Love can be very confusing, especially if you've never been in love before. So how do you know if you're in love? We get a lot of messages about what love should look like through the media. We are shown what the idea of perfect love looks like in TV and movies. Most of us form our basic ideas about love and relationship from our early experiences from our caregivers. As we grow up, we continue to learn and come to our conclusions about what love is and what it looks like.
It can still be tricky to tell though. Often others will simply say, "You just know," when talking about being in love. However, there are a lot of unhealthy ideas and relationships out there. Often these unhealthy dynamics are passed off as love, but it's not. It's used as a manipulation that can be along the first stages of abuse.
The Difference Between Love & Obsession
There is a common perception that love is meant to be all-encompassing. That your ultimate love will complete you. You will be unable to think, eat, sleep, survive without this love. It will eclipse your total life with passion. This may sound like a romantic dream, but the truth is that this is fundamentally obsession. Obsession is defined as "the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc" (Dictionary.com, 2018). If you are unable to take a single step without thinking of this person, it's safe to say they are dominating your thoughts. Obsession can lead us down some fairly unhealthy paths.
We could become totally dependent and unable to function without the other person. There is a difference between missing someone and unable to function without them. When we are unable to go on, we restrict ourselves and our lives. We pass up opportunities that could be great for us. We live less full and happy lives. Love should not be making us less.
Obsession could also lead us into abusive situations. Abuse does not just appear in our lives and many of us would not accept it if it did. When we are obsessive and too eager to please someone, we slowly start to accommodate them more and more. As the relationship continues, unhealthy habits continue to form that take us down the slippery slope to abuse. Does this always happen? No, absolutely not. However, it is one way people find themselves in unhealthy situations. They mistake obsession with love and become committed to it.
Real love should support and nourish you, not take over your entire being. It should not complete you, you are already a whole person on your own.
So How Do You Know If You're In Love?
Your experience of love will be very personal. It will be based on your childhood perceptions, past relationships, and your beliefs about love. For many, love is a very strong feeling. You love someone because of who they are and what they mean to you. It is made up of a variety of memories and experiences that you have with that person.
Love comes in many forms and in many different types of relationships. If you've never experienced love before, or if you are unsure, think about someone close to you that you share a special connection with. It may be a caregiver, a sibling, a childhood friend. Think of the bond that you have with that person and what it means to you. Romantic love is a combination of that bond with a feeling of intimacy that many feel after sharing a sexual experience. Most people experience a strong sense of validation and trust in their romantic partner.
It is intimate on a level that most people only achieve with a romantic partner. You will feel safe, secure, and validated on an emotional, mental, and physical level. Depending on your personal beliefs, you may experience it on a spiritual level as well. It can be a difficult feeling to describe. Each person that experiences it will experience it a little differently as well. This is often why many offer the seemingly unhelpful advice of, "You just know."
Pave the Way for Healthy Relationships and Love
Your perceptions and notions about love and relationships will shape how you approach them. Take the time to think critically and decide what love means to you, what you feel it is, and what you are willing to do for it. The more you learn about yourself and healthy partner dynamics, the better you will be able to set boundaries and find fulfilling romantic relationships. Your journey to a more satisfying connection starts today. Share this article with someone in your life and start the discussion about what love really means to you.
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