We think we know what it means to be in love. Especially when the moment is ablaze with chemistry, hormones, and sparks.
But when a relationship ends, we tend to question what it was all about. Was it ever love? It is one of the hardest questions to answer. Being swept away in the chemical cocktail that is attraction and attachment can mask a whole host of problems.
No one outside a relationship can ever really understand what you feel being in it. That leaves each of us to individually sort out if we believe we are truly in love. But true love can perhaps best be defined by what it is not.
1. It Moved Too Fast
Infatuation is chemical. The beginning of a relationship overwhelms the senses. It feels like true love. You can think of nothing but that one person. You just don’t know enough to evaluate if you are in love. At this point, the entire relationship is based in fantasy. You just don’t have enough information yet. When there are holes in reality, it is your brilliant imagination fills in those blanks.
“Infatuation is not quite the same thing as love; it’s more like love’s shady second cousin who’s always borrowing money and can’t hold down a job.”
The beginning of a relationship is an illusion. You need time to know if it is love. In love, we expose our true selves. We need to let the mask fall. Love appears when we shatter the illusion of perfection. And that just can’t happen in a matter of weeks. It takes time.
2. It Seemed So Perfect
The fantasy version of love thrives on a vision of perfection. Somehow, you think you found your soulmate. But as the relationship moves forward, you find yourself wishing your partner was…somehow better. You may wish they talked differently, behaved differently, pursued different goals. It all adds up to one fact: they are not your person. You are not really in love with this person, just an idea of who you wanted them to be.
“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect — they are much more interesting.”
Being in love means you find those imperfections endearing. You love the great stuff and you love the weird stuff. You just like this person. They intrigue you. Their flaws don’t drive you crazy, they make you smile.
3. It Wasn’t Relaxing
You can only experience love when you can show up as yourself. If a relationship require you to hide parts of yourself, to edit what you share, then it isn’t really love. Connection with another person is born of trust. When we are vulnerable enough to show our true selves and our partner isn’t interested, that motivation is destroyed. The next time you think of opening up, you just don’t. And that is the beginning of the end.
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
Relationships based in superficially and polite conversation aren’t love. If you find yourself always floating on the surface with your partner or walking on eggshells, then you haven’t really connected on a soul to soul level.
4. It Felt Distanced
The beginning of a relationship always feels passionate. If things are progressing into a real lasting love, that passion transforms into something cooler but deeply connected. How do you feel when you see your partner? It is excitement to share your latest passion? Are you excited to be together again? Or do you find yourself creating distance, discovering new ways to escape the potential conversations.
True connection with another person is motivating, not demoralizing. You can feel it in your body. You can’t help but think about your person. You catch yourself being happy for no reason. Life isn’t perfect and neither is your partner. But in love, you will be joyfully connected most of the time.
5. It Felt Anxious
Your body reacts to the reality of any situation long before your mind catches up. Bad relationships are exhausting at a minimum. Our minds can rationalize why we feel angry. Work sucks right now. We can make excuses for why we can’t sleep. I had too much coffee. I am just stressed. But your body makes no such excuses. It just reacts. And it won’t comply with your excuses.
When something just feels wrong, we tend to rationalize. But the fact is that love isn’t one of those things. Being deeply loved and appreciated in a relationship smoothes over the roughest edges of life. Partnership and supportiveness give us a feeling of connection. You don’t feel bad when you are in love.
By stepping out of the fantasy version of a relationship, we step into true vulnerability. And in that moment, we are alone.
There is no facade to uphold. No perfect social media post to make us look connected. No fake relationship to hold.
But the day we can let go of the fantasy is the one where our new life begins.
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