The jury’s still out on whether true love is something that happens on a dime. Personally, I don’t believe in love at first sight. I also don't agree with the old adage that true love takes work, but I do believe that it requires construction. Your relationship starts out with a strong foundation of attraction, respect, and an emotional and intellectual spark. As you go along, you add walls, floors, windows, and paint. When I ask myself, “What is true love?,” or, “What does true love feel like?,” there’s only one image that encapsulates it. True love feels like a house that will contain both of you, a base where all of your material and physical needs can be met.
But in a more literal sense, according to experts, true love feels like all the best parts of any great relationship all wrapped up into one. “Being truly in love with someone often feels like having a genuine friendship with the added bonus of ongoing attraction and sexual intimacy,” Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of the book Date Smart, previously told Bustle.
True love is often mistaken as that jolt in your stomach, that flutter in your gut that signals first attraction. While butterflies are titillating and fun, that anxious feeling associated with a new crush or when you are first falling for someone may or may not really be true love. Oftentimes, it’s more of an infatuation — which can lead to true love, if you are both willing to build something together. If your relationship doesn't get past the point of infatuation, your feelings are real, but they might not be the same as true love.
In any new relationship, pay attention to the following signs to determine whether or not you’ve found your true love.
True Love Feels Safe
True love cannot exist without safety. A relationship that puts you in a precarious place — whether that is emotionally or physically — cannot be true love, because true love requires your needs to be met. In order to achieve that, true love starts with a union with yourself. In this union, you are able to recognize what you need to feel secure, how to ask for it, and to recognize when it isn't being received.
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.
In a truly loving relationship, you and your partner will respect each other's boundaries, because you understand that is what you both need in order to feel safe. You won't ask each other to compromise those boundaries, because you know that would mean asking someone to compromise their safety or health for you. True love feels like knowing you are protected within the shared space of your relationship, emotionally, physically, and mentally.
True Love Feels Like A Connection
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. However, navigating the (sometimes subtle) differences between love and attachment can be tricky. In many ways, a strong attachment or dependency can feel a lot like love. But in general with attachments, there’s a weaker emotional connection.
“Being in love means there is a connection while being attached implies dependency,” Nebraska-based AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator Kristen Lilla previously told 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.”
True Love Feels Like Acceptance
True love feels like knowing that your partner will make space to sit and listen and hear you. You don't ever feel like you have to wave to get your partner's attention. If you have something that you need to work out together, they are able to sit with you, hear you out, and work constructively on the information you provide. They enjoy seeing you as much as you enjoy seeing them. True love feels like looking at the other, and knowing that they are really looking back at you, not a projection of the person they think you should be. This also means that you and your partner will prioritize each other’s happiness even when things get messy.
When big life moments pop up — for example, when your partner is offered their dream job, but the job requires them to relocate across the country — if it’s true love, their first move would be to sit down and talk it through with you. "'The one' makes you feel loved and secure,” Lesli Doares, couples consultant and marriage coach at Foundations Coaching, previously told Elite Daily. “You are able to be yourself and feel accepted. They make you want to be your best self, and they bring that out in you.”
Recognition sometimes wavers within the confines of a relationship. Work, school, and your social life can sometimes get in the way of being able to truly see each other. Even when your gaze might be cluttered with outside distractions, you are able to return to each other and see each other again. True love feels like being able to rise toward each other, again and again, even if you need to momentarily fall back to tend to all the other things that life demands of you.
True Love Feels Comforting
When there’s true love, there’s the freedom to be your full self — quirks, goofs, gaffes, and all. "Love has a way of overwhelming us," Dr. Joshua Klapow, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, previously told Bustle. "Your partner may go from being themselves to an 'in love geek.’ They may say strange things, make awkward comments, look slightly uncomfortable, all because they are so in love with you. They are trying to basically navigate who they are in the context of these deep feelings of love and, for a while, it can look a little weird. But it means love is in the air."
If you or your partner starts letting your guard down — are you using baby talk? Chatting in-depth about your pubic hair? Singing a theme song together every time you brush your teeth? — Dr. Klapow said it might just mean yours is a love that’s true.
True Love Feels Stable
True love feels like security and stability. You don't worry about breaking up or your partner leaving you abruptly. When they go out of town, you might miss them, but you are also happy for them, because you want them to travel and have new experiences. Your love has balance and no sense of suspicion or possession. You don't worry about them hanging out with their friends. If you ever feel jealous, you are able to talk about it. You don't feel like you are walking around on eggshells or like you're going to move out after every single fight.
As author and relationship expert Susan Winter previously told Elite Daily, “It's easy to 'love' someone. We overuse the word love, just like we overuse the word 'friend.' This term has been so watered down that most people with a fondness for someone are certain they love him or her." According to her, it’s only when that love is unconditional that it’s real. “In love means that you've weathered the storms of your partner's negative qualities, and still choose to remain in the relationship," she added. "Your love is unconditional. It's all-inclusive as you accept the positive and the negative aspects of your mate."
Stability also means that you are both able to meet each other's material needs. If one of you is hungry and the other one has groceries, then they're happy to feed you. In return, you'll offer to make their bed in the morning or provide emotional care. These tasks are not completed with the expectation of receiving anything, because you both get something out of giving to each other. There's balance in how much you tend to each other, and you find equity in the ways in which you express your love, tenderness, and care.
If these signs sound familiar, then congrats — it seems you’ve found a love that’s true, and that’s truly a special thing.
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist and founder of LoveVictory.com
Kristen Lilla, AASECT Certified Sex Therapist and AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator
Lesli Doares, couples consultant and marriage coach at Foundations Coaching
Susan Winter, author and relationship expert
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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