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Characteristics of True Love What Love Is and What It Is Not

The topic of true love has been debated for centuries. Cynics often swear it doesn’t exist, while hopeless romantics think everyone should set out to find their soulmates. With science now showing that true love is not only possible but can last a lifetime, we’ve decided to look at the psychological elements that allow love to bloom or fade.

Let’s start by defining what true love is:

“Often, we spend our time worrying about what our partner feels toward us or how the relationship looks from the outside. Even though it feels good to be loved by someone else, each one of us can only really feel our loving feelings for another person and not that person’s feelings for us. Toto connects with and sustains those loving feelings within us, we have to take loving actions. Otherwise, we may be living in fantasy.”

At times it may feel frustrating, but it’s pretty empowering to accept the fact that the only person we have any true control over in a relationship is ourselves. We are in charge of half of the dynamic. Therefore, we can choose whether to engage in behaviours that are destructive to intimacy or whether to take actions that express feelings of love, compassion, affection, respect, and kindness.

Characteristics of True Love vs. a Fantasy Bond

1. Non-defensiveness and openness vs. angry reactions to feedback

To maintain closeness, couples should be open with each other, which means being willing to hear feedback from each other without being defensive or discouraging. That truth can offer an important clue into ways we may be pushing our partner away without realizing it. Even if we don’t agree with everything, listening to our partners naturally makes them feel seen, heard, and cared about. On the other hand, punishing our partner for being honest and direct with us shuts down communication.

2. Open to trying something new vs. closed to new experiences

A relationship thrives when both people are in touch with a lively, open, and vulnerable side to themselves that welcomes new experiences. We don’t have to love and participate in everything our partner enjoys but sharing new activities, visiting new places, and breaking routines often breathes new life into a relationship that feels invigorating to both people.

3. Honesty and integrity vs. deception and duplicity

To tell the truth, is one of the first lessons most of us are taught as kids. Yet, as adults, there can be a lot of deception in our closest relationships. When we are dishonest with our partners, we do them, the relationship, and ourselves a great disservice. To feel vulnerable with our partners, we must trust them, and this can only be achieved through honesty.

4. Respect for the other’s boundaries, priorities and goals vs. overstepping boundaries

To avoid a fantasy bond, we have to see the other person as separate from us. That means respecting them as unique, autonomous individuals. Often, couples tend to take on roles or play into power dynamics. We may tell each other what to do or how to act. Or we may speak for and about each other in ways that are limiting or defining. Essentially, we treat them as extensions of ourselves rather than separate human beings. As a result, we limit our attraction to them.

5. Physical affection and personal sexuality vs. lack of affection and inadequate, impersonal, or routine sexuality

Affection is a huge part of how we express love. When we cut ourselves off from our feelings of affection, we tend to deaden the relationship. This weakens the spark between ourselves and our partners. Sexuality can become routine or impersonal, and as a result, both partners feel more distant and less satisfied. Keeping love alive means staying in touch with a part of ourselves that wants physical contact and is willing to give and receive affection.

6. Understanding vs. misunderstanding

It’s easy to project onto our partner or to misunderstand things they’re saying, either using them to feel hurt or attacked in old, familiar ways that resonate with us. It’s also easy to get stuck in our point of view without seeing things from the other person’s perspective. We are always going to be two different people with two sovereign minds, so we won’t always see eye to eye. However, it’s important to try to understand our partner from a clear point of view. When our partner feels seen and understood, they are much more likely to soften and see our perspective as well.

7. Noncontrolling, nonmanipulative and nonthreatening behaviours vs. manipulations of dominance and submission

Many couples find themselves wrapped up in dynamics where one acts like a parent and the other like a child. One looks to the other for guidance and then resents that person for telling them what to do. Or one person tries to control the situation and then complains that the other person is irresponsible, immature, or passive. For a relationship to be truly loving, it must be equal. When one person tries to control or manipulate the other, be it by yelling and screaming or stonewalling and playing the victim, neither person is experiencing an adult, equal, and loving relationship.

The Key to Understanding Ourselves and Our Relationships

How to Create a Truly Loving Relationship

Now that we know the characteristics of real love, how can we take steps ourselves to create a more loving relationship? First off, it’s important to acknowledge that despite these clear-sounding discrepancies between real love and fantasy, many people mistake one for the other. They may even prefer fantasy to reality because it’s less painful to appear connected to someone than to feel connected to them.

Many of us become caught up in the fairy tale, the superficial elements, or the form of the relationship (i.e. how it looks as opposed to how it feels). We may fall in love with the illusion of connection or security the situation offers, but we don’t let ourselves get too close to the other person. That is because, while most of us think we want love, we often actually take action to push it away. That is why the first step to being more loving is to get to know and challenge our defences.


If we felt criticized or resented in our childhood, we may have trouble feeling confident or worthwhile in our relationships. We may seek out partners who put us down in ways that feel familiar, or we may never fully accept our partners loving feelings for us because they threaten this early self-perception.

If we felt intruded on in our early lives or if we had an “emotionally hungry” parent, we may avoid intimacy altogether and feel pseudo independent, or we may subconsciously seek out people who depend on us to meet all their needs and more. Again, both of these extremes can lead to relationships that lack real closeness and intimacy.

The good news is we can start to break these destructive relationship patterns by better knowing ourselves and our defences. Why do we choose the partners we do? What are the qualities we’re drawn to – good and bad? Are there ways we distort or provoke our partner to act in ways that fit with our defences? How do we create distance? What behaviours do we engage in that may feel self-protective but push love away?













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