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How do I know if I am really in love?

You have asked an important question, and it is one that has been asked as long as love has been between the sexes. As you have probably figured out by now, there is no such thing as a love formula, nothing to tell you absolutely that you are in love or you are not. So while I cannot answer your question directly–and no one can by the way–I can offer a few indicators that you can watch for that might assist right now. My thoughts may seem a bit a miscellaneous and random, but given the multiple fronts love can occur upon, perhaps my roaming thoughts will be better understood.

First thought to pass along: I do not subscribe to the notion that there is one special person just for you and if you miss that person you have missed God’s perfect will for you and your life will never be all you dreamed it would be. God is not that small, and neither is love.

Second, the power of attraction between men and women is an amazing thing. When you consider the amount of ink devoted in literature, poetry, and lyrics to love, and when you consider how many times people make mistakes in their love lives, you get an idea of how complex love is and how powerful the attraction of love is. Given this, I do not subscribe too much to the notion of “falling in love.” I think it is more accurate to say you grow into love and fall into infatuation. The allure of affection, closeness, intimacy, acceptance, companionship, desire, and bonding at a deep level with another person are easily mistaken for the force of sexual desire and the infatuation of sex appeal. Don’t get me wrong, sex appeal is a wonderful thing and should be enjoyed and celebrated. However, it must not be mistaken for love. Infatuation is like betting on the lottery. Love is like having money in the bank.

Third, someone has said that love is blind. This is true, and this is both bad and good. I do not look today at 46 like I looked the day my wife agreed to marry me. I’m not nearly as handsome as I once was. The young chicks don’t turn and look like they used to. However, my wife’s love is somewhat blind to my age and she still thinks I am the greatest thing since sliced bread. In this way it is a good thing that love is blind. On the other hand, when you are attempting to determine if you truly are in love with someone–like you are right now–and trying to do so while enmeshed with the other person, love is blind as a bat. This is a bad thing! When you are toying with the rest of your life, and another person’s heart, it is a bad thing to lose your objectivity. Point is this: If you find yourself wondering if you are in love and there are no friends around who can give you TRULY honest feedback about what they are observing in you, then you are on dangerous ground. Love is not isolated. Love works well in a group.

Fourth, love does not hurry, does not get in a panic, does not force the issue, does not try to conform you into their image–or themselves into yours, does not reduce your emotional bank account in order to increase their own, and does not demand things of you that will place you in jeopardy should you decide in the near future to part ways.

Fifth, love does not require sex and physical involvement in order to grow and take firm root in your heart. (Make sure you read this point a couple of times. It is absolutely true all of the time.) Furthermore, you do not need to practice sex–or have sex–in order to determine if you are in love or not. Sex requires no practice early on. And, sex will not prove your love anymore than A-1 Steak Sauce proves that a steak is a steak. Love is the steak, sex is the sauce. The steak by itself is extravagantly wonderful. The sauce by itself is miserable and bitter after it goes down your throat. Don’t ever get this analogy backwards, and if you already have, I encourage you to regroup and place proper boundaries around yourself as you attempt to rebuilt your relationship from the proper perspective.

Sixth, love does not always agree on the details, but love always has the fundamentals in line. In other words, it is diversity and uniqueness that prompts you to love carrots and him to hate them. However, you both better be of one mind when it comes to the important issues in life: where you are with Jesus Christ, family planning, financial planning, in-law compatibility, and long term goals.

Seventh, if you have not had a good fight and loved each other through it, then you do not know if you love each other. Love is consistent day in and day out. Emotional infatuation is fickle like the direction of the wind and the waves of the seashore.

Seek counsel from your friends as well as from those who are older and know you well. Determine that you will work diligently to ask yourself what you are seeking in a mate. Work on this list until you are certain you have been honest with yourself. Then, and only then, evaluate the man you have in your sights by this list. Get assistance making sure you are honest about the list…and your evaluation of it. This list will reveal the desires of your heart–if you are honest–and God promises He will give us the desires of our heart. Don’t settle for less than He has in mind by casting your dream on some guy instead of looking to see the man God dreams of giving you come your way.

Finally, and most important. You simply must have alone time to pray and ask your Heavenly Father what He thinks of love and the man you are dating. Prayer is not so much talking with God–although this is certainly part of it–as it is listening to God. He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” So be still. Get away from your man. Be by yourself, not once in awhile, or for 10 minutes, but for extended periods of time on a regular basis. Listen. Remember, love does not get in a hurry. If this is the guy, God will let you know, confirm it by the counsel of others, and give you great confidence in your heart. No judgment call here. Armed with this awareness, you can commit the rest of your days and all that you are and hope to be into the hands of another person. In this, you will find love. Bottom line: Love is a commitment of the heart that will stand the test of wavering emotions, intellectual rationalizing, circumstantial allure, and hormonal infatuation.

Thanks for writing, and thanks for the opportunity to express some of my own heart to you.

God Bless You.