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Maria Bello: When Is It Real Love?

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"Prisoners" star Maria Bello came out this week in a candid column for the New York Times. The actress announced that she is in a long-term same-sex relationship with someone she would have previously described as her long-term, same-sex best friend. She talked about meeting her friend-turned-partner by saying, "We had an immediate connection but didn't think of it as romantic or sexual. She was one of the most beautiful, charming, brilliant and funny people I had ever met, but it didn't occur to me... that we could perhaps choose to love each other romantically." Things changed when Maria realized, "she is the person I like being with the most, the one with whom I am most myself," and they began to see each other romantically. The announcement of her same-sex relationship is newsworthy, of course, but there is another important revelation that can be found here, which is that you never really know where you will find love.

Whether you are gay, straight or bisexual, finding love is an enigma. We see it unfold in movies and books with that instant attraction, the sexual spark that jumpstarts the relationship, and therefore think that is how it has to be. The reality, though, can be something quite different. Sometimes it is the acknowledgment of being able to be yourself with someone, trusting that you don't have to pretend to be someone you're not. This means feeling free to express your wishes, your preferences and your interests, rather than holding back for fear that the other person will either disapprove of them or think less of you because of them. As a result, you are able to be open and honest, showing your true self. Feeling accepted for who you really are is the road to love and, at times, can ignite the sexual passion as it clearly did for Maria.

Romantic love can take many shapes and forms. It is very common for people to find themselves loving a friend and then realize they have, in fact, fallen in love with that friend. The movie that comes to mind here is When Harry Met Sally, not your typical love story, but a love story nonetheless. Instead of feeling boxed in by the more common notion of the path to love, think of this. In other words, it isn't just how you feel about the person you're with, it is also very much related to how you feel about yourself when you are with them. We can all learn from Maria's experience. For her, being herself turned into embracing her sexuality with her best friend turned romantic partner. Feeling safe enough to relax and be your genuine self can be one of the biggest triggers for love.

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