11 signs of true love in a relationship, according to psychology

“Science can’t explain love.”

Well… not completely, at least. However, psychology can still give you some useful signs of a healthy, loving relationship.

One of the questions people ask the most is: how do I know if they truly love me? How do I know if this relationship is for me?

Off the bat, here are the four main things that kill relationships stone dead:

  • Incessant criticism;
  • Contempt;
  • Defensiveness;
  • Stonewalling.

If your partner does these things regularly, then they don’t truly love you. Either that, or they’re steering the relationship into ruin.

This is a commonly known psychological theory. However, these are rather broad concepts. There are specific signs of true love that you should know before getting into or moving forward with a relationship.

Ready? Let’s look at the 11 signs of true love in a relationship, according to psychology.

1) They’re there in times of need

Do you know how my sister knew that her partner truly loved her? It was when he loved her when she was at her most unlovable.

And no, I’m not talking about abuse—that’s different.

You see, my sister is a doctor. And during her residency years, she was working up to a hundred or more hours a week.

Her boyfriend had to do most, if not all, of the house chores. She would often come home as tired as a zombie and just fall straight into bed. She was also incredibly stressed and depressed.

It was exceedingly rare for them to go on dates, make love, or even just spend time talking to one another. And still, her boyfriend stayed and loved and supported her the best way he could. 

To be clear, he had every right to leave if he decided that such a relationship wasn’t for him. But he loved my cousin, and he persevered through it all.

You see, it’s easy to love someone when times are easy. But when life gets difficult? That’s the true test.

2) You cheer each other on

But it wasn’t just the fact that my sister’s boyfriend did all the cooking and the cleaning. It was the fact that, despite not getting much affection back, he still constantly expressed support and affection for her. 

During their wedding, my sister told everyone that she didn’t think she would have finished her training if not her boyfriend.

There were a lot of times when she doubted herself. But fortunately, his boyfriend was always there to reassure her.

And guess who threw this extra special party for her when her residency training was done?

True love will stand by you during the lows and fly with you during the highs.

3) You both put in effort

The phrase “labor of love” exists for a good reason.

To keep love alive, two people must work to do so. 

It does not matter how in love two people are with each other at the start. The initial attraction or raw emotion alone. Alone will never sustain a long-term relationship.

Because here’s the thing: the love may come naturally. But a relationship—well, that will always need constant work.

Consistent effort is necessary. A couple must constantly:

  • Express love for each other in ways that the other partner needs and prefers;
  • Communicate their thoughts and emotions to one another;
  • Resolve arguments;
  • Express support to each other;
  • Weather life’s trials together;
  • And work towards mutual goals.

In fact, I’d even argue that being truly in love will inevitably push people to ceaselessly work for the relationship’s health!

4) They can compromise with you

signs youre in a genuinely healthy relationship according to psychology 11 signs of true love in a relationship, according to psychology

And one of the most important parts of working for the health of a relationship?

Making sacrifices. Agreeing on compromises.

Because here’s the reality: no matter how much you love each other, your needs, lifestyles, schedules, and opinions won’t always completely align at all times.

And that’s okay. In fact, in many ways, that’s good. It shows that you are keeping your individuality despite being in a committed relationship.

A couple who is serious about their love will work around these differences. They will come up with ways to accommodate everyone’s needs. Compromises—or even sacrifices—will sometimes be made.

And it’s not just one party constantly compromising or sacrificing. A healthy, loving relationship will have a natural ebb and flow to them, a healthy ratio of give and take between the two partners.

5) They care about your life

When you’re still dating or are in the early parts of the relationship, one giveaway clue of true love is how interested they are in your life.

Nowadays, a lot of people date merely for sex, a shallow sense of companionship, or due to boredom. If that’s what they’re doing, they likely don’t care about you or your life.

They won’t listen to you and instead talk about their own life most of the time. Or, after they get what they want (like getting sex), their interest drops off. Then, they just might cut you off.

A person who truly loves you will always want to get to know you better. They want to learn something new about you every time and take great joy in it.

6) You feel safe with them

A non-negotiable sign of love—not just attraction—is how safe and secure one feels around another person.

