Lauren Naefe

If You Have To Ask Whether Or Not You're In Love, You're Probably Not

I didn't know my roommate before I moved in with her this fall. I had never met her, and I didn't know her name.

She is now one of my best friends. When I first moved in with her, she was madly in love with her boyfriend (we'll call him Chad).

Chad was a strange human. I had only met him once or twice. He was awkward (to say the least), but she didn't seem to mind.

A few weeks into living together, I came home to find her on the sofa, curled up and crying, absolutely heartbroken. Yeah, you guessed it, Chad — the overly awkward dude who will 100 percent never do better than her — had dumped her, and no one saw it coming.

The heart of this girl I really didn't know all that well was broken, and I was looking at her situation from a very objective point of view. She was newly single, very pretty and smart, and if those qualities weren't enough, her sense of humor knocked it out of the park.

She was the type of woman — I imagined at the time — who could handle being single with poise and a lot of "sassitude." I was wrong.

You know those random hookups that spiral into more? You aren't looking for anyone, you aren't ready for anyone and you don't really want anyone?

But somehow, someway, you end up with someone. And somehow this person has taken the wheel of your relationship, and you're sort of left in the backseat, watching your ability to take the wheel fly out the window.

I quickly realized this was my roommate to a T when I met the guy who came along after Chad. In fact, she confirmed it had gone that way with every guy before Chad, too.

So, she meets this new guy. Let's call him Ethan. Ethan is awkward too, but he's a friend of a friend, so she gives him a chance.

They hook up. Cool.

And then, before she knows it, they're in a serious relationship less than a month after her breakup with Chad. They're meeting the siblings and meeting the parents — the whole shebang — and she isn't initiating any of it.

You know what's coming next, don't you? Those three little words that pack a huge punch: "I love you."

You know what's coming next because we all wait for the right time to say it, and we hope it's the right time when we finally hear it. It sucks when it isn't right, but is blurted anyway.

Whether this has happened to you, or you've heard of it happening to a friend, we all know that feeling of shock, confusion, awkwardness, breathlessness and nauseousness that you feel when it just isn't right. In a crowded bar, with people all around and at the top of his lungs, he said those three words.

What did she do? She left me waiting in suspense, too.

My mind raced through possibilities. Did she say thank you? Did she say it back? What was said?

“I pretended not to hear him,” she said, and I laughed. “And then, he said it again. So, I said I loved him, too.”

I did what anyone in my position would do: I asked her if she actually did love him. Her response, to this day, both surprises and entertains me.

Rather than saying yes, she loved him, or no, she didn't love him, she went into an elaborate story about what she did when she got home that night. It all came down to one glorious thing. She came home, grabbed her laptop, crawled under the covers and Googled "the symptoms of love."

As funny as this was, it confused me that someone who had been in several serious relationships would have to turn to a search engine to know if she was in love with her boyfriend. Now, I don't know if you've ever Googled the symptoms of love, but I suggest you do. It's quite entertaining.

The act makes you feel like you're in middle school again, crushing on that shaggy-haired cool guy you've always fawned over. It's the type of stuff that came up when you were looking for cute quotes for your MySpace page.

You're weak in the knees, they're always on your mind, you feel completely comfortable with them, you want to talk to them all the time and all that other stereotypical stuff. They are all the things you don't really need to google if you're really in love.

My roommate has been dating this guy for about three months now, and it's moving along and becoming more and more serious. Now, I'm around her all the time, and I'm still not convinced she's in love with him.

In fact, she's told me she's not in love with him. So what is she doing spending her time with Not-So-Mister-Right, when the real Mr. Right could be days away from meeting her?

I frequently wonder about this with my friends. I frequently wonder about this in regard to myself.

Ladies, what are we doing spending our time, energy and emotions on dudes we know are not really worth it, on dudes we just know are not going to be sticking around all that long or on dudes we know are just not what we want or need?

What are we doing? I have no idea.

My roommate's situation sparked this major ongoing conversation among several of my friends. One friend had just been cheated on by her boyfriend of three years while he was abroad; another dated a boy for four years who made her feel like she wasn't good enough, could never get anyone else and didn't deserve him; and lastly, another friend is dating (and will hopefully end up marrying) her best friend and partner in crime.

What are the symptoms of love? Better yet, what are the symptoms of being in love?

Of course, everyone feels different about the definition. When you google “love,” the result says, “an intense feeling of deep affection.”

When you search "love" on Urban Dictionary, you read, “nature's way of tricking people into reproducing.” (Obviously Urban Dictionary is a little cynical).

I guess what I'm trying to get at is love is a cultural construct. It isn't something that can be seen, touched or held.

It's something we either feel, or don't feel. It's what we are taught it is, and it is what we morph it into.

So when my roommate followed up with, “How do you really know when you're in love?” I took a step back from my objective perspective and tried to give her the answer she really wanted. It sounded a little something like this: I think, when you're in love, you look at someone and you see him.

You see he missed a spot shaving. You see he got upset because his favorite sports team lost and sulked all day.

You see he snores when he sleeps. You see he spends too much time at work, he balances you and work and he tries to get home early to spend more time with you.

You see he's OK watching a TV show he hates because you love it. He likes olives, and you hate olives.

He's willing to do anything for you, and you are willing to do anything for him, even when he pisses you off. You look at someone, and you see all of these things and so much more. You just think to yourself, "I am so down."

I'm down when you first wake up and you're crabby. I'm down when you're doing something sweet.

I'm down when you want me there for a death in the family. I'm down when you have to put your dog of 18 years down.

I'm down for everything, as long as I get to do everything with you.

That's my very level-headed definition of what love is. Sure, it has symptoms you can google like irrational behavior, smiling at your phone like a moron, feeling like you're going insane and feeling like your heart is imploding your ribcage when this person walks in the room.

But when all of those things fade away and the relationship has matured, you know you're in love when you love this person on his or her best days and worst days.

I sound like I fell out of a chick flick, but I really do believe that. And that's exactly what I told her.

Love isn't something you can search for on the Internet. It can only be defined by the way you feel once you're in it. And you'll know when are you in love because you'll finally have a definition of what it is.