"How do I know when I'm really in love?"
"What does it mean to be in love?"
"I think I'm in love, but then I have doubts. If I have doubts, does that mean I'm not in love?"
"I feel in love, but why is this sometimes so hard?"
"I feel in love, but I've felt this way before and it didn't work out. How do I know?
Such a big question! And we all wish there was an easy answer -- a formula we could follow to determine if we are in love.
I don't exactly have a formula for you, but I do have a list of things to watch for that may be of help to you.
Before I get into what determines whether or not you are in love, let's differentiate between being in love and being infatuated.
Being infatuated comes from a completely different place within than being in love. Being infatuated comes from the same place as other addictions -- from the ego-wounded self. The ego-wounded self is needy and empty within, and wants to get filled externally by another through sex, attention and approval. When infatuated, you experience the kind of euphoria that you might experience with a recreational drug. There is an intensity of sexual lust and a sense of urgency to be with the other person. Unless love enters the experience, it is short-lived.
You are in your wounded self, feeling needy and empty, when you are rejecting and abandoning yourself -- looking for another to care for you. Your self-rejection/self-abandonment is what creates the inner neediness and emptiness that leads to the urgency -- and sometimes desperation -- of infatuation.
1. You are operating as a loving adult, not as your ego-wounded self.
Being in love comes from a full, secure, inwardly-connected place within -- a loving, adult place. In order to feel full, secure and inwardly connected, you need to be taking responsibility for your own feelings rather than rejecting and abandoning yourself. You cannot truly love another when you don't accept and love yourself. Not loving yourself leads to neediness rather than security, which then leads to infatuation, not love. If your sense of security is dependent on the other person, then you are in need rather than in love.
2. You see, value and deeply connect with the essence of the other person.
Being in love is about deeply valuing and connecting with who the other person really is -- not just how they look or what they do for you. In order to see, value and connect with the true essence of another, you need to be able to see, value and connect with your own true essence. In order for you to do this, you will have had to do your own inner work to learn to love and value your own true self.
3. Your physical attraction to them is more than skin deep.
Sexual chemistry is a mysterious thing. While it may start based on how a person looks or from your feelings of lust for the person, over time it evolves into a deeper valuing of who the person is and a desire to share your love with them in a loving and passionate physical way. You love to be next to them. Their energy feels great to you, as does their touch. Making love with your beloved is not just a satisfying physical experience. It is also a deeply satisfying emotional and spiritual experience.
4. You receive deep joy in giving to your beloved.
You have allowed your beloved to matter to you, so your beloved's happiness is important to you. Rather than feeling put upon when your partner needs something from you, you receive joy in being able to give to and support your partner in many ways. You receive joy from their joy and pain from their pain, while not making them responsible for your pain and joy. You are empathic and compassionate with them without losing your sense of self. You deeply desire to support both your own highest good and your partner's highest good. You want the very best for both of you.
5. Along with the physical spark, connection and flow, there is an emotional spark, connection and flow.
You love spending time with your beloved, just being together, talking and sharing yourselves with each other. Conversation flows easily between you, and you are also very comfortable being silent with each other. There is a warm flow of energy between you even when you are doing different things in the same room. You can feel connected with each other even from a distance.
6. You are committed to working through conflict in loving ways.
Rather than seeing conflict as a deal-breaker or as something to be avoided, you see conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow together. Rather than fearing losing yourself in a conflict -- or feeling that you have to be right and win -- you feel open and curious to learning about your beloved's way of seeing things. You feel a deep commitment to working through the hard times. You have no desire to give up on the relationship.
7. You laugh and have fun with each other.
You and your beloved enjoy playing together. Laughter flows easily between you. At times, you find each other fun and funny. You appreciate your beloved's sense of humor and you feel on the same page regarding what tickles you.
8. You feel safe to share your deepest self with your beloved.
You are not walking on eggshells, trying to avoid your partner's judgment. You know you can mess up without losing your partner's love and caring. You feel safe to share your fears and hurts with your partner -- even when they are about your partner -- and you are empathically and compassionately available to be there for your partner's fears and hurts, even when they are about you. You feel accepting of your beloved's challenges. Opening to each other on ever-deeper levels creates a deep level of physical and emotional intimacy.
9. You don't expect to be on cloud nine all the time.
You know you love your partner, even when you don't feel "in love." In fact, you don't expect to feel in love all the time. You know that in loving relationships, you move close and then move away, and then move close and then away, like the tide. You accept that this is the natural rhythm of a loving relationship and don't doubt your love during the more distant times.
10. You don't keep thinking that there is someone better out there.
Because you feel a deep soul connection with your partner, you have no desire to wander. You know that while there may be many wonderful people out there, this is the person you want to be with. This is the person you want to journey with toward learning to love yourself and love him or her on ever-deeper levels.
Some of you may have other ideas of what lets you know you are in love. I'd love to hear them.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
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