What Is True Love: Definition, Depth, and Delight

man and woman laughing on a couch
Senior couple in love hugging and bonding with true emotions at home

Whether on the first date or the twelfth, you look into the other person’s eyes and, BAM! You blurt it out. Those three short words: “I love you.” Come on, admit it. Many of you have declared it a time or two (or five or seven). The question is, why do some people say it so frivolously? It can’t be that easy to find true love! And what is true love? Honestly, the answer isn’t simple, and this is not the first time someone has tried explaining true love and whether it even exists. It’s a profound question studied by scientists and written about in too many articles, stories, songs, and poems to count. People adore hanging on to the fairy-tale versions of love. The couples within those tales have given many a romantic hope that true love does exist. But, again, what is true love? Not in fairy tales but in real life. Does it exist? What is true love? Can you find your soulmate, your one and only, your yin to another’s yang? You might be surprised that a delightful adventure awaits if you’re willing to dive into the answer.

What Is True Love: Much More Than Semantics

When you ask what is true love and define it, it can leave you yearning for your turn at love or send you running in the other direction. Either way, it can’t hurt to hash it out and ponder what is true love. No one should run to, or away from, something until they know the facts, even if some of the points are hard to find. Because what is true love is different for everyone, and it is rather challenging to explain it in one sentence.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person; an attraction that includes sexual desire.” Furthermore, true acts as an adjective describing the word love. The adjective true, according to Dictionary.com, means “real; genuine; authentic.” Therefore, asking what is true love, and then putting both definitions together, suggests something like the following: genuine affection and sexual desire for another person.

While this explanation seems relatively uncomplicated, is it fair to leave the answer up to semantics? Most people will probably agree that there is much more to true love than mere words can tell. If the meaning is that easy, scientists won’t study it, and authors wouldn’t write about it.

So, again, what is true love? Part of its description is that it ventures beyond feelings, as clinical psychologist Yana Dubinsky, Psy.D., suggests. In the article, Relationship Experts on True Love & Making Love Last, written by Zareen Syed, Dubinsky explains, “When a couple stands in front of friends and family on their wedding day, they promise to love each other ’til death do us part.” Not every ceremony consists of that exact phrase, but many say something very much like it.

It’s essential to continue with what Dubinsky then adds: “If love were a feeling, how can we make a promise about how we will feel in 20, 30, 50 years?” The answer is that you can’t. You can’t possibly know the reality of your future. You can plan and hope and dream, but the fact remains that you will change over time. Therefore, there is no proof that you will feel the same even one year from now.

It further complicates the definition of what is true love. However, fear not. You must know that true love includes more than a feeling. It also involves behavior.

older couple happy and in love

What Is True Love: The Love Language

Expecting specific behaviors from your beloved is a primary part of true love’s existence. It’s one of the reasons you fall in love with this person in the first place. For example, perhaps it drives your heart to flutter when your love buys you flowers. Maybe your soul is set afire when your partner makes you coffee every morning. Maybe the fact that your mate does their share of the laundry causes you to smile in a way nothing else can. Any of these examples can reinforce your loving feelings. Is this true love? What is true love?

But expecting them to last forever without communicating your desires can do more harm than good. Think about it: If these gestures stop, might you lose that loving feeling? It’s possible and it happens. When partners get into a routine and stop speaking the other’s language, complacency moves in, and out goes the fluttering hearts.

Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts, articulates, “Love is the most important word in the English language—and the most confusing.” Chapman explains that you need to understand your partner’s love language to make it work. He states that there are five languages and that we each fall into one. To truly love a person and make it last, you need to learn their love language and offer your love accordingly.

Perhaps this is why it’s so easy to move from relationship to relationship. It’s irritating that your companion’s efforts seem to have disappeared, and so you give up on the person. You stop communicating. You stop speaking their language. However, if you keep up this pattern, you will never know what is true love. Or you’ll find it but remain unable to hold onto it.

To find true love and keep it, you’ve got to work at it. What is true love? It exists, but it takes continuous effort. “Like anything else in life worth having, relationships take work,” expresses Allison Abrams, LCSW-R, in her article Navigating the 4 Stages of a Relationship. Abrams says that some people can handle the work while others can’t. Not everyone’s up to the task.

The truth is that most people want their partners to continue the small gestures that made them seem irresistible like they did at the beginning of the relationship. But they forget to communicate their wants. True love can exist for you. You have to be ready, honest, and speak love’s language to figure out what is true love.

black and white photo of elderly couple

What Is True Love: Move It or Lose It

Sure, it’s fun to live out parts of a fairy tale. It’s fun to dream about what is true love. Some scientists even declare that romanticizing love is acceptable to start a relationship. For instance, in the article, The Psychology of Romantic Love, Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, writes, “Healthy idealization is normal and helps us fall in love.” She explains that it enables us to feel heightened emotions and feel alive. However, while this part is exciting, it isn’t beneficial for your relationship long-term.

There’s a reason people say that they are in the honeymoon stage of their romance. In the beginning, it’s easy. Your infatuation helps you look past your partner’s flaws. The lust helps you see past some of your disagreements. But over time, these flaws, these disagreements, these storms may start to get on your nerves.

That’s why for you to find what is true love, you’ve got to make a choice. Either move it or lose it because true love involves a fight. Part of the reality is that the storms that arrive can make your life difficult. The roller coaster ride of emotions can take its toll. But the fact also is that true love is love that persists through it all.

People who stay in love remain on the roller coaster ride at all costs. They let go of the fairy tale and hang on to each other, realizing that communication and strength will help them stay the course and grow to love each other more than they thought possible and to experience what is true love.

