It's one of the most common questions that leads people to Google their way to my work: How do I know if I'm in love? Sometimes, people even find themselves asking, How do I know if I'm in love ... enough?
Odds are, if you've taken a minute to ask yourself this question, you might have come up with some answers like these:
- I'll know when I'm in love because I'll feel it.
- Love is a feeling.
- You just know.
- I feel alive and thrilled with I'm in love.
- When I'm in love, I always want to see my partner. I miss him/her when s/he is away.
- When I'm in love, I'm never bored.
But the truth is that none of these answers describes real love. They describe infatuation. Infatuation is defined by a feeling whereas real love is defined by action.
In fact, what we tend to refer to as being "in love" is essentially selfish. It's an attempt to measure love by how the other person makes you feel, instead of by tangible actions on your part that require you to give and show up for the commitment of loving. Western culture upholds the feeling of love as a godlike realm and the gauge by which we measure the "rightness" of a relationship.
How we set ourselves up for failure with this definition of love, for anyone who has spent time exploring the inner realms knows that feelings fade. Feelings are fickle. Feelings are not a reliable yardstick for determining the sustainability of an intimate relationship.
So what is real love?
- Real love, first and foremost, extends from a place of fullness inside oneself.
- Real love is giving.
- Real love is connection.
- Real love is friendship.
- Real love includes a genuine desire to learn about yourself and grow with each other.
- Real love will push you to your edge around areas like intimacy, sexuality, attraction, time, money, anger, and control.
- Real love assumes a position of responsibility about these issues, which means that you recognize them as originating inside of you and, as such, own that they would emerge in some form with any partner.
- Real love takes time to learn about and nurture.
One of the most damaging beliefs in our culture is that you should know if you're in love right from the beginning. The truth is that it can take many years to learn about real love, and the more you fall in love with your own life and can connect with a reliable source of creativity and connection, the more you can give and receive love in a healthy way.
So when people ask, How do I know if I'm in love? I redirect them to what I consider to be an infinitely more beneficial question: Is my partner someone with whom I can learn about love? I then encourage them to recognize that their attachment to the feeling of love is a misdirection of a longing for their own aliveness. Lastly, I teach them the tangible, simple, and effective actions that, when practiced consistently and over time, shrink our habitual fear-walls and grow our capacity to feel love, attraction, and sexual intimacy.
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