Because you can be attracted to another person yet still not feel completely comfortable in their presence. You can still feel like you need to be on your guard.

Feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally safe with someone is the bedrock of love. 

As scholars Braithwaite and Holt-Lunstad find in their study published on Current Opinion in Psychology, there is an intricate relationship between long-term romantic relationships and mental health.

Essentially, the study shows that the higher the quality of a relationship is, the better the mental health of the parties involved.

7) You don’t fake yourself with each other

And one essential component of feeling safe with your partner is being able to be one’s unapologetic self with them. 

Many psychologists and experts on relationships, emphasize that our partners should be a safe space of authenticity. We shouldn’t feel the need to fake ourselves whatsoever with them.

I realized that my ex-boyfriend and I really didn’t love each other when I realized that I was only showing an idealized version of myself to him:

  • I spoke in a “cool girl” way with him and not using my natural voice;
  • I always felt like I needed to look pretty for him whenever we saw each other;
  • I would embellish stories to make myself look interesting;
  • I hid aspects of my life from him, іуштп afraid he was going to dislike me.

Is it even true love if what they love is just a fake version of you?

8) You listen to understand

Yes, you’ve probably heard of this. Communicate! Listen!

Duh, you might say.

But here’s the thing: most people know that they need to communicate and listen well. But they don’t know how to do that properly.

When most people listen, they listen half-heartedly. Or they listen in order to form a response. People do this because they are itching for their turn to speak. 

This isn’t a loving way to listen or an effective way to communicate.

Proper listening involves suspending judgment until the other person is finished with their piece. When listening, your mind must be fully dedicated to understanding and empathizing with the other person.

9) You have compatible values

relationship is unbreakable 11 signs of true love in a relationship, according to psychology

Here’s the truth: no matter how attracted or in love you think you are with someone, you cannot have a functioning relationship with different values.

In the long run, it’s simply not going to work. There will be too much friction and tension in your relationship. It will inevitably break down. 

Of course, as I said above, no two people will be in complete agreement all of the time. But, at the very least, your values need to be similar or complementary enough.

You need to be compatible in all aspects of love (and even life in general), including but not limited to:

  • Political and philosophical beliefs;
  • Love languages;
  • Housework preferences;
  • Financial and career goals;
  • Having children.

10) They remember the small things

A partner who loves you will be observant and attentive. They will remember the small details about you and your relationship. 

And they’ll remember all sorts of things, from things like a tiny detail from a conversation you had years ago or your preference for jammy, soft-boiled eggs over hard-boiled ones.

But it’s not just about them putting in the effort to be attentive. It also shows that they love you so much that they cherish every moment with you. Every moment with you is special, so their brain chooses to hold on to it.

After all, psychologists have found that when in love, our brains become incredibly adaptive to the actions of our partners. So we will vividly remember conversations and moments with them, no matter how trivial they may seem.

11) They let you be your own person

Love, no matter how dedicated and committed it is, is not obsessive and controlling.

A relationship is a partnership between individuals and a healthy one allows each party to keep their individuality intact.

A loving, respectful partner will respect your “me time,” boundaries, and your life outside of them. And that’s the thing: they want to be a part of your life—maybe even one of if not the biggest part of it—but not your life in totality.

If they overstep boundaries and become controlling with your time, energy, and money, that’s not love (no matter what romantic media might say). It’s abuse.

To conclude

I think all these signs can be summed up in two words: sincerity and effort.

Love is not true love if it is insincere and self-serving. There must be an authentic connection between two people, and this bond must be built on trust and honesty.

This bond must materialize into an active effort for the long-term health of the relationship. The two parties must support each other, cherish each other, communicate well, and never tire of loving the other person in concrete ways.

After all, love is not just a feeling. It’s a decision—it’s an action. 

Picture of Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase

Isabella Chase, a New York City native, writes about the complexities of modern life and relationships. Her articles draw from her experiences navigating the vibrant and diverse social landscape of the city. Isabella’s insights are about finding harmony in the chaos and building strong, authentic connections in a fast-paced world.

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