Love. Amour. Amore. In popular fiction, the signs of true love tend toward the melodramatic: heart palpitations, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, blowing curtains, fireworks. But let me tell you: If you feel these things, you’re not so much in love as lust — or you’ve gotten a hold of new cheese or old meat and need a good internist or a stomach pump.
Here is a list of the undeniable signs of true love — and good (emotional) health. And, romantic that I am, I will concede at least one heart flutter.
You Actually Want to Meet the Parents
Even if you’re a thousand years old, the idea of explaining yourself to your love’s parents is terrifying: After all, they’ve known and loved the cherub longer than you have, and they’ll question your motives, your intentions, your behavior, your lineage, your table manners, your bank account, your morals, your intelligence, and your commitment. If you’re willing to put yourself through this kind of scrutiny to move into further intimacy, it has to be love — or masochism. I’m definitely willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.
You’re Willing to Explain Why You Don’t Want to Date Others
With all the nasty little diseases around, the idea of sleeping around is a lot less attractive than it used to be — and I’m not sure that sleeping around was ever all that attractive — so the issue here isn’t a willingness to be exclusive. It’s a willingness to talk about and explain being exclusive. A surprisingly large number of men and women are surreptitiously monogamous, feeling that their willingness to forgo all others gives power to the partner.
But when you’re willing to admit that you’re willing to share the power and admit your vulnerability (I really like you and hope you like me as much), not only are you in love, but you sound like a rational, fairly adult soul in the bargain.
You’ll Ditch Your Little Black Book
This is a statement of not only exclusivity but future plans for exclusivity, essentially saying that no one of your acquaintance holds a candle to your beloved. Your willingness to get rid of the book gives tangible proof of that
reality. Getting rid of the black book also says that you’re unwilling to revisit past loves and that, in this relationship, there is no going back; you can only go forward.
No fair throwing the book into the fire but keeping the database on your trusty laptop. A commitment is a commitment, and this is as much about self as other. If you pretend to throw away your black book, then you’re also pretending that you’re committed. Grow up; if you’re old enough to be taken seriously by someone you like, you’re old enough to take yourself seriously. Committed adult relationships don’t have room for manipulative games.
Throwing away the book is also a realistic acknowledgment that once you discover someone as wonderful as your beloved, you can only go on from that person anyway; there is never a reason to go back. People we love have an effect on us. We grow because of the intimacy of the relationship, and we become entwined so that even if the relationship ends, we’re different from how we were before.
You Breathe Easier When He or She Is Around
Please don’t misinterpret here. I’m not saying you can’t breathe when your beloved isn’t around. I’m saying that the world seems a bit brighter, and you feel a bit better about yourself. When you feel this way, you’re also past the infatuation stage, which is the stage where you actually do have a hard time breathing when the other person is around (those hormones are murder on lungs) and you’ve gotten past the limerence, the phase where you’re addicted
to love or you love the idea of being in love. You’ve settled into a wonderful but manageable phase where you work hard to please but not at the expense of yourself or your beliefs. You’re content and happy and energized and
sleeping well and eating okay — hey, it must be love.
If you can’t breathe when your beloved isn’t around and feel like you’re going to die, you’re talking serious dependency. If you feel that way, check yourself into the respiratory therapy unit of your local hospital or a twelve-step program with a local therapist.
You Hum Love Songs under Your Breath
Your sense of well-being and happiness is so deep and so easy and so comfortable that even when you’re not thinking about your beloved, your sense of fulfillment permeates your being. You actually concentrate better, work more efficiently, and are more resilient, but your unconscious is aware that something very cool is happening, and those love songs just go directly from your unconscious mind to your lips without ever having to disturb your intellect. This love stuff is working for you on all cylinders.
When you do realize you’re humming a love song, you smile, think of the words for a moment, remember to mention it to your beloved, and then get right back to work. Freud was right: All we need is work and love. Good on ya.