In today’s constantly changing society, it can be difficult to distinguish between real love, wishful thinking, and mere lust disguised as something more. Mistaking strong emotions for love can have significant and negative consequences, leaving you or your partner feeling abandoned and hurt.
So, how can you tell the difference between true love and wishful thinking? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Falling in love can happen quickly for some people, while for others, it may take years to fully understand the depth of their emotions. When this realization hits, it can be both thrilling and terrifying.
Although there is no definitive checklist, there are certain signs to look out for along the way. Some of these signs are obvious, while others are more subtle and unique to each couple. Every relationship grows and develops at its own pace, so there is no right timetable to follow.
1. You Have Intense Feelings.
One key indicator of a healthy relationship is compatibility. Without it, you may find yourself struggling to connect with your partner and wondering why your thoughts and opinions don’t align. Compatibility is about more than just sharing the same taste in movies; you need to be able to engage in meaningful conversations, share a sense of humor, and enjoy some of the same hobbies.
Being able to spend time together doing things that you both enjoy, or simply being present while the other person pursues their interests, is an important aspect of a compatible relationship. When you’re with the right person, you won’t feel like you’re going crazy spending time together. Instead, you’ll find yourself thinking about them constantly and wondering how their day is going. You’ll take mental notes of things to tell them when you see them and eagerly anticipate their text messages, getting butterflies when their name appears on your screen.
Even small things can make you rush to send them a message, even if you know they won’t see it for a while. You’ll want to share both the good and the bad from your day with them, which is an important part of being compatible. It’s possible to have different hobbies and interests, but you should still be supportive of each other’s pursuits.
2. You Trust Them.
Understanding your partner’s passions and interests is an essential part of building trust in a relationship. When you make an effort to support their hobbies and pursuits, it shows them that you are fully committed to the relationship and that you will do whatever it takes to make them feel valued and secure.
Trust is the cornerstone of effective communication. You need to trust that your partner will listen to your ideas and not dismiss them out of hand. Trust is essential to a loving relationship. Dishonesty erodes respect, and without respect, there can be no love. If you find yourself questioning whether or not to be honest with your partner, it’s important to take a step back and reflect on why that is.
Love cannot be built on a foundation of lies and mistrust. Trust is a crucial aspect of any healthy relationship, and it should come easily. It is the most important foundation to build, and without it, your relationship will struggle to survive.
3. You Enjoy Their Company.
When I asked my boyfriend, “how do you know when you love someone?” he told me it should be easy. A relationship requires give and take, and your desires for the partnership need to align. We’ve been dancing this dance for the past 12 years, and finally, in the last two years, we found ourselves on the same page. We both desired family life, silly giggles, and the effortless conversations we’ve always had.
I was a few years ahead of him in these aspects, but that didn’t mean I wrote him off. I knew timing was crucial, and his needs from a relationship would eventually align with mine. He wasn’t ready to settle down, but once he was, we found each other again. And it’s easy. We talk, laugh, act like children, and never once question, “what are we doing?” We’re a team with equal shares in chasing each other, and we never stop flirting.
He was right; it should come naturally. If you have to force it, it isn’t real. He supports me in every whimsical idea I have, and I support him in any endeavor he chooses to pursue. We work as a team, running our household together. We laugh, kiss, smile, and joke, but most importantly, we never let the relationship become difficult. We play and act like children, and we love each other’s company, which is crucial when you’re in love. We never tire of one another.
We do our own things, but spending every spare moment together doesn’t drive us insane. I have never experienced what we have, and it’s the easiest, most laid-back relationship either of us has ever had. We are best friends, and I think that’s a key reason it’s so effortless.
It’s okay to need your own space in a relationship, so don’t think it isn’t real if you don’t want to spend every moment together. We both have times when we need a few hours to reflect on ourselves and pursue our passions, which is healthy and made even more possible by our ability to communicate with each other when we need space, without it turning into an argument.
4. You Manage Conflicts In a Healthy Manner.
Even in the easiest relationships, there will be disagreements. It won’t always be rainbows and sunshine. There will be fights and arguments, disagreements, and sometimes you’ll go to bed angry. And that’s okay!
Sometimes you need to sleep on it, but ultimately, how you handle moments like this will help you understand your true feelings.
When you love someone, you’ll put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their perspective. You’ll want to comprehend where they’re coming from because you want to find a resolution. However, this doesn’t mean it will happen immediately.
It’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to need an hour or even overnight before you’re ready to discuss what happened. The key is that you will want to talk about it, and you’ll want to figure out what went wrong and find a resolution to prevent it from happening again.
Ensure you wait until you can have a level-headed conversation, without yelling or accusations. Loving someone means trying to see their point as well as yours and finding common ground you both can agree on. This part isn’t always easy, and you may not always agree, but you care about the other person enough to put it aside and work towards a resolution.
Relationships can be a whirlwind of emotions. There will be ups and downs, laughter and arguments, but when you love someone, it’s an adventure you won’t want to give up. You’ll look forward to those moments when they walk through the door, eager to share whatever silly thing you’ve been holding onto all day or ready to comfort them after a long, challenging day.
Love goes beyond saying “I love you” and sweet nothings. It involves showing your partner every day what they mean to you, whether by doing the dishes, taking out the trash, cuddling on the couch after putting the kids (or pets) to bed, or any small gesture that demonstrates their importance to you.
Of course, there’s no simple “Do I love them?” checklist to complete, but these pointers can help you navigate the sea of emotions you may experience and distinguish between lust, longing, and love. These are just the ways I knew, and as I mentioned, it was initially terrifying.
Often, you’ll find that you don’t both realize it simultaneously, and putting yourself out there before your partner can be scary. But hearing those words for the first time and having them show you every day makes it all worth it. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings, even if you aren’t there yet and they are. Just be yourself and let the relationship grow and develop naturally. Remember, if you have to force it, it isn’t real.