Read these 11 Is It Love? Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Infidelity tips and hundreds of other topics.
Finding love involves a kind of magic. No, we're not talking about burning a black candle over a copy of your personals ad. The magic is building up that "certain something" that will get you noticed.
Some of this, of course, is the kind of relationship advice you've read before to find love: take care of your personal hygiene, wear attractive and flattering clothes, choose an appealing photo for your online profile. But if you haven't done the magic part, most of your new relationships won't go far.
So what's the secret to finding love? Happiness. People are drawn to those who are happy and confident. Instead of spending your evenings browsing the personals, build the kind of life you've always wanted.
Don't wait to meet the right woman or man to take up painting or traveling or fly fishing, if those things will make you happy. Set some new goals -- earning a master's, running a marathon, learning to cook -- and work toward achieving them. If you need help getting past old hurts and becoming someone who can truly love another, find a counselor. One of the greatest pieces of is to find true love, be someone who's lovable, happy, and confident.
Love is the foundation of families and stable societies. Lust is a physical emotion that we act upon in the "heat of the moment." Yet few among us would fall in love with someone who didn't turn us on, and that can lead to problems when one or both of you gets mixed up about the difference between love and lust.
-- If you only want to be with this person to have sex, it's lust.
-- If you try to describe your date to a friend and can only talk about physical appearance and body parts, that's lust.
-- If you don't call or converse with this person except when you want physical pleasure, that's lust.
-- If you lie to someone in order to get into bed with him or her, that's lust.
-- And, naturally, if your partner does any of these things to you, that's lust too.
It's possible for an affair based purely on lust to develop into a healthy relationship based on love, but it doesn't happen all that often. You may be better off spending your time with someone who sees and appreciates you with clothes on.
It's normal to be full of joy in the early stages of a relationship. You walk with a spring in your step, often with a goofy smile.
There's a danger of mixing up love with infatuation, though. "Love at first sight" is infatuation. Real love comes with knowing someone and caring for one another over time.
Does this person care for you -- not just with words, but with actions? Does your partner make time for you, consider your plans, encourage your goals? If the answer to these questions is "yes," it must be love. If not, you need to spend time together learning to love one another.
Infatuation is perhaps most troubling when it is one-sided. At best, someone's feelings are going to get hurt.
Another troubling kind of infatuation takes place when one of the parties is married to someone else. Instead of solving the problems in the marriage or in his or her own life, the married partner may decide an extramarital affair looks like the perfect escape.
Often, an infatuation runs its course in six months or less. After that, Mr. Right's cigars smell bad and Ms. Perfect's habit of correcting her partner's pronunciation starts to grate. At this stage, someone who's cast aside an old partner may start to experience remorse and want to try again or someone may turn to online cheating to meet someone new.
A romantic relationship is an important part of many people's lives -- but not the whole. Balance is about understanding where your relationship fits into the life you have. A person who's working 80 hours a week may genuinely not have time or energy for any kind of relationship at all. A person who's raising children must consider their needs as well as his or her own.
Before asking yourself what kind of relationship you want, it may be necessary to take a larger view and ask what kind of life you want. If you value marriage and family foremost, you may need to accept a lesser career goal. If you want a job that involves constant travel to dangerous places, you may need to accept that your relationships are not likely to be lasting.
When people take stock in this way, they often find the smallest slices of their lives devoted to the things they value most, such as creativity, spirituality, or spending time outdoors. Bringing these things more toward the center of your life is a gift of balance to yourself -- one that will make you a happier and more attractive partner.
You've heard song lyrics that talk about "letting someone into your heart." It's not as easy as singing a song or saying "I love you." In a healthy love relationship, people acknowledge their emotions to themselves and communicate those emotions to their partners -- even when those emotions aren't positive or pleasant.
Signs of healthy relationships include being open to change, to the process of facing and accepting uncomfortable emotions. More than any other part of a relationship, the work of emotional honesty is founded in love. It takes a leap of faith to drop your defenses and trust your partner with the feelings, thoughts, dreams, ideas and words that are most essentially yours.
Emotional honesty -- starting with that first time you confess love -- isn't achieved simply or quickly. It takes work, work that will go on for the rest of your relationship, both with yourself and with your partner. It also brings deep rewards in the form of closeness and trust.
Sadly, the signs of a healthy relationship are not taught in schools or colleges. Many people, especially young people dealing with love's intense roller-coaster emotions, may not realize when a relationship is unhealthy. Some people, men as well as women, wrongly think that “love conquers all.”
