I am new at the dating game and I’ve finally met a man I really connect with. He seems to be everything I’ve always wanted. How do I know if what I feel for him is real , true, love or something else?
Tony’s Take: If you feel like you are in love, then you are in love. The problem with that statement is there are many aspects of love and you must be very aware of what type of love and of what depth of you are feeling.
Love is ultimately caring for and caring about another person. Love is ultimately the desire to be with and around that person. Given these basic definitions love can take many forms. The love of a mother for her child, and the love of that child for their parent. But what is important here is the love of one adult for another. This type of love transcends physical lust.
You can start by testing yourself. Do you think the person is “cute?” If so, the person is already inside your emotional defenses. The cute reaction is triggered by the same feelings you would get for a baby. The instant love you feel because that being exists, despite any other attractions you may have for them.
One problem with “young love” is telling whether it is infatuation or “being in lust with” the other person. The question you must ask yourself is:” am I in love with the person they seem to be or the person they are?” For example, attractions of younger women to older men are often the attraction of “they seem to be so mature and sophisticated” when in actuality they are the same boys you are growing up with, just ten years older.
We have absolutely no logical control over those we fall in love with. We know we are in love with them because they make us feel special and being around them makes us feel happy. But we must be cognizant that the feeling must be mutual in order for a relationship to work. Otherwise, we may spend years pining for something that may never be.
Love goes through phases. In the beginning it an be all consuming, you are in love” with this person and your day and life revolve around their very existence. This is the most passionate period of your relationship and it is when you really become bonded with the other person. However, like all bright flames, it can only burn hot for a period of time before cooling. This is not to say you are less in love with a person, but rather that you have grown comfortable with them and secure in your relationship and love with them. You may no longer be acting like rabbits, but your relationship should have grown to a more tender, intense and fulfilling level. This is not to say that the “in love period” won’t happen again, any tender and intense shared experience may rekindle it for a period of time before it again fades back into the blissful lull of a shared love.
In our 20’s, we get into trouble because we chase the “in love” feeling and as soon as it starts to fade we believe we are no longer in love with that person but like a junkie, seek a new infusion of the intense emotions of being in love. This is what wrecks what may have been many good relationships which if started later in a person’s life, would have matured into a full, loving relationship.
Alison’s Take: Love takes many forms, as Tony has just explained. However, when it comes to mature, adult love (what we are discussing here in this Q&A), sometimes you can’t quantify it so easily In fact, while Tony and I were writing the answer to this question, he said to me “Oh this is going to be easy.” Then, when we actually started to craft this answer, we both realized that love is one of the most complex things in the universe, as challenging to identify as it is to describe.
It’s not a cliche to say that two people who truly love one another are are two parts of a whole. They are in sync with one another, and radiate that in their connection. They are individuals, but they are stronger, happier, healthier people as a couple, than as solo units. You can actually see it in their interaction. Perhaps that is why with couples who are deeply in love, when one partner dies, the other often quickly follows.
When you genuinely and deeply love someone, the effect is so powerful, it can take your breath away. But the emotion isn’t necessarily a heart-pounding continuum. Genuine adult love has less to do with physical lust (although that’s nice when it happens), and it doesn’t have to be physically and emotionally consuming day and night. There is a sort of peaceful, joyful, intrinsic feeling when that surrounds you like a warm blanket when you love someone deeply, especially when you know that someone loves you in return (if they do). The world feels like a better place because you have been blessed with this special connection, and this knowledge consoles you, even when the other aspects of your life may not be so perfect.
But a true love connection is much more than all of this. If you want to test whether or not you truly love someone, consider what kind of sacrifice you would make for them. Truly loving someone means that you want the best for them, even if it might be at your own expense. You want their success, well being and happiness as much or more than your own. In many ways, the intense need to protect, nurture , inspire, motivate and delight the one you love is at the same level of selflessness that a parent might show for their child. Would you willingly, gladly make a sacrifice for that person because it would is important to them, even, if there was nothing at all in it for you or might actually be to your detriment?
Love is a sort of involuntary submission — one that you may find yourself easily and gladly submitting to even if you know that it makes no logical sense. And if it’s true love, those intense feelings remain even when the object of your affection has irritated or disappointed you (no one is perfect) because you love all of that person for who they are, imperfections, included. Your feelings remain constant, even if that person is far away or gone forever.
You can love more than one person in an intense manner, but the opportunity for a true love connection is more rare. If you find it once, or perhaps twice, in your lifetime, you are really lucky.
Do you feel this way about the man you are dating, or do you think your feelings could grow to that degree? If so, you already know the answer to the question you asked us.