for release Friday February 11, 2005
by Melodie Davis
How Do You Know If it’s Love?
How do you know it’s love? How do you know if it will last forever?
You can take all kinds of tests that are supposed to divine whether or not what you are feeling is true love.
For Valentine’s Day our minds turn not only to chocolate and flowers, but if you are in a relationship and haven’t cemented it yet, one of the biggest questions is always, How do we know if we should get married? How do we know if this is real love?
Or is it the romance—are we in love with the idea of being in love? Is it chemistry? Is it the need to be needed? Is he a father substitute? She a mother substitute? Am I just wanting to get away from home? Am I just wanting to feel important and loved by (maybe) having a baby that will be cute and cuddly? All of these and more can delude us into thinking we have found the person we are to marry.
First of all, I am not one of those who believe there is only one “one and only.” I think that whole idea is ludicrous—too farfetched. It requires a belief in destiny—that you are fated to marry one certain person and that if you don’t happen to take the right path to find that one, tough luck. I think that there are a number of people we could match up with and with whom we would have a good, great, even wonderful marriage and life. It often has more to do with timing: we meet people that we feel deeply about, but for whatever reason, the timing is not right: we don’t live in the same area, he’s about to go off to college, she’s just been offered a job on the west coast, whatever.
Second, I’m not much impressed when someone says as a reason for ending a marriage, “I fell out of love.” That is no excuse for ending a marriage. True, you want to be married to someone who loves you, but if you have truly loved someone, it is not something you can fall out of—unless there are extreme extenuating situations. Yes, I think I would stop loving someone who was betraying me, stepping out, being abusive, or they change dramatically and don’t turn out to be the person you thought they were. But that is not “falling out of love.”
It seems like people use that reason when there doesn’t seem to be any other good reason. Perhaps the romantic feelings of being starry eyed, swept off my feet, can’t breathe, heart palpitations have stopped. Therefore, the key thing to think about in trying to figure out “Is this true love?” is, “Is there something more there than just feelings, just feeling turned on, etc.” Are there affirmations from other people that you seem right for each other? (This one can be tricky: your parents may be disappointed in your choice and some of your friends, but usually there is someone who affirms you or “sees what you see in him or her,” if it is meant to be.) If everyone is telling you “no way,” you would be wise to take a very good long hard look at the relationship so that you don’t end up just another divorce statistic.
Many times when couples divorce they say, “We just grew apart.” That can happen to any couple, and it is something you have to work at. To me it is not a good excuse for separating or divorcing because that might happen in the next marriage too. Do you keep breaking up and breaking hearts? Better to stick it out and work at it. Therefore, what you should look for in a potential marriage partner, if you are trying to figure out if you are truly in love, is, “Does he or she feel it is important to stick together no matter what? Is he or she committed to sticking together, growing together, doing whatever it takes to grow in love?”
People talk about the fact that it is important to have common interests, values and beliefs. Yes, they are important and make a marriage go smoother. But perhaps even more important is a basic understanding that we can disagree and still love each other, we can believe in different things and still love each other. We can each do different things and come back together and be a more interesting pair for having different interests. A red flag might be if you constantly disagree or argue or fight, or if you can never agree on friends, activities or interests.
Anyone reading this who is trying to use it to figure out “yes” or “no” about a given relationship, will inevitably twist his or her answers to come out the way they want them to come out. That is the danger of just going by feelings. “In love” feelings will not last forever, but truly loving each other is 1) having those wonderful feelings; 2) knowing down deep that the person in question is a person you admire and respect and is a decent human being; and finally, 3) feeling and being connected spiritually. Ideally that means similar religious beliefs. Perhaps you have religious differences, but being connected on a spiritual level is the third leg that will help you get through the inevitable tough times in any marriage.
What are good questions for couples to ask themselves before deciding to get married? Send to Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg Va., 22802, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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