How do you know when you’re in love?
Given all the ridiculous and highly idealized visions of love we’re flooded with on a pretty much daily basis, it’s no wonder so many people have no idea what love actually is.
A quick Google search for “How to know you’re in love” will give you a litany of nonsense that is more of a depiction of lust and infatuation than true love.
Most people engage in what I call “chicken love.” What’s that you ask? Chicken love is the man who really loves chicken. He can eat chicken for every meal. When you ask him if he loves chicken he’ll say, absolutely! But he doesn’t love chicken. If he loved chickens, he wouldn’t be eating them, he would build a chicken coop and spend time with them and take care of them. He loves the way eating chicken makes him feel.
Yes, love can make you feel really good, but that’s not all there is to love. The fact is, sometimes love will make you feel really bad, and I’m not just talking about breakups! Even in a loving relationship things aren’t always going to feel good.
That’s the problem today. The second the road gets a little rocky, people assume it’s because the relationship isn’t right and they bail. Conversely, people think when the road is a little too rocky it must mean you’re meant to be and need to keep fighting because isn’t that the vision of love we always see? Two star-crossed lovers fighting against the odds to make it work?
So what is love really?
Take The Quiz: Does He Really Love You?
I spent most of my life not having a clue how to answer this question. I thought I did. There were many times I thought I was deeply in love but really, I was just getting high off chasing guys I couldn’t have. I wanted those who didn’t want me and even though the highs were supreme and the lows were devastating and I had that can’t eat, can’t sleep feeling, it certainly wasn’t love. It was obsession.
Love doesn’t look like this.
But that’s not the advice you’ll find online.
If you pull up a list, you’ll see:
“You can’t stop thinking about them”
OK, fine. This is true in the beginning, but you don’t even really love the person in the beginning. You’re just getting to know them.
“They have everything you’ve ever wanted.”
This is called falling in love with a fantasy. No one is going to be your everything. This kind of thinking is just delusional. Also, the sign of infatuation is thinking someone is perfect.
“You’re terrified of losing them.”
Terror is associated with lust and obsession. When you truly love someone and they love you, there is a sense of safety and trust. You know if they leave it’s because it was never going to work out.
“You feel it in your heart”
Follow your heart is probably the worst advice out there. Yeah, it sounds romantic and all, but you also need to use your head. My heart led me into all sorts of toxic situations that my head tried desperately to keep me out of so thanks a lot, heart!
“They make you happy”
This wasn’t isn’t fully off base, but if your partner is your only source of happiness then it’s a big red flag. Being in love can enhance your happiness, but it can’t be your sole source of happiness.
When You Like Someone
There is a big difference between love and like. We can like lots of people but only fall in love with a select few.
More than skin deep. Liking someone goes a layer beyond being attracted to them. You don’t just like their looks, you like a lot about them.
You see potential with this person. But potential can mean anything. You can have a great idea for a story or a movie, but then turning it into a reality might be a disaster. Lot’s of things sound great in theory, not so much in reality.
They bring out the good in you. This is great! But again, it’s not love. A really good teacher can bring out the good in you, same with a good friend.
You get jealous. This isn’t really an indication of anything aside from your own insecurities.
MORE: 55 Best Love Quotes That Capture What Love Really Is
OK so now that we’ve talked a lot about what love isn’t, let’s talk about that is is…
How to Know You Love Someone:
1. You choose them.
We don’t just fall in love. That makes it a completely passive process. You’re just going about your life and “fall” into something. This takes no responsibility or accountability. Love doesn’t necessarily choose you, you have to choose love.
There are days when this choice is easier than others. When things are good, easy choice! When it gets rocky, it’s not always an easy choice. But when it’s true love, you always choose them. You stay and you fight. You aren’t swayed by feelings because love isn’t merely a feeling.
MORE: How to Know He Loves You
2. Love is a verb.
Love comes across in actions. This is why parents typically love their kids so much more than kids love their parents. It’s because parents are constantly giving and doing acts of love. Kids are just on the receiving end.
When you love someone, you want to give to them. It’s not about material things. You want to give to them emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and yes also physically.
You try to love them in the way they most feel loved. You don’t just say the words, you back it up with many loving actions.
MORE: How Men Show Their Love
3. You are on the same team
It’s not about trying to get your needs met and prioritizing them over the other person. It’s not about proving how right you are. When conflicts arise, you fight to reach a resolution. It’s both of you against the issue, not both of you against each other. You don’t try to get the other person back, you don’t try to punish them or hurt them.
You fight for the relationship, you don’t fight to win. You are a team, a single unit, and true partners.
4. You love them even when you don’t like them
Even when you don’t feel like it, even when it doesn’t feel too good to be in the relationship, your love still remains. You don’t love them with conditions, “I love the way you make me feel.” You just love them.
And that means sometimes you have to swallow your pride. Sometimes you have to apologize first. Sometimes you have to listen more than you speak. Sometimes you have to compromise.
It’s about realizing that it’s not just about you anymore. There is another person in the picture and that person has different needs and wants than you … and those needs and wants are no less valid or significant.
Maybe you know if you’re in love … but do you know how to love?
That’s a far more significant question. You don’t just cross some finish line and then you’re in love. Love requires daily effort. It’s like a plant that needs to be watered.
Love is about doing. And “doing” does not include obsessing and forcing. When we say relationships are effortless, we mean that they don’t come about by tinkering with them and trying to crack some code. If he likes you and you like him, then things evolve pretty effortlessly, meaning you’re on the same page and want the same kind of relationship.
But you will still need to put effort into the relationship. And this effort will be in showing your love, in doing loving actions, in being present in the relationship every day and choosing them over and over again.
I hope this article gave you a better understanding of what love truly is and isn’t. But there is more you need to know if you want love that lasts. A man might love you very much, but he may hesitate in fully committing himself to you. Do you know what makes a man see a woman as “the one”? Do you know what inspires him to commit for life? If not, read this next: The #1 Things Men Desire in a Woman