Am I in love ?
How many times have you heard or read that ?
Then how come you’ve been going out with someone for a fair while, but you still don’t know whether you really love them or not ?
Well, the truth is that you shouldn’t believe everything you read or are told.
Sure, there are some people who meet someone and realise at some point that they are in love with that person. It might even happen the very first time they meet the person. Yep, birds sing, and harps play, and when they tell you that you’ll know when you’re in love they’re truthfully passing on to you their own experience.
The only problem is that that’s their experience, and it’s not necessarily the experience of the vast majority of humankind.
For most people, birds don’t sing, and harps don’t play when they’re with someone. Sure, it’s nice being with the person, and you’ll be happy to go out with them again, and they seem to be a nice person, but do you really have that special feeling for them that we think of as love ?
And then, of course, there’s the common problem that maybe you did hear birds singing and harps playing for a while, in fact you probably heard an entire bird sanctuary singing, or orchestra playing, but that was in the early part of your relationship. Then the inevitable happened. The rose-coloured glasses fell off, your feet landed back on the ground and you’re not too sure if you still have those strong feelings now that you can look more objectively at your partner.
And then there are other possible complications. Let’s look at 4 of them:
1) the hard-to-get prize problem
2) the negging problem
4) the gift problem.
These are all situations where an extraneous factor might distort the question of whether you are really in love with someone:
1. The hard-to-get prize problem
This is a problem that arises if your partner played hard-to-get while you were courting. If it was a struggle to get you partner to start a relationship with you, the danger is that your chief motivating force in that struggle was not love, but the challenge of overcoming the barriers that your partner put up. Success means that you feel as if you have won a sort of prize. But the struggle may have blinded you to the fact that once the wrapping has been removed from the prize, what is left is not someone that you love.
Of course, maybe what is left is someone you love. Which of these applies is a question that it’s worth asking yourself. In answering it, you should try to step back a bit and look at your situation and feelings as objectively as you can (I know, only a non-romantic like me can seriously make that suggestion – I am well aware that love and objectivity are not compatible concepts for most people, but please, if only for my sake, give it a go).
[By the way, if your partner played hard to get, I don’t want to suggest that that was necessarily a deliberate ploy on their part to try to hook you. It is also something that can happen in quite a number of innocent ways. But the above advice applies regardless of why your partner was hard to get.]
2. The negging problem
A similar problem arises, and similar advice applies, if your partner “negged” you on first meeting you. There is dating advice out there (take a bow, Neil Strauss) that recommends that one way to get someone interested in you is to be negative about something about them when you first meet them (that is, to “neg” them). The theory is that they will see it as a challenge to get you to realise what a great person they really are, despite the supposed negative feature that has been pointed out.
If someone negs you, you will tend to be blinded in relation to checking them out properly: if you are concentrating on getting on someone’s good side, you will often not see their other side. So, again, if you are successful, was love your motivating force, or was it the challenge of getting them to change their perception of you ? Is the real person you finish up with someone you love ? Again, it’s worth trying to step back and looking at these questions as objectively as you can.
[As with playing hard to get, I note that negging may not have necessarily been a deliberate ploy on the part of your partner. It can also occur innocently. Again, the above advice applies regardless of why it happened.]
Pedestalism (don’t worry, it’s not a word you will find in a dictionary) is a problem that is 2-sided. Some people have a tendency to put people they are attracted to on a pedestal – essentially someone on a pedestal can do no wrong and is as close to perfect as a human can get.
That can be a problem in 2 ways: 1) if you are the one who has put someone on a pedestal, sooner or later that person will have to come crashing to earth in your eyes when you realise that they are in fact a normal human, that is, someone with faults; 2) if you are the one on the pedestal, you know it will only be a matter of time before you come crashing to earth in the eyes of the other person.
Where pedestalism has occurred in your relationship, obviously neither of you should be making decisions concerning your love for each other until you are both able to look at each other with eyes wide open, seeing each other as fellow humans.
4. The gift problem
Along similar lines, be very wary if you have got has far as you have in your relationship because your partner has sought, and you have provided, extensive gifts. In this situation there is a danger that your motivating force is the pleasure you get in fulfilling the desires of your partner, rather than your love for your partner.
This is a situation that is a relationship minefield for various other reasons that I examine elsewhere on this website.
This gift problem also provides a segue back to our central question: am I in love ?
If birds aren’t singing and harps aren’t playing, there is another way of trying to answer this question.
Imagine that your partner is diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition that is going to require expensive medicine to treat. Taking the medicine should enable your partner, after a year or so, to be able to continue to live a fairly normal life.
Now, just to be clear, we are talking about a pre-marriage situation here.
Further imagine that the situation is that your partner will need financial help to be able to pay for the medicine that they will need. They can probably get that help from their family, or they can get it from you.
Do you stay together with your partner ? Do you help pay for the medicine ?
If you are able to answer “yes” to both of those questions without hesitation, I would suggest that that is a pretty good indication that you are in love with your partner. If there was some hesitation, perhaps the feelings you have are not quite at the love stage.
Note that I hedged my comments there. That is because I know that some of you probably fall into the “loyal friend” category, so you would have answered “yes” without hesitation in regard to any of your close friends. That sort of love is a bit different, and blurs the usefulness of my scenario for determining whether you are really in love with your partner.
So, broadly speaking for those who can’t usefully use my scenario, an alternative test is: are you willing to make sacrifices for your partner, or are you willing to open yourself to a situation where you put your ego at risk if your partner says the wrong thing. If you answer “yes” to either of those, you’re probably in love.
But does it really matter ? If you are asking yourself whether you’re in love with a person because you are contemplating possible marriage to that person, I strongly recommend that you read: Is love relevant to marriage ?