Does true love exist? Most of us believe in true love to an extent and see it as magical and intoxicating. We associate true love with very powerful feelings, but is that it? If it exists, how in the world would you identify it?
I believe in true love, but I also believe it looks very different from how most of us see it. Loosely adapted from Henry Cloud’s book,
Integrity, I see three common ways people love . . .
Paranoid Love – This person can’t really trust love. Picture a feral cat. They desperately want love and affection, but they are also terrified of it because they know it can hurt them. They are fine in the relationship as long as things are going well, but when things get a little sideways, they turn into attack mode. They are “easily threatened and respond with heavy artillery.”
Mutual Fear – These people want trust and a good relationship. They treat people well as long as they are treated well and give as long as they are receiving. They are “for the ones who are for them,” but when things don’t go the way they believe they should, their good treatment stops. You can’t trust this person to be there for you unless your good treatment of them stays turned on full tilt (which is very difficult to do long term). If you take your hand off the wheel for a second (i.e., get sick, busy, have to care for an aging parent, etc.), you can’t trust they’ll be true to you.
True Love – True love is demonstrated when the other person’s love for you is not dependent on anything. It is part of that person’s character and they do it because that is who they are. They have your best interest in mind, even if that means they don’t get what they want. They genuinely want what is best for you. This is a love that you can trust. You know “this person will do well by you, even when you are not watching.”
Let me give you a visual. .
You are at a party laughing and having a good time with your friends. Your spouse is less social and doesn’t engage as much in the conversation. The spouse who loves with a paranoid love will be angry at you for not including them. The spouse who loves with mutual fear may pull away and/or not go to future events because they don’t feel you love them enough to include them. The person who loves with true love will be content and happy seeing you be content and happy.
Take a look at how you have been loved, but be sure to also consider how it is that you have loved others. Are you a paranoid lover? A mutual fear type? Or do you love whole-heartedly with true love regardless of whether you get anything in return?
It takes a truly mature person to be able to give true love in this way, but a healthy, stable relationship will have two people dedicated to what is best for the other person!