What is True Love?

How to know if it is real

February is the month of love, and a wonderful time to highlight some of the most important aspects of a truly loving relationship. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is realistic in a partnership and we may be influenced by how we were raised, what we have already experienced, or what we see in movies. Additionally, if we have reduced confidence, we are more likely to settle for something that may be less than what we desire, or even worse, we may stay in an unhealthy relationship. For some of these reasons, it is imperative that we understand realistic expectations in a relationship and how we should feel in a partnership. I have narrowed it down to four core aspects found in all loving relationships.

There is no fear. In a healthy relationship, there is no fear of your partner’s reaction nor is there any form of punishment. In a loving partnership, you are both comfortable communicating your needs knowing that you will each be heard. You and your partner try to understand one another and seek resolution.

You are both equal. In any relationship, you are bringing together two people with separate backgrounds, experiences, opinions, beliefs, and ideas. It is normal to have conflict in a relationship or times where you feel a bit more disconnected. Even in those times, you feel respected and equal to your partner, and you do not question that your partner still loves you.

You are genuinely loved. In a loving relationship, you feel truly seen for who you are, and you are loved, encouraged, and supported for it. There is no competition, power struggle, or attempts to sabotage. Rather, in a healthy relationship, both people sincerely want what is best for each other and seek to make one another happy.

You have a real partner. In a loving relationship, you have the sense that you have a true partner. Your partner is your teammate with whom you can go through life. There is real intimacy between you, allowing for dreams to be shared, successes to be celebrated, struggles to be supported, and vulnerabilities to be expressed.

These are not unrealistic expectations to have in a relationship. Rather, they are basic things that we should expect in our relationship and that we need to give to our partner. We all deserve to be loved fully, to go through life feeling supported by our partner. We need to do the same in return. If the above feels far out of reach, take some time to close your eyes and imagine how this would feel to you. Let yourself go there. Grieve what you haven’t experienced, but continue to go back to these feelings and images so that you begin to see yourself in the relationship that you need and want. This will allow for you to grow your confidence and set healthy boundaries, both of which will move you closer to getting the love that you desire.

Avery Neal, PhD is a practicing psychotherapist, international author and speaker. In 2012 she opened Women’s Therapy Clinic, which offers psychiatric and counseling support to women. She specializes in depression and anxiety at all stages in a woman’s life.

Dr. Neal is the author of, If He’s So Great, Why Do I Feel So Bad?: Recognizing and Overcoming Subtle Abuse, which has been translated and published in twelve languages. Her articles and interviews have been published by Oprah.com, American Counseling Association, Counseling Today, BookTrib, Best Self Magazine, Hitched Magazine, Bustle, POPSUGAR and PKWY Magazine, and her courses have been taken by over 18,000 people worldwide. The International Association of HealthCare Professionals nominated her as one of the top psychologists in Houston.