Finding love can be one of the most intense and invigorating experiences in life. But if you haven’t yet experienced it yourself (or aren’t sure whether or not you’ve experienced it), then you may be wondering, What does love mean? Anyone who's fallen in love with more than one person knows that how you define love oftentimes varies from relationship to relationship, and while there’s no true definition of love, there are certain qualities that relationships built on love tend to share.
When trying to figure out love, it's also important to consider the fact that we all have slightly different ways of giving and receiving love. A major part of being in a successful and loving relationship is being aware of how you and your partner express love and making adjustments to your love languages when necessary. As relationship coach Kailen Rosenberg previously told Elite Daily, “Love means I deeply care. I deeply respect. I have a desire to protect. I see the depth and value and truth of who that person is and I value that.”
People often struggle to put into words such a vast and all-consuming emotion like love, but if you’ve ever known love, then you’ll know these five things to be true.
Just as there is a fundamental difference between loving someone and being in love with someone, there is an important distinction between love and attachment. According to sex therapist and sexuality educator Kristen Lilla, it all comes down to the quality of the connection you have. “Being in love means there is a connection while being attached implies dependency,” she previously explained to Elite Daily.
When you have a connection based on love, you shouldn’t have any feelings of obligation. “I think it is important to ask yourself the question, ‘Do I have to be with this person, or do I get to be with this person?’” Lilla added. “If you feel like you have to be in a relationship, perhaps it is out of an attachment issue, but if you feel like you get to be with someone, and it is a privilege, you may be in love.”
Rather than giving you heart palpitations and sweaty palms, love should actually give you a sense of calm when you find the real thing. As Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist and founder of LoveVictory.com, previously told Elite Daily, true love should provide a feeling of peace and stability. “Healthy, lasting love finds its own ‘cruising gear’ where you feel fulfilled, happy, positive, and sure of your choice of partner,” she said.
If someone is constantly making you wait, keeping you guessing, or inspiring feelings of doubt in you, then chances are, what you have with them isn’t love. According to Dr. Wish, true love is all about comfort. “You are actually surprised at how calm you feel,” she said. “You are no longer jumping over the waves, but instead, you are wading and floating in a peaceful pool.”
One of the most important qualities of real, lasting love is respect that is mutually felt between partners. “[Respect] supersedes lust and puppy-dog love; respecting your partner is vital if you want your love to be a forever kind of love,” Alessandra Conti, matchmaker at Matchmakers in the City, previously explained. If it's true love, you and your partner will seek out each other's opinions on everything that is most important to you.
According to Conti, a relationship in which one or both partners loses respect is one that is no longer built on love. “When you find that you are loathing the person you are with because you feel like you are finally seeing them for who they truly are, this is a sign that the love spell is wearing off,” she said.
Though love ties you to another person, it shouldn’t keep you in a cage. Love should allow you to flourish in all areas of life, both independently and as a pair. "A meaningful marker of a relationship's health is observing what it brings out in you and in your life," clinical psychologist Dr. Rebekah Montgomery previously told Elite Daily. "When we are in healthy relationships, we are often happier and healthier.”
As well as having a more positive outlook on life, true love often pushes us to be our best selves, if only because loving and being loved makes us stronger. “Healthy relationships have that nice balance of making us feel accepted and challenging us to grow,” Dr. Montgomery added.
In the end, no one but you can decide what love means within the context of your relationships, and there is no "right way" to define what love is or what it should be. As long as both people in the partnership feel loved and that their most important needs are being met, then that's a good thing.
Kailen Rosenberg, relationship coach
Susan Winter, author and relationship expert
Kristen Lilla, sex therapist and sexuality educator
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist and founder of LoveVictory.com
Alessandra Conti, matchmaker at Matchmakers in the City
Dr. Rebekah Montgomery, clinical psychologist
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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