Writers, musicians, artists, and average people have all been trying to explain the feeling of love for centuries. While there are certain stock images and phrases that we often return to, such as a “fluttering heart” or “deep longing,” there’s no universal way to describe love. Because it’s not a quantifiable thing, many people – whether they’re entering their first relationship or have started dating someone after another relationship has ended – find themselves asking whether what they’re feeling is really love.
Often in new relationships, infatuation is confused with love. When you’re infatuated with someone, you idealize them, feel excited whenever they’re around, and rely on their affection for your own sense of worth. It can be exhilarating, but if it doesn’t have any substance, it can’t last long.
So how do you know that you’re really in love as opposed to just infatuated? As a Houston marriage therapist, I’m not going to claim that I can give you a definitive account of love, but I can tell you about some of the building blocks that help form a loving relationship.
Signs That You’re in Love
You want to know who your partner really is. When you’re infatuated with someone, you fall in love with the idea of the person rather than with their real self. You often set unreasonable expectations and are disappointed when the object of your infatuation doesn’t live up to them. To truly love someone, you have to get to know them and recognize their human qualities. Someone in love wants to keep learning about their partner in order to know them even better.
You’re comfortable sharing who you really are. You shouldn’t feel like you have to change your core personality for your loved one, and you shouldn’t feel like you need to hide anything from them. You should be able to open up to them and also to comfortably sit in silence with them.
There’s more than just a physical attraction. Physical appearance changes, so if that’s the basis of your attraction, your relationship isn’t going to be stable. People who are in love feel drawn to their partner and are attracted to them on an emotional as well as a physical level.
You’re on the same team—not in competition. If you love someone, you’re not always trying to one-up them or keep track of things you think they’ve done wrong. There may be conflicts at times, but you’re committed to working through them with your partner rather than just battling it out.
You’re there for the ups and downs. In the beginning of a relationship, you may only see your partner at their best, but in a long-term, loving relationship you have to support them through both the emotional highs and lows. You and your partner should want to be there for each other even when you’re going through a difficult time.