After being single for a while, or after being in a relationship that hurt you badly, you’ve opened yourself up to love again. You think you might be in love with your boyfriend, but you’re looking for signs of true love before you say those three magical words.
If you’ve been hurt before (and I’m going to bet you have), it may be hard for you to make yourself vulnerable enough to let this man know you have serious feelings for him. It’s worth exploring those feelings a bit first to ensure what you’re feeling is really and truly love.
The Difference Between Love, Lust, and Infatuation
You may think that your days of being infatuated with a male were long gone after junior high, but intelligent women of every age go through being infatuated. It’s part of the journey to love, but it’s easy to mistake infatuation for love.
When you’re infatuated, you have an overwhelming attachment to a guy. You can’t get enough of him. The problem is, as researchers discovered, infatuation causes a lot of negative emotions like anxiety, insecurity, and nervousness. You haven’t yet been with this man long enough to be certain of his feelings, and so every little thing can send you in a tizzy of worry.
He hasn’t texted you back in 49 minutes! He must be out with another woman!
He made a weird face during sex. Did he not enjoy himself??
Infatuation is often more based on the idea or fantasy of a person than the reality. You may build him up to be something better than he is simply because that’s what you want. Infatuation is a temporary state, so if this feeling starts to fade, you know that it’s not love.
Lust, on the other hand, is more based on physical attraction. You can feel lust for someone that you have no emotional or intellectual connection with (that’s pretty much the definition of the hookup). If you’re always eager to jump in bed with this guy, but really don’t get that much out of spending time with him otherwise, you’re likely in lust, not love.
But love sweet love is total and consuming…and it lasts. It may take longer to blossom as you open yourself up to a man and get to know him in return. But with love, you can be yourself, and you recognize that neither of you is perfect.
So which are you feeling? It may be hard to know (though lust is a pretty easy feeling to identify). Take your time to process your feelings. As you get to know him better, you may feel differently toward him. And over time, you’ll likely see some of the signs of true love I discuss up next.
What are the Signs of True Love in a Relationship?
Even if you’ve been in long relationships in the past, you may not be certain you ever really experienced true love. You may have been in your early 20s when you met the man you ended up marrying…but at that age, could you really have understood love? Love changes over time, and what it looked like for you as a young adult is likely quite different from what it looks like today.
If you’re experiencing several of these signs of true love, you can feel good, knowing that, at long last, you finally found it!
1. He Makes You Want to Be a Better Person
Oprah talks about being your best self, and while much of that work has to come from within, being with the right person can make you want to be even better. One of the signs of true love is recognizing that neither of you has to be perfect, but you can inspire one another to be better.
Think of the couples who exercise together or eat healthier. Now think of couples where one person exercises or diets while the other keeps on with the same bad habits. Which relationship do you think is more love-based? Right. The one where the couples are partners in better living.
Maybe your guy has made you more aware of the need to recycle. Or bike to work. Or simply be nicer. Whatever that thing is, you feel better by starting new healthy habits.
2. You Want to Be There for Him in Good Times and Bad
When you date a guy that you just like, you might be uncomfortable when sh#^ hits the fan. Maybe his dog dies or he’s worried about being laid off. What’s your role if the relationship isn’t serious?
On the other hand, when you’re in love with someone, you are happy to be there for him when things get tough. You’re willing and able to be strong for him, to let him lean on you as he deals with stressful or traumatic situations. You know he’d do the same for you.
3. You’re Confident in Your Relationship
Like I said: when you’re infatuated, you can be insecure and nervous in a relationship. Every little thing feels like it’s rocking the boat, and you worry you’ll be tossed overboard (break up). But one of the signs of true love is having confidence in your relationship. You know that every argument won’t be the end of your relationship. You don’t worry that he’s out flirting with other women. You know your relationship is strong enough to weather a few bumps, and you’re willing to put in the work to make it better.
You don’t sweat the small stuff, and you know that you are enough for this man.
4. You Can Be Yourself Completely Around Him
It’s completely normal to want to shine the best light on yourself possible when you first start dating, but as the relationship progresses — and as your feelings get stronger — you should be able to relax a little and be more genuine. That means you’re okay with him seeing you without makeup or in your ancient fuzzy pjs. One of the signs of true love is simply knowing that, no matter what you say or do, you won’t run him off, nor are you afraid of what he’ll think.
Maybe you snort when you laugh. Let it out.
Maybe you fart in your sleep. Again, let it out!
Maybe you talk really fast and ramble. He can handle it.
Realize that, as he’s falling for you, he’s doing the same thing. He might be paranoid about his big stomach, so he’s been sucking it in. Or maybe he snores. But as he relaxes around you, he sees that he doesn’t have to worry about you judging him for these things. Because when you’re in love, none of those little things matter.
5. You Allow Yourself to Be Vulnerable
When you’re truly in love, you are willing to expose your heart to potential pain. Love is trusting that this person will not break your heart.
