Love. How can one four-letter word prompt such a warm feeling yet also make you question everything you hold true? It’s one of life’s most annoying-but-amazing paradoxes. Love is beautiful, but it’s also confusing as hell. Yet we persevere with the journey of the heart because, let’s be honest, we all want to be in love.
But how do we know that we are truly in love — and not lust — with our beloved? After all, it’s a known fact that the all-consuming honeymoon phase can last anywhere from three months to a year. And, of course, it’s easy to feel like you’re head-over-heels during a euphoric period that includes lots of sex, cozy Netflix nights in, and weekend vacations. What’s not to love when you’re learning about someone for the first time, especially when that person happens to be interesting and attractive?
So, what’s love then? Here are three questions you need to ask yourself to help you determine whether you’re truly in love or not.
Have you seen them at their worse?
Everyone is on their best behavior during the early days of a relationship. It’s easy to fall in love with someone who makes you laugh, takes you on fun dates and adventures, and who you enjoy kissing and making love to. But not everyone is perfect, and your partner, for all their many good parts, has flaws too.
But have you seen their shadow side? This means their unevolved behaviors that aren’t shiny and happy. Have you seen them in a bad mood? Have they said something to you or someone else that wasn’t nice?
Let’s be clear: this doesn’t refer to abusive behavior, but behavior that’s human. We can all be moody, abrupt or selfish at times. We all have a shadow side. It’s what balances out the light in us. If you’ve witnessed your partner in this state and didn’t retreat from it, then it’s love.
Have you fought?
Conflict is a necessary ingredient of long-lasting relationships. This doesn’t mean nagging or constantly picking little arguments with your partner. It does mean healthy conflict such as speaking up when you don’t like something or expressing your opinion even if differs from your partner.
By doing so, it signals you’re comfortable with disagreeing. It also demonstrates an ability to let your guard down and be seen for who you are. There’s no need to keep up unnecessary pleasantries.
Many couples in a new relationship fear rocking the boat, so they avoid conflict whenever possible. They either skirt away from controversial topics or placate each other to avoid fighting. But that’s not real love. Real love is understanding and respecting your partner’s point of view. It’s about growing, compromise and seeking resolution. It’s real love if you’ve been able to fight with your partner and make your relationship stronger because of it.
Are you your best self around them?
Does your partner make you want to be a better person? When you’re together, do you feel they bring out the best in you? This “best you” is probably a side of yourself that you’ve always known you could be. But somehow, just by meeting your partner and having them in your life, it’s more realizable than ever.
You want to reach for things you’ve never thought of reaching for; you want to tap into the loving and kind and intuitive side of yourself that you always ignored. There’s a great line in the movie As Good as It Gets when Jack Nicholson tells Helen Hunt “you make me want to be a better man.” If you can resonate with that line, then you’re in love.
Love is a beautiful thing, and while it arouses a slew of emotions, it needn’t be complicated to figure out. If you’re able to see your partner for who they truly are and express your truth to them while growing into the people you’re meant to be, then you know you’re in love.