Forget the tingly sensation you feel all over your skin, the stars you see flickering across your pupils and the pounding of your heart. Those aren’t the greatest indicators of “true” love. Chemistry? Passion? Heart attack? Anxiety? Absolutely. True love, nope.
True love is a paradox. It’s the easiest thing in the world to experience once you’ve found it, but it’s one of the hardest things in the world to find if you’re looking for it. Technically, you can only find part of it. The rest of it must be built. Time is its greatest asset and its biggest threat. It’s also one of the most misunderstood experiences on the planet. People often confuse true love with all kinds of other experiences– great sex, love at first sight, obsession, chemistry, passion, desire, friendship, etc. It’s none of those things and all of those things. If that sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo it’s because true love is very close in nature to mumbo jumbo–i.e. it makes no sense. But, that’s what makes it exhilarating and, paradoxically, frustrating all at once.
Probably the biggest puzzle when it comes to true love is the question, Is it really true love? And so, in order to help clarify one of life’s biggest mysteries (by this point I’d like to imagine that I’m an authority ;), here are 10 ways that your relationship just might be truer than true:
- You and your partner have both said, “I love you” to each other, and mean it: I know this is kinda stating the obvious, but if you’re anything like me, I used to think that true love meant that if I had a super enormous crush on someone, that was it. It was true love. Nope. That’s called a crush. True love is like a double swing door. It goes both ways.
- You and your partner are both available to love each other: The question of availability is usually one of those things that, for many of us, is hard to understand. Availability can often seem ambiguous. He says he loves me and texts me all the time, but he can never go out because he always has to babysit his cat. But it’s not. It’s pretty black and white. When someone is in love with you, they make themselves available. Maybe not 24/7, but far more than that cat babysitter. And far more than the guy who somehow can’t see you on weekends, or has one excuse after another to spend time with you outside the bedroom, or can’t ever seem to have the time to meet your family, or lives in Alaska (unless you do too). You get my point. Stop it with the wishful thinking. He’s either available or he’s not. Be honest.
- You and your partner have invested a lot of time in the relationship Every hear that it takes 50/50 in a relationship? Well it doesn’t. Sometimes it takes 80/20 or 100/0. But what it does take is BOTH of you putting in the effort to work. Not just you. Not just him. Investing in a relationship can mean anything from available time spent together, to great sex, to great communication. It takes more than just a potato to make a good soup.
- You and your partner are both equally committed to the relationship You’re not giving up. Is he? Commitment is a heavy word for many. But true love is more powerful than a fear of commitment and when it wins out, and when each of you are mature enough to commit, it’s probably true love.
- You and your partner treat each other with dignity, respect, kindness and care Relationships are built on many things. But dignity, respect, kindness and care are qualities that the most successful long term relationships have. Unless you’re back in the 1950’s and don’t believe in divorce. Those were long term relationships. But the people in them were miserable. Besides, those qualities, when shared, make life so much more pleasant.
- The foundation of your relationship is based on clear, honest, open communication (intimacy) People have many different ways of communicating. There is no right or wrong way to do. But, you have to be able to clearly understand one another. In order to do that, a strong dose of honesty is a must. Honesty brings people closer. It creates intimacy. Lies and deception create distance. When it’s true, both parties want closeness, so, lies and the absence of healthy communication are not present. There is always an attempt made to figure things out. To get to the bottom of the issue. To remain close.
- The foundation of your relationship is not based on sex, desire, neediness, attraction, power, fantasy or manipulation (intensity) People get together for all manner of reasons. And they stay together for years for any number of reasons too. There exists functionally dysfunctional relationships. And the people in those relationships may be truly in love. I cannot say. But, it should go without saying that you have a better chance of lasting, true love if the relationship has been built on more than just sex, or power or attraction. The gold digger, the sugar daddy, the codependent, the trophy wife and the manipulator all have something in common: they are shallow versions of truer selves.
- Your relationship doesn’t always look like the Hollywood version of “true love” There’s this scene in, oh, every romantic movie ever made where the couple, whether they’ve hooked up yet or not, have come to the arc of the story, the crisis, and there’s this scene where they’re fighting or abandoned or they give up, etc. and each of them look miserable and horrible and dejected until the crisis has escalated and then ended and both are magically transformed and in love. This is NOT true love. This is not even the trajectory of true love. True love tends to absent of drama and crisis within the relationship. True love tends to be comfortable, secure, sometimes quiet. Extreme highs and lows? Drama? Tragedy? Heightened desire? Not really. When it’s true love you are not waiting by your mobile phone for him to text, wondering where the hell he is and how come he hasn’t contacted you in three days. When it’s true love you’re not crying into your journal, writing lines of unrequited misery about him. When it’s true love you’re probably both sitting on the sofa on a Friday night with your dog who is licking himself and you’re probably bickering over whether or not to watch one of those romantic movies or the football game.
- There is hope and optimism for the future I was in a marriage many years ago where nearly every day I dreamed of ways to get out. Yeah, that’s a bad sign. I am now remarried to a guy who I want to grow old with. A guy who tells me that he hopes we’ll be wheeling each other around Europe in our retirement. We are excited about the now. And we are excited about the future.
- Each of your most important personal values are still intact I may be wrong but I firmly believe that in order to find true love, you must first be true to yourself. That means that not only are you not giving up what’s most important to you, it means you are with someone who is equally invested in helping you hold on to what is most important to you (and vice versa). One of my most important values is no drugs. I just have no tolerance for any kind of drug use. A glass of wine or beer here or there won’t upset me. But, smoking pot even occasionally will. Why? I don’t know. In the past, I overlooked this value and dated men that smoked. It was such a point of contention that I just felt rotten all the time. I had to learn to find someone who came equipped with similar values as me, and whose “pink flags” were manageable. I had to learn to be true to myself before I could even picture what kind of guy would be right for me. Shallow notions of what I originally though were important to me (“hot,” “good in bed,” “musician”) didn’t hold up as well as “loves his kids,” “wants to spend time with me” and “doesn’t do drugs.” Know thyself. Be true to who you really are. And when you find a partner that digs that true self of yourself, you’ve probably found true love. XO