In today’s changing society, it can be hard to understand what is real, wishful thinking, and lust disguised as something more. Not understanding or even mistaking strong emotions for love can have extremely detrimental consequences and leave you or the other party with a sense of abandonment.

How do you know the difference? How do you know when it’s real or just wishful thinking? It isn’t a one size fits all recipe. In some cases falling in love is fast. In others, it can take years to understand the depth of your emotion for someone else fully, and when the realization hits, it can be terrifying.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a checklist, but there are signs along the way. Some are obvious, but some are more obscure, and they aren’t always the same for every couple because every relationship builds and buds in its own season. There is no right timetable.

1. Butterfly Feelings

A key sign to every healthy relationship is compatibility. Without this, you will be spinning in circles and figuring out why your thoughts and opinions don’t resonate with your other half. Compatibility is more than just liking the same movies, and you need to be able to have meaningful conversations, laugh at the same jokes, and enjoy some of the same hobbies.

Being able to enjoy events or even watching them play their video games while you read or play on your social media is just one way to spend time together, participating in the other’s pastimes.

It won’t drive you crazy to spend time together with the right person, and they will always be on your mind. You will find yourself wondering what they are doing, if they are having a good day, and making mental notes of things to tell them when you see them. You will find yourself checking your phone more often than not and getting butterflies when their name appears on the screen.

Simple things can make you rush to text them, even if you know they won’t see it for a while. You want to share the good and the bad from your day, which is important in being compatible. It is possible to have different hobbies, but you will want to show them their support.

2. Strong Trust

Knowing your other half’s passions can also assist in building trust. By making an effort to show them support in their interests, you show them that you are all in and that you will do what you need to make them feel appreciated and secure in the relationship. When you love someone, this will come naturally.

Trust is the most vital part of communication. You need to trust that when you come to your paramour with an idea, they won’t shut you down and leave you wondering what happened. Trust is vital to a loving relationship. Lying proves that you have no respect for the other party, and with no respect, there can be no love. If you find yourself questioning if you should be honest or being honest, you should take a step back and reflect on why.

Love cannot be built on a foundation of dishonesty and distrust. Trust is a major aspect, and it should be easy and is the most important foundation to build. Without trust, your relationship will struggle to survive.

3. You Love to Be Around That Person

When I asked my boyfriend, “how do you know when you love someone?” He told me that it should be easy. There is give and take, and your wants for the relationship need to align. We have been doing this dance for the last 12 years, and finally, within the last two years, we found ourselves on the same page. We both wanted the family life (finally), silly giggles, and the easy conversations we have always had.

I was a few years ahead of him on these aspects, but that didn’t mean that I wrote him off. I knew that timing was everything, and what he needed out of a relationship would eventually align with what I wanted. He wasn’t ready to settle down, but once he was, we found each other again. And it’s easy. We talk, and we laugh, we act like children, and never once have we questioned, “what are we doing?” We are a team with an equal share of who chases who, and we never stop flirting.

He was right, and it should absolutely come naturally. If you have to force it, it isn’t real. He supports me in every hair-brained idea I have, and I support him in whichever endeavor he decides to take on. We work as a team, and we run our household together. We laugh, kiss, smile, and joke, but most of all, we never let the relationship get hard. We play and act like children, and we love each other’s company, which is a major thing when you are in love. We never feel like we are sick of each other.

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 is the easiest, most laid-back relationship either of us has ever had. We are best friends, and I think that is a key reason it is so easy.

It is ok to need your own space when in a relationship, so don’t think that it isn’t real if you don’t want to spend every moment together. We both have our times when we just need a few hours to reflect on ourselves and follow our passions, which is healthy and is made even more possible by our ability to communicate with each other when we need a bit, without it becoming an argument.

4. Accept Disagreements

Accept disagreements.

Even being easy, there will be disagreements. It will not always be rainbows and sunshine. There will be fights and arguments, disagreements, and sometimes you will go to bed angry. And that’s ok! 

Sometimes you need to sleep on it, but ultimately how you handle moments like this will help you see how you really feel.

When you love someone, you will put yourself in their shoes and try to understand their point of view. You will want to understand where they are coming from because you want to find a resolution. But this doesn’t mean it will happen at that moment.

It’s ok to be angry, and it is ok to need to take an hour or even overnight before you are ready to discuss what happened. The key to this is that you WILL want to talk about it, and you will want to figure out what went wrong and find a resolution so that you can try to prevent it from happening again.

Make sure you wait until you have a level-headed conversation, with no yelling and no accusations. Loving someone means trying to see their point as well as yours and finding the middle ground that you both can agree on. This part isn’t always easy, and you may not ever agree, but you care about the other person enough to put it aside and work towards a resolution.

5. All Summed Up

Relationships can be a mix of emotions. There will be ups and downs, laughter and arguments, but it is an adventure you won’t want to give up on when you love someone. You will look forward to those moments when they walk in the door, and you can tell them whatever silly thing you have been holding onto all day or be ready to hold them after a long hard day that tested them to their limits.

Love is more than just “I love you” and sweet nothings. It is showing them every day what they mean to you, be it by doing the dishes or taking the trash out, cuddling on the couch after you lay your kids down (or put the pets to bed), or any small thing that you know shows them that they are important to you.

Of course, there is no easy “Do I love them checklist” to tick off, but these are some simple ways to help you navigate the sea of emotions that you may feel, and it can help you distinguish between lust, wishing, and love. These are just the ways that I knew, and as I said, it was terrifying at first.

Often you will find that you don’t both realize it simultaneously, and putting yourself out there before your other half can be scary, but hearing those words for the first time and them showing you every day makes it all worth it. Don’t be afraid to let them know how you feel, even if you aren’t there just yet and they are. Just be yourself and let the relationship grow and build on its own. Remember, if you have to force it, it isn’t real.