with you on all points, especially where you tell your son that true love is selfless.

      It reminds me of the time when my college life paster told us that in a good marriage both partner should go more than 50/50, if both partners gave 100% then marriage would be like Christmas everyday. I never forgot when he said that, who doesn't want to have Christmas everyday. On the other hand, are people willing to work hard and sacrifice for love. Love changes and grows, that is the difference between falling and love and growing in love.

      I really enjoyed your hub, they are true words to live by.

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      It is always good to take the historical view. Often when we think of something as being new, it only means that it hasn't been noticed within the past five years or so.

      I do hope that we humans are capable of influencing the flow of history. Woe to us all if we can't! The difficult part is for the human race, or even for just one society, to reach a consensus about the exact direction in which they wish to point their "future present" and "future history." Let's hope we can all become wiser.

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      The so called new ways have been the norm in all of history in paegan cultures, and most cultures in history have been paegan. There is nothing new about the new ways and the spread of social diseases have been the downfall of them all, along with excessive pleasure seeking. We are in a steep decline. It is worrisome, but history must take its course. It always does. Unfortunately, this is how we learn, it seems. You might want to adjust your plans accordingly. Often large scale stress induces a return to more practical, healthier values, however.

    • Aficionada profile image

      Aficionada 7 years ago from Indiana, USA

      Thanks for your comments! Sometimes I get really concerned about what our next generations are learning - or are not learning - about this and other important subjects. Thanks for reading this.

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      This is a very beautiful article without a trace of bitterness or sarcastic reservations about love, and it makes a lot of good sense. I like the ideas about how love has concern for the partner's well being in every way. And I never really thought about the one out of one hundred ratio. Thanks much.