How Can You Tell If You’re Really In Love?

4009889190_43d18dfa97 In my journey to true love I must have thought I was in love at least nine times. Of those nine times, once was really close to the real thing but I was in high school at the time and not ready to settle down. All the other so called boyfriends I had, I look back and ask, “What was I thinking?”

Ha! I doubt I was thinking at all! While the guys were nice enough, those relationships usually fell under one of three categories:  1. They were convenient, 2. I was lonely or 3. the sex was good but not much else was.

When I was twenty-nine years old I was in a relationship with a guy who was smart, attractive, funny, immature and self-centered. At the time I thought, “This is as good as it’s going to get. Maybe it’s time to settle down.”

Then I met John. It wasn’t fireworks or love at first sight. It was and still is, as Miss Etta James sings, a Sunday kind of love. Warm, sure, safe. The longer we are together the more precious our relationship is to me. I couldn’t ask for a better love.

That’s why I encourage people not to ‘settle’ for less than good, solid love. And how can you tell the real thing from the cheap impostors? Mira Kirshenbaum, Women & Love, Finding True Love While Staying True to Yourself,  helps us do that with this list of qualities to look for. She wrote it with women in mind but it is true for men too, for everyone, gay or straight. Love is love is love. I could not improve on her list so here it is, in its entirety:

It’s not just how you feel about him. It’s about how he makes you feel about yourself.

It’s not about losing yourself in him. It’s about becoming true to yourself with him.

It’s not about how great he is. It’s about how great you can become along side him.

It’s not about how much you love him. It’s about how much he helps you love yourself.

It’s not about his finding room in his heart for you. It’s about his finding room in his life for your energy, drive, ambition, passions and interests.

It’s not just about how good he is deep down. It’s about how you experience his goodness as you live your life together.

It’s not about how he makes you hungry to be with him. It’s about how much he makes you feel at home when you are with him.

It’s not about the love you share. It’s about your ability to fully, equally, deeply share your life together.

It’s about falling in like.

Photo courtesy James P. Wells via Flickr







  • Hi Dr. Aletta!
    It’s really odd, but the majority of folks that I know aren’t friends with their significant other. I believe that you have to honestly LIKE your partner before one can expect anything else to grow out of it!
    Just my opinion….

  • Rob, I SO agree with both your points. Too many people are together for the wrong reasons. The over 50% divorce rate is just the tip of that sad iceberg.
    My husband didn’t accept my marriage proposal (yes I asked him first) because he didn’t know ANYONE in a happy marriage. I believed we had a shot because we really did honestly like and respect each other. Eight months later he changed his mind and asked me.
    We still don’t know many couples who have that foundation of friendship. Those that do are solid even though they’ve been through tough times. I think we all deserve a shot at that kind of relationship. You never know when you might be the exception to the rule.

  • Dear Rob, A PS… love your post on your blog about Lucy. I tried to comment and for some reason it wasn’t allowed. Some problem accepting my profile ID? Anyway, I will try again later but I wanted you to know I enjoy your blog and your ‘musings.’ You’re more of a writer than you think.

  • Thanks Dr. Aletta,
    That’s funny that you asked him first! Even as a guy, I don’t have a problem with something like that. “Unconventional” ways in relationships really speak to me and has actually got me wanting to write about women’s empowerment….from an unconventional man’s perspective as it were.
    You’ll laugh when I tell you that one day, I finally saw in print, everything that I believed to be true about relationships on a New Jersey divorce lawyer’s website….
    Thanks for the kudo’s on the blog! I’ve actually turned it to a writing gig for a brand new fly fishing magazine. The online version will launch this month and the print version in February. Lacy is an awesome pal and a constant source of entertainment for us.
    I also want to say that I like reading your blog and posts on Psych Central. There are a lot of good writers there and would like to tell you that reading your stuff makes me feel like I’m not alone here…..
    Have a great weekend!

  • Natalie

    Dr. Aletta…
    I love this list. I remember you posting it before, at least in part. Personally, I love the following:
    “It’s not about how he makes you hungry to be with him. It’s about how much he makes you feel at home when you are with him.”
    “It’s about falling in like.”
    So many single women I know now are looking for their prince, their counter part, someone who makes them swoon. I feel sad for these women. I’d rather have someone who’s encouraging, respectful, loyal, and accepting… and I truly feel I have that. I see some other couples where it appears that one member doesn’t fully support his/her spouse. It just makes me realize how much I truly have… as does this list.
    Thank you for posting this.

  • Brooklyn

    This was nice to hear. Being a teenager still going through the process of finding myself it was nice to see someone post something that had to do with love and relationships that not only states advice on them but also talks about it in such a sweet way. Plus being the sappy romantic I am, anything to do with love instantly grabs my attention. :]

  • Hi, Natalie!
    You will find, as I have in my marriage, that you will see each other through difficult times and joyous ones, life is just like that. When you get to the other side of those hills after supporting and helping each other over them, you fall in love all over again, each time as deeply as the last. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. Carl Reiner said, “Lust is easy. Love is hard. Like is most important.”
    Yes, I feel sad for those women, too, and so happy for you.

  • Dear Brooklyn,
    Romance can be found in the most surprising places, can’t it? Even in the arms of a really nice guy. Some people equate being romantic with burning up in a bonfire of desire and passion. I’m suggesting (as is Dr. Kirshenbaum) that true romance is as Shakespeare said, “…an ever-fixed mark. That looks on tempests and is never shaken.” Yeah.

  • I agree on all of these signs. It’s really love. I can also add that love defines as found at

  • Dear dating,
    Thank you for providing the link to the Corinthians passage. It’s an all time favorite.
    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

  • Natalie

    Love that you reposted this! I scrolled through the comments to make sure I had really read this before. Now, this second time around reading this, I still feel this post rings very true. And your reply to me about falling in love all over again as you go through the struggles… yep, very true. And it’s kind of an awesome place to get to and very worth working through the struggles. :)

    Happy 4th of July weekend! :)


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