You also have to understand that true love happens in stages. Psychologists have different names for these steps, but they all start with infatuation. Sarah Regan, Spirituality & Relationships Writer, talks about them in her article, What Does Love Feel Like? 10 Feelings You Get When You’re In Love. Regan describes feelings of lust, calmness, connecting with your genuine personal identity, and then deciding to continue with the relationship or not. All are essential stages of love.

She reports that marriage therapist Linda Carroll, M.S., LMFT, eloquently details five love steps. Carroll says: “A couple must go through deep interpersonal connection but also doubts, disillusionment, and ultimately a decision about whether to stick it out, all before experiencing true, wholehearted love.” That is reality. And, yes, it takes work. If you don’t fight for your love, you’ll lose it. But you will get there if you ride out the storms.

man and woman face to face

What Is True Love: Stay True to You

By now, you’re probably thinking that true love doesn’t seem all that inviting. Is it hard? Yes. Is it sometimes scary? Yes. No one sets off on their journey toward true love wanting to become heartbroken. Sometimes you end up feeling the way Marie Miguel describes in her article, Does True Love Really Exist?. She explains, “If you do get hurt, it hinders you from pursuing other relationships and can prompt you to question if true love is real.” It’s not uncommon to feel this way.

What Is True Love if You Quit

It’s hard to lay it all on the line without knowing if it will last. People tend to run away from the hurt, not run toward it. So it makes sense that many people become disillusioned and then quit looking for their true love.

But the fear of getting hurt shouldn’t hold you back. While love can be challenging at times and can take some work, it is worth it. Leap. Try hard. Even if you end up heartbroken, you’ll at least have learned something about yourself.

What Is True Love if You Lose Yourself

Do not compromise who you are. Remind yourself of your convictions and boundaries, and don’t let go of them. Unless it makes you a better person, you should not have to change who you are for anyone. However, it is essential to remain true to yourself before considering the jump with anyone.

In the article,10 Things You Need To Know About True Love, author Allison Renner states, “Your partner should never ask you to change if you’re truly loved.” Your mate should love you for you and not for who they want you to become over time. That’s not fair to you. Therefore, at the first sign your companion is trying to change you, leave the relationship.

woman sitting on counter being kissed by a man

What Is True Love if There’s No Trust

What’s more, you also need to gain trust and feel trusted. According to Healthline’s article, 10 Emotional Needs to Consider in Relationships, “An important part of love is trust, and trust does not just appear. You cultivate it over time, but you can also lose it in an instant.” When someone breaks your trust, it’s tough letting them try to gain it back. You also lose a little of yourself each time this happens. So keep in mind that if your partner continuously breaks your trust, you probably aren’t on the road toward true love.

What is true love without trust? Trust can show up as being possessive, as well. Beware that this is a red flag if you can’t do anything without asking your partner first. Quendrith Johnson elaborates about this danger in the article 9 Reasons True Love Does Exist Says Expert Kim Saeed. “If someone wants to be with their partner all hours of the day, this could be a sign of an insecure attachment style which can lead to problems later.” The concern here is that it could become dangerous.

What Is True Love if It’s Not Authentic

A person needs to feel safe and secure. Love doesn’t mean compromising yourself and your values. Love cannot be true if you aren’t authentic. Part of remaining faithful to yourself is ensuring that you know your passion is genuine. If you are confident in yourself, your partner will be satisfied with you.

It’s additionally essential to realize that when you truly love someone, you may not ever want to live without them. However, it would be best if you felt confident that you can. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t be true to yourself. Without either, you don’t have true love.

man and woman sitting on the grass

What Is True Love: An Adventure Worth the Battle

Put aside the scary for a minute and ponder the treasure you will have when you find true love. The passion, fulfillment, laughter, comfort, acceptance, intimacy–all of the fantastic parts that come with true love make it unquestionably worth the battle. Incredible adventures await when finding your counterpart, and the best part about your future together is experiencing the events as a pair.

Furthermore, there is much more depth in true love once you work to keep it. For instance, intimacy will become more than lust. It evolves into the comfort, fulfillment, emotions, and passion you share with your partner. It reaches beyond sex. Yes, sex is essential, but sex can be even better with intimacy. Intimacy is not only for physical pleasure but for emotional as well.

And if you can believe it, truly loving someone is good for your health! In an article from the American Psychological Association, Kirsten Weir claims that the intense love and closeness you feel for your partner can be life-saving. “People in secure, committed romantic relationships have a lower risk of heart disease, for example, while those who have relationship discord have a higher risk.” Yet another great reason to fight for true love!

Also, remember that laughter can solve so much. Michael Karson, Ph.D., J.D., writes in an article on Psychology Today that you can compare life to a movie. The genre you fall under resembles the type of person you are. His best analogy is about true love. He says, “True love requires a romantic comedy, not a love story.” How right he is! Laughing with each other is priceless.

When it comes down to it, life with your true love will have its share of ridiculous arguments and foolish periods. Still, those who can chuckle about them together will find that it’s all part of the adventure. It can be the part that keeps you beaming, even at eighty years old.

What Is True Love: Knowing It Exists

True love may be messy and beautiful all at once, and it is pretty accurate to explain it as an adventure with many ups and downs, but it does exist. Love may seem confusing because much of it feels intangible. But countless couples have proven that committing to a beautiful life together is achievable. Riding the waves while holding each other’s hand and simultaneously cheering on the other is true love personified. Sure, it can seem elusive. You might have to kiss a few of those proverbial frogs until you find the one, but the life that awaits you when you find your person makes it all worthwhile. When you can agree to disagree, feel angry but laugh anyway, hold up your teammate when things are rough, that’s when you’ve found your true love. That’s when you will stop asking: What is true love? That’s when you’ll know it exists.

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