Love is complicated and confusing.
It asks us to really understand our own feelings, which can be terrifying sometimes. But it's important to know there is a difference between falling in love with the idea of someone and the actual person.
This distinction lies in the way you think about the person right before you fall asleep. Instead of latching onto the wonderful date the both of you just had, you think about your future together, spanned out over the course of a few decades.
It isn't healthy, and it won't do much for your love life.
When you find yourself falling in love with the idea of someone instead of the person, you sacrifice true love and true happiness.
However, sometimes we need these experiences to help us understand and distinguish what true love feels like.
To know when a prospective relationship is the real deal or not, we have to truly understand how we feel about the other person.
As someone who deeply loves love, I must admit I have fallen down the trap of falling in love with the idea of someone on multiple occasions.
If you, like me, have struggled to distinguish when you have fallen in love with the idea of someone versus the actual person, here are a few signs that may help you the next time you find yourself thinking you have fallen in love:
1. You think your life will begin once you have this person.
We all believe in happily ever after, but you may think of it differently. You believe once you find that special someone, you will instantly feel fulfilled.
Love can be very joyous and fulfilling, but it is definitely not a guarantee to happiness.
It's always important to remember happiness, true happiness, cannot be found outside of ourselves. It must first be found within and then shared with someone.
2. You search for someone to fit the mold, not the other way around.
Sometimes we can become fixated on what a relationship can do for us, not what we can give to it. We can get into some murky water when it comes to making checklists for what our significant other should and shouldn't be.
In the end, no one can fulfill a checklist. Love isn't found in a checklist.
3. You don't know if you really love the person, but you hold on anyway.
This is the easiest trap to fall into in my opinion. I've been here before.
We find someone who we get along with. We have a great time together. The relationship is easy. Fights are rare.
But deep down, we feel something missing.
We don't say, "I love you" because we know that isn't true. We begin to convince ourselves the relationship is just progressing slowly.
The longer you stay in this sort of blasé relationship, the harder it becomes to let go in the end.
4. You worry someone better will come along.
Love is all-encompassing. You just know. There is no questioning.
When you find yourself in a relationship thinking there might be other options, that maybe there is someone who could fill the holes in this current relationship.
That is not love.
5. You're never single for too long.
I have a lot of friends who fall in this category. Giving yourself time to "find yourself" is a cliche for a reason: It's true.
It's important for you to take time to explore what you want and what interests you. We all change as we grow. And once we leave a relationship, we may have discovered that what we once thought we wanted is no longer a desire of ours.
Taking time to embrace singledom and to get in touch with ourselves is of the utmost importance to break the habit of falling in love with the idea of someone.
6. You believe having love will instantly make you worthy of love.
If you are awaiting someone to love you so that you feel worthy, then you are doomed to never find true love.
This is a recipe for disaster.
When we seek out happiness from others, just like trying to find happiness outside ourselves, we end up never truly finding happiness. People are bound to disappoint us.
And when they do, we end up devastated because all of our happiness and worthiness was tied to this one person.
Instead, I suggest finding that happiness within yourself. Spend some quiet time alone with yourself. See how that makes you feel.
Are you terrified, scared or uncomfortable? If so, then you are more than likely suffering from some unhappiness.
If it's severe enough, I'd suggest maybe talking to a professional. If it's slight and sort of comes and goes, then maybe try regaining some self- happiness by finding what truly makes you happy.
Release those fearful thoughts by journaling. Try some meditation. Go on a solo trip. Take yourself on a date.
All these things will help you build confidence within yourself and create happiness and joy that makes you a whole happy human.
Once you are wholly fulfilled by yourself, you aren't desperate to cling to someone or something. You allow yourself to receive true love.
So when that special someone comes along, that person will become an addition to your happy life instead of a crutch. In so doing, you simply allow the relationship to unfold naturally.
This article was originally published on the author's personal blog.