We all are pretty well aware that love isn’t always wonderful like we see in the movies. In real life, it’s often unpredictable, frustrating, even painful. While it certainly can offer plenty of rewards, these benefits don’t generally come without some dedicated effort and willingness to accept some challenges as part of the process. This is true for both relationships and friendships as well.
When you love someone, you choose to nurture the first stirrings of attraction, feeding those early feelings and strengthening them to weather stressors to come. The work involved may not always feel easy. Yet many people find the reward — mutual, lasting love — well worth the investment.
People often say you’ll just know when someone loves you. There’s some truth to that, though it may not show up in the extravagant gestures you see in the media.
So how do you recognise real love? Here are a few signs
Safety is a cornerstone of friendships and loving relationships. A friend/partner who loves you won’t physically hurt you or damage your possessions. They also won’t threaten or pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do, make decisions for you, or cut you off from your social support.
Feeling safe also means feeling free to make your own decisions and express yourself without fearing their response. When you share opinions and goals, you receive encouragement, not putdowns or criticism.
Everyone experiences annoyance and anger on occasion, but it’s possible to express anger in safe, healthy ways. A partner who loves you won’t threaten you or use anger to punish you or make you afraid.
A partner who loves you will take an active interest in the details of your life.
They’ll listen actively by asking questions and waiting their turn to share instead of immediately diverting the conversation toward their own experiences. You get the sense they really care, instead of feeling brushed off with a distracted “Uh huh” or “Wow, that sucks.”
While they may not hear or remember every word you say, they’ll generally have a pretty solid awareness of the things that matter most: your likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, friendships and family relationships, and so on.
No matter how much you and your partner share, you’re different people, so you won’t feel the same way about everything.
Someone who loves you will accept your individual ideas and feelings as part of who you are. They might engage in some respectful debate, but they’ll show interest in your perspective instead of insisting you take their side.
Love requires open, honest communication. This doesn’t mean sharing every thought you have. Everyone has some private feelings, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping these to yourself.
Good communication might involve:
- discussing emotions
- identifying and addressing areas of conflict
- connecting through physical or emotional intimacy
- checking in about relationship boundaries
- tuning in to signals in body language
Communication doesn’t come easily to everyone. Instead of assuming a partner who has a hard time expressing thoughts and emotions doesn’t love you, look at their willingness to learn and practice better communication skills.
Certainly, partners should enjoy each other’s company. A loving partner, however, will also recognize you have a separate identity outside the relationship and support you when you want to spend time seeing friends or pursuing your own hobbies.
They’ll also maintain their own friendships and interests instead of looking to you to entertain them or fulfill all their social needs.
Trust often develops along with love, and you typically won’t find one without the other.
A partner who loves you will likely trust you, unless you betray them. They won’t question you when you see friends, follow you, or go through your phone or computer.
If they have no reason to believe you’ve been dishonest, they won’t accuse you of lying or cheating, or insist you go everywhere together.
Trust also means they feel safe enough to share opinions and emotions, open up about challenges they face, and ask for help.
Attraction might happen in an instant, but lasting love requires more time and commitment.
It might seem romantic when someone immediately decides you’re “meant to be” or says “I think I love you” after just one day. But this sometimes suggests a controlling or manipulative personality, not true romance.
With so many people in the world, the idea of one-and-only instant love can seem pretty flimsy. Sure, soul mates could exist, but it’s important to recognize that love typically doesn’t happen in a flash.
Someone who truly cares will want to build your love from the ground and shore it up at the seams by:
- prioritizing time together
- expressing an interest in getting to know you
- being prepared to talk through disagreements or conflict
- agreeing to try new things together
- expressing their commitment to mutual growth as partners
A loving partner and friend will share your desire to strengthen your bonds and grow together.
Relationship skills don’t come easily to everyone, though, and some people need a little extra support with learning how to express feelings in healthy ways. In doing so, you can practice good communication, explore goals for the future, and identify any areas of tension, so you can address them before they create problems down the line.