If you find yourself still closed off after a traumatic relationship, you might not quite be exhibiting one of these signs of true love, but give it time. It can take a significant amount of time — even years sometimes — to get over serious heartbreak and be open to falling madly in love again.
So what does vulnerability look like? When you say what you really want and feel, you open the channels of communication, and you make room for actually getting what you want. You can let him know that, because you’ve been hurt in the past, you’re finding it hard to be open now. But don’t rush it. If being vulnerable doesn’t come naturally, you may need to work through some past experiences that are blocking you from falling in love again.
6. You’re Done Playing Games
Games are most definitely for children, though I’m willing to bet your younger self played a few when dating. Still, another of the signs of true love is that you have no desire to play with this man’s mind. You want to be straightforward so that he knows you’re serious about where this relationship is headed.
So let’s say you’re having an argument with your boyfriend. Game Playing You would have stormed out, hoping he’d chase after you and beg for your forgiveness. But the Real You knows that this is no way to be in a relationship, and so you express your frustration and seek a way to resolve the situation.
Congrats! You’re a mature woman in a relationship…in love!
7. You Want to Do Nice Things for Him
You’re at a bookstore and you see a book that your guy would love, so you buy it for him. You don’t do this so he can reimburse you for the book, or so you can rack up “points” with him. You don’t even care about him returning the favor. You simply want to do something nice, without reward or thanks.
This is, to me, one of the best signs of true love, because you are acting from a completely selfless place. You are putting someone else before your own needs and desires, and that is truly a beautiful thing.
8. It’s Not Fleeting
Like I said earlier: infatuation is fleeting. You may feel crazy in love for a few weeks early in a relationship, but after a while, his habit of chewing with his mouth open makes you so angry that you think about breaking up for this insignificant reason. This isn’t love.
Love goes on and on and only grows over time. The more you get to know him, the more reasons you have to love him. Often with infatuation, the more “real” things you know about a man, the less you like him. But love is the opposite. You don’t gloss over the negative, but you take it as part and parcel of being with this person long-term.
9. One Argument Does Not End the Relationship
I remember the first few arguments I had with my girlfriend Jess when we first started dating. I remember worrying that each would be the end of our relationship. But as I started falling in love with her, I remember that those arguments were less scary. I was more confident in my love for her, and knew that a silly disagreement wouldn’t end us.
10. You See Him in Your Future
Everything you think about in the future — from a camping trip you have planned in six months to living abroad in 20 years — has him in it. One of the signs of true love is simply seeing a future together and talking about it. You’re not just fantasizing about walking down the aisle to marry him, you can picture the small stuff too. You can see taking ski vacations at Mammoth. Him cheering your son on during a soccer game. Selling your house when the kids leave and moving into a small condo by the beach.
11. It Feels Natural
Love should never, ever feel forced. I know women who wanted so desperately to be in love that they tried to maneuver a not-right relationship into love.
It never worked out.
If you’re really in love, it just feels…right. You don’t worry about the whatifs and shoulds because you know they’ll just magically work themselves out. This man fits with you, with your life. When it’s right, there’s nothing more natural than love.
12. You Would Gladly Sacrifice for Him
The two of you have been invited to a party at your friend’s house…but his friend from college is in town the same night. Rather than fighting about it or trying to guilt him into going to the party, you tell him you’ll hang with him and his friend.
Or you move in together and you pick a house that’s a shorter commute to his job…and twice as long for you.
You don’t begrudge him for getting his way because you love him. And you know that he’d sacrifice for you just as much. Love makes not having your way not feel like a sacrifice; you’re simply doing it in the name of love.
13. His Successes are Yours
He got a promotion at work and you’re thrilled. Same goes for when he just has a great day. You’re looking at one of the signs of true love when you’re genuinely happy when he does well at life.
You’re supportive of him as he works his way through law school or anything else that’s tedious and time-consuming. When you love someone, you are there for him emotionally through the ups and downs, and you show that you’re cheering him on. It’s a huge confidence-builder to know someone cares about you enough to be his own private cheerleader!
14. It’s Not all Roses and Unicorns (and That’s Okay!)
When you were younger and fancied yourself in love, you foolishly thought every minute would be magical. You felt sad and confused when things were less than perfect.
But now? You realize that loving someone means there is good and bad. Your relationship might be great for months or years, and then you hit a rough patch. That doesn’t mean things are over; it’s just part of the cycle. At this point in your life, you understand that there’s no such thing as perfect when you’re in a relationship. But there is happiness, and that should be your aim.
15. You’re Truly Partners in Life
Maybe when you were married or in a long relationship, you didn’t really felt like your mate was your equal partner. Maybe one of you dominated the relationship, throwing everything off kilter. But with this guy, you really get the sense of equality.
You take turns being the strong one for the other person when you’re going through something tough. You both work hard to make your relationship solid. You each give and take in a balanced way. You don’t have to keep score because you know he’s putting in just as much love as you are.
16. You Don’t Rely on Him to Make You Happy (Though He Does)
A common problem I’ve seen in my years of working as a dating and relationship coach is when one person turns to the other to feel happy. Then things go badly when that person doesn’t pay enough attention to the other, or if she spends time with friends instead of her man.
