Lucky you! Congratulations! The ecstatic bliss you now feel is the most joyous experience you’ve ever known. The sun shines brighter, birds sing more sweetly, and you’re about to live happily ever after!
But hold on for just a second – because you just realized how utterly sappy all that sounds to everybody else who’s not in love, and how much you sound like a Disney princess, which you know – or at least you used to know – is not exactly realistic.
So which is it? Are you in love or aren’t you? Will you live happily ever after or are you setting yourself up for heart break? Does True Love exist or is it only an appealing myth? You’d like to know for certain so you can plan accordingly.
Okay, great, let’s find out!
I’ve been studying love for the past several years, reading thousands of pages ranging from poetry to philosophy to academic journals written by psychologists and scientists who plop lovers into fMRI machines and study what is – and isn’t – true love. I’ve been in love myself, more than once, and experienced first hand the ups and downs of love and its imitations.
Here are a few key insights to help you know whether your love is true and whether it will last. I wish someone had told me these things a long time ago.
First, you should understand that asking whether you’re really in love is a trick question, because “falling in love” is not actually love – unless you expand the definition of love so wide that you render it utterly useless, which is what has actually happened in this world, so no wonder it’s all so confusing at times.
The fact is, love is a marvelously complex array of feelings, experiences, perceptions, intentions, and physiological states, and “being in love” often involves only a small portion of them. To explain being “in love” as simply as possible, you should understand that it feels good for two reasons:
- Sex hormones attract you to each other and make you feel blissful. Your genes are doing their best to manipulate you into propagating the species. It feels real, and the feelings are certainly real, but they don’t mean what you think they mean.
- Ego boundaries drop and you believe – temporarily – that you and your lover are one, that the other is an extension of yourself, that s/he is perfect and what are actually terminal flaws are seen as merely adorable quirks. This sense of connection is highly rewarding, but it’s also a fleeting illusion that will eventually come crashing down around your feet.
The experience of falling in love can occur whether or not the two of you are compatible and committed enough for your “love” to pass the test of time and bring you lasting happiness rather than leading to misery, heart ache, resentment, frustration, and disgust.
Although it doesn’t seem like it to you, the experience of falling in love is primarily selfish. It’s about how the other makes you feel good, and when that feeling ebbs, where will it leave you two?
If you can’t feel happy and whole without a romantic attachment, then it’s even worse, because your neurotic need for affection will most likely destroy the relationship sooner or later. It will cease to satisfy your needs as you slowly realize that you’re not one person, you’re two, and before you can enjoy a healthy relationship, you must first be whole yourself. One half person + another half person does not equal a whole, because love works by multiplication, not addition.
To be clear, and in case it sounds like I’m out to destroy your bliss, let me clarify that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with falling in love! I admit to feeling jaded at times and at my lowest point, I once saw a couple walking down the street holding hands and thought to myself, “That’s so fake!” But I have recovered and now envy your blissful state. Everyone does!
Falling in love is a wonderful experience that can build connection and can lead to real love IF YOU PLAN for the long run! Here are some crucial things to know and do about real love if you want your love to last:
- At its core, real love seeks to nurture spiritual growth (by spiritual growth, I mean becoming stronger, happier, more mature and capable, which supports long-term well being). How do you and your lover prove that you care about each other’s well being and are willing to sacrifice to support growth?
- Are you compatible? If you weren’t “in love,” would you still choose each other as friends? This is a major part of your relationship that will determine whether or not it endures. Be sure to spend time talking, not just kissing, spend time with friends, work on projects together, and see how well you like each other and get along when you get really tired and cranky!
- Are you whole? Can you be happy on your own or are you using your lover to make you feel complete and okay? Do you know who you are? Do you value, enjoy, and spend time on your talents, interests, and dreams? If your lover was abducted by aliens tomorrow and carried away to a distant galaxy forever, could you go on living?
- Are ego boundaries vanishing? In other words, do you expect your lover to enjoy the same things as you, and do you sometimes ignore your former interests because your lover doesn’t care about them? This may be a harmful precedent to set, and you can’t know how well you get along if you stop being your true self.
- Are your ego boundaries expanding? In other words, do you desire to bless others and not merely gratify your own appetites? This is a good thing. Healthy connection retains and respects your sense of self while becoming more permeable and caring about others as well.
- Evaluate your relationship skills. When you feel upset, are you still able to communicate clearly or do you run, hide, rage, blame, panic or pout? Find something to disagree about and explore how well you each seek to understand and how willing you each are to compromise and resolve differences.
Take some time to think and talk these ideas over. The more clearly you assess your situation, the better prepared you’ll be to turn your romantic love into true love that really does live happily ever after.
In the near future, I’ll release an entire course on How to Love and Be Loved based on several years of research that will reveal many ways to strengthen your relationships and make them more nurturing, exciting, and satisfying. Stay tuned!