Promoting Health in Families: Applying Family Theory to Nursing Practice (Elsevier Health Sciences; 2004) lists these warning signs of a controlling partner:
• Becomes frustrated for unpredictable things
• Becomes unpredictably angry
• Teases or belittles you in front of friends, associates, co-workers or complete strangers
• Wants to know where you are every minute of the day
• Argues that you should dress in a certain way
• Argues that you should only have certain friends
• Becomes jealous of the time you spend with friends, family or pets
• Makes you scared or uncomfortable from motions he or she makes such as slamming doors or refusing to move over to let you by. These are done when you do not comply with any of the points.
Controlling behaviors in a partner signal that the partner is or will soon be abusive. Abusers often claim that they are not at fault, because their victims "made" them become abusive. This is a further controlling tactic to make the victim feel guilty and more willing to do anything to appease the abuser.
If you've been on your own for a while, it may seem like it's impossible to find a partner. You may feel miserable and unworthy.
Then when someone does come along, it's easy to overlook red flags because you're so happy not to be lonely any more! This, of course, can lead you down the road to more unhappiness.
The cure for this is to treat your "dry spells" as opportunities to build a more fulfilling life. Instead of sitting home reading dating sites, find things to do that get you out of the house and around other people -- things that help broaden your horizons and make you a more interesting person.
Anyone who's been dating for a while knows about the needy-puppy phenomenon -- people who are so desperate for any kind of relationship that they make themselves a nuisance to potential partners and thus wind up dealing with more rejection.
Give yourself the gift of a fulfilling and fascinating single life. And don't settle for anyone who's just looking for the right set of body parts -- it's worth waiting for someone who appreciates you as a whole person and is capable of forming a secure attachment.
Most people have heard it or said it at one time or another: "I hope we can be friends." Spoken by someone you wanted as more-than-a-friend, it can be pretty painful to hear.
It's often hard to tell the difference between friendship and feelings of romance. You might like another person, enjoy spending time together, enjoy doing a lot of the same things. A couple of clues:
-- If you don't feel any sexual attraction, not even the tiniest bit, don't go along with dating someone just because the other person wants it. Sooner or later you'll find yourself delivering the "friends" line.
-- If you don't like the way this person has treated past partners, and you don't want to be treated the same way, keep it a platonic relationship.
-- If you find yourself developing romantic feelings for a friend, try to get a sense of whether your interest is reciprocated. If it isn't, either back off on the friendship or try to move beyond those feelings -- but don't blame your friend for not feeling the same things you do.
Real love happens between equals. Neither partner is considered inferior or superior, though you may assume different roles. Your wants, needs and fears are no more or less important, though they may at times be more or less urgent, than those of your partner. You both deserve time, energy, and resources.
That doesn't mean everything has to be 50-50. If you work from home in jeans, while your partner's job requires a professional appearance every day, it's only natural that one of you will spend less on clothing. If you love gardening and stay-at-home hobbies while your partner likes going out to parties, it's reasonable to compromise on plans that include some of each.
If you're noticing problems with equality in your relationship, start by cleaning up your side of the street. Are there ways in which you aren't treating your partner as an equal? Without trying to change your partner's behavior, act in an equal and positive way. In a secure attachment, partners show love by each other not as divine beings on pedestals, nor as playtoys to be used and thrown away, but as equals, capable of independent feelings and choices.
Couples in healthy relationships give freely to one another -- not because they feel they owe anything, but out of consideration and fondness.
There's a big difference, though, between giving freely and becoming a doormat or codependent. Giving freely means you have enough -- time, energy, money -- for yourself and some to spare for your partner.
The flip side to this is receiving freely. That means you can set boundaries on what gifts you do and do not wish to accept. If you're building a bookcase, and your partner wants to help, you're free to say "no, thank you, I'd rather do it myself." If a gift is freely given and freely received, no one needs to feel guilt or resentment.
Freely giving and receiving means "keeping short accounts," dealing with issues within a reasonable time. If you're no longer comfortable with supporting your partner's drunken nights out with friends, start a conversation rather than letting anger fester.
It takes strength and honesty to say "I'm sorry, that won't work for me" or "Thank you, but I'd really rather you didn't." Drawing these boundaries gives you both the comfort of knowing that gifts given are really gifts, with no strings or expectations attached.
Real love involves making decisions together -- not making decisions for the other person, or allowing them to be made for you. In such a relationship, partners choose their path together. While remaining independent people, they seek out each other's agreement on choices that affect them both.
When they don't agree, they communicate and explore ways to find agreement. This is a challenging part of a healthy relationship, involving maturity, patience, and a willingness to learn. When couples commit to discussing and wrestling with their hopes and fears, wants and needs, they commit to a deeper love that can make them both better people.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|