I know you’ve probably heard this before, but let me say it again: you can’t rely on other people to make you happy.
Here’s a concept for you to mull over: experts say that your relationship with another person mirrors the relationship you have with yourself.
Sit with that for a minute.
If you can’t make yourself happy, you can’t expect someone else to. On the other hand, if you have a good relationship with yourself, love yourself and are happy on your own, you’ll have a good relationship with your partner. You’ll know that, while he makes you happy, that’s not his job. And you’ll know that you can 100% be happy on your own.
17. You Communicate, Not Fight
It’s completely normal to have disagreements when you’re in a relationship. But it’s how you deal with those that determines how strong your relationship is.
Would you think that a couple that shouts at one another and calls each other names…or one that sits down and gets to the root of the issue…would be the one to last longer?
Another of the signs of true love is being willing to communicate rather than fight. You might be effing furious at some perceived offense, but rather than blowing up at him (because what does that solve?), you take a walk around the block, collect your thoughts, then come back to discuss the problem rationally. This actually produces positive results. He finds out what he did wrong and can make the situation better, and he doesn’t feel defensive when you talk to him.
18. You Love to Make Him Smile
Ahh, one of my favorite things in the world is to make my girlfriend smile. It’s like a gift! If you’re in love, you will be eager to make your mate smile. You can do that with small or big gestures: an unexpected kiss, a love note stuck in his lunch, or a six-pack of his favorite beer chilled in the fridge can be enough to make him feel warm fuzzies.
19. You Would Do Anything for Him
If someone had told you a year ago that you would be…
…watching football and liking it…
…eating something you used to think was disgusting…
…or playing board games with his nieces and nephews on a Saturday night…
…you wouldn’t have believed them. But being in love makes you willing to compromise, to do things you never thought you’d be willing to do. And it’s okay because he does the same for you: maybe you talked him into getting a manicure or going caroling during the holidays. Being in love puts you out of your comfort zone, but more often than not, you end up realizing you love something unexpected!
20. People Say You’re Perfect Together
So maybe you’re still unsure whether you’re seeing signs of true love yourself…so look to what your friends are saying about you as a couple. Maybe they’re constantly rolling their eyes at how darn cute you are. Or maybe friends who knew you when you were married say you seem so much happier with this guy than you were for decades.
You have one perspective of your relationship, and your friends have another. Try to see yourself how they see you.
21. You Can Accept His Flaws
You never thought you’d end up with a guy with back hair (just like Charlotte was with Harry on Sex in the City), but it turns out he’s pretty perfect for you.
Or maybe your man has a lisp…and you kinda find it adorable.
We all have flaws, but love has this way of turning them into assets. If you find the fact that he sings (terribly) in the shower endearing, you, my dear, just might be in love!
22. You Want to Live Together/Have Kids/Get Married
When you got divorced, you may have sworn up and down that you would never get married again or even live with a man. But this guy has you thinking differently. Maybe you thought the chance to have kids was long gone, but now you yearn to have a Mini Him running around.
Especially if you’ve been through a challenging relationship in the past, being able to envision a future with a new man is a huge step! Congratulations.
23. He’s the First Person You Turn to with News
Okay, here’s a scenario to imagine: you just got a huge raise at work. Who’s the first person you call?
If it’s your boyfriend, that’s a good sign of true love. When you love someone, you want to share news (good and bad) with them.
24. You’re Always Excited to See Him
It could have been a day or week since you’ve seen your boyfriend; doesn’t matter. You’re just as happy to see him. You never get tired of being with him, and when you’re apart, you have so much to catch up on, even if nothing really happened in his absence.
25. You Spend Time Apart…But Think of Him
I’ve said this before: strong couples spend time doing things separately. You love spending time together, but you also have your monthly book club, happy hour with the girls, and your yoga time. You miss him, of course, but you feel better for having some You time.
26. You’d Rather Watch Movies on the Couch Than Go Out
When you first started dating, you liked being wined and dined, checking out the hot new restaurants in town. But now that things have settled down, you’re even happier just having a Netflix and Chill night on the couch. You don’t need to be impressed with fancy dinners; popcorn and beer are an excellent accompaniment to his company.
27. You’ve Told Him EVERYTHING About You
When you’re in love, you’re not afraid to tell him all your deep, dark secrets. You have nothing to hide because he will accept every part of you. Opening up like this is hugely vulnerable, but it’s a great step in your relationship.
I’m betting that you’ve nodded your head while reading these signs of true love and now realize that, heck yeah, you’re in love! The question is…does he feel the same?
Don’t let the way you feel color the way you interpret that he feels for you. Pay attention to how he acts around you: does he seem to feel the same, or does he push you away sometimes?
You’ll fall in love at different tempos, so don’t be heartbroken if he’s not there yet. The important thing is that you now have identified your feelings as true love! Let the rest come in time.
Need a little help trying to interpret his true feelings for you? Download the Male Mind Map to see what men are thinking!