How do you know you’re in love?
Well, there’s a few thousand years of love poetry and songs to give you some clues. And there’s the feelings in your own heart to tell you, too.
On the other hand, love is as much something you do as it is something you feel.
It’s certainly how I do it.
So the good news is, you don’t have to be a great poet to show the person you love how you feel. If you’re willing to do the things on this list, it’s obvious that you really are in love.
1) Admit your mistakes
When you first meet someone you’re attracted to, nothing seems more important than impressing them.
It’s why we dress up for dates and perform an act of being our most engaging, fun, and interesting selves.
In that early-stage relationship, it’s tempting to hide any negative sides of yourself. And that includes any mistakes you may make.
But as the relationship progresses, it will become impossible to hide your flaws and failings. It’s a guarantee that you will make mistakes, and so will your partner.
Being able to admit those mistakes is the key to having a functional and loving relationship. You’re not perfect, and you’re not fooling anyone when you try to pretend that you are.
But if you are willing to admit when you mess up, it’s a sign that you truly love the person you’re with enough to trust them with the less impressive sides of your personality.
2) Grow together
Everything in existence is constantly changing. Either you’re growing, or you’re dying.
And when you commit to a serious relationship, you join yourself to another person in a world that never stays still for a minute.
That means you will either grow together, or you will grow apart.
Suddenly, your life is not completely your own. Now, there’s someone else to think about. Someone else who factors into all your decisions and all your future plans.
It’s going to change you. There’s no getting around that.
If you’re willing to open up and let the relationship change who you are, it’s a good sign you really love the person you’re with.
3) Share responsibility
Being in a long-term relationship comes with a lot of responsibility toward another person.
Usually, once you’ve been with someone for a while, you’ll probably move in together, which brings in a whole new arena of responsibility that the two of you will have to share.
And if you decide to have kids, that means taking on one of the biggest responsibilities you’ll ever have.
When you love someone deeply, you become responsible for their happiness at least as much as your own.
This can show itself in small, seemingly mundane things, like doing the dishes without being asked or buying your partner’s favorite treats from the grocery store.
It can also show itself in huge gestures like taking care of your partner’s aging parents or raising children together.
However it manifests itself, shared responsibility of this kind is a sure sign of true commitment in a relationship.
I’ll admit I struggle with this one.
But maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship means being able to listen. I mean really listen to what the other person is saying.
People don’t only use words to talk. Often, your partner will tell you how they feel or what they think through their body language or the way they behave.
You need to be attuned to that if you want to make them happy.
And if you love them, you do.
5) Do your shadow work
The psychological idea of the shadow comes from the groundbreaking work of CG Jung.
For Jung, the Shadow represented all the parts of ourselves we don’t want to face. All the traits and behaviors we wish we didn’t have but can’t seem to shake.
It’s important to note that Shadow work does not mean battling against the shadow and trying to eliminate it.
Instead, it means assimilating it. Taking its enormous creative energies into your conscious mind and accepting the parts of yourself you don’t like as much as the parts you do.
This is important for anyone who wants to be a fully realized human being, but it becomes especially important in a relationship.
The thing is, love has a way of opening up parts of yourself you may not have known existed. You need to have the tools to understand all your weaknesses, and know how to incorporate them so that they don’t sabotage your relationship.
If you’re not willing to do that, you’re not ready for love.
6) Be vulnerable
One of the most magical things about a romantic relationship is being vulnerable to another person.
Finding the right partner means you can open up about anything and everything and show them aspects of yourself you might not show to anyone else, including family.
But being vulnerable is scary.
No one can hurt us the way the people we love can. In part, that’s because we let down our defenses and show them all the most tender and fragile parts of ourselves.
That’s why, when relationships go bad, they often go catastrophically bad, causing much more wreckage than the end of a friendship, for example.
However, without vulnerability and emotional honesty, you can’t have a truly loving relationship. Giving the other person the tools to hurt you if they wanted to is the price of admission.
7) Be realistic
At the start of a relationship, you can find yourself swept up in the excitement of meeting a new person who seems to be absolutely perfect.
But perfection in people does not exist.
Sooner or later, once that initial euphoria wears off, you’ll start to see the person you’re with as a real person. That includes her bad breath in the morning. It includes that unpleasant patch of hair just above his butt.
The truth is, no one is going to make you happy every minute of every day for the rest of your life. Even the perfect person for you will sometimes annoy you, upset you, or disappoint you.
It is crucial that you understand this. When you put someone on a pedestal, you set yourself up for disappointment, and your relationship may come crashing to a halt when you realize they aren’t the perfect angel you told yourself they were.
If you want to live in a romantic fantasy your whole life, it’s better not to get involved in a relationship at all.
8) Be alone
This one might sound paradoxical. After all, isn’t the whole point of being in a relationship to not be alone?
But think about it.
If you can’t be alone, you shouldn’t be in a relationship. Because if you are not comfortable with yourself, you are not ready to let anybody else into your life.
I’ve seen the fear of being alone cause many people to stay in bad relationships they should have left long ago. Don’t let that happen to you.
Be willing to be alone, and willing to walk away from a relationship if it doesn’t meet both your needs. That’s how you avoid a relationship built on codependency and build one based on love instead.
Of course, this is true of any intimate relationship that you might have with family, roommates, or friends. But it’s even more true of romantic relationships.
Compromise is key to navigating the roadblocks of life as a couple.
And it has to go both ways.
If you’re the kind of person who always has to have your way and is completely unwilling to compromise on anything, then you’re not ready for a relationship.
Better to stay alone and have everything the way you want than to drag somebody else into a relationship that will leave you both unfulfilled.
Remember that ancient poem I mentioned way back in the start of the article? It was written as part of a ritual for the kings of the ancient city of Ur. And in Ur, human sacrifice accompanied major religious rites.
As grisly as that is, it’s true that sacrifice has always been a part of love. But it’s not other people you will be sacrificing. It’s yourself.
A loving relationship will demand everything you have to give it. It’s a living thing that will need constant tending and nurturing for as long as you both live.
And in the end, in the best-case scenario of you staying together for life, one of you will have to leave the other alone when you die.
That might sound grim. But it’s also beautiful.
Still, it’s a demonstration that love will demand sacrifice of you and your partner as you both give up some of your life to the relationship you’re building together.
If you’re not ready for that, you’re not truly in love.