When we find ourselves swept up in a romance, sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between genuine feelings of love for the person and clinging to the idea of being “in love”. As hard as it can be to sort through this sometimes messy tangle of feelings, it is important to know the difference. When you can differentiate the two, it enables you to invest time, energy, and emotion into relationships that are based on love and not just the idea of love.
I have identified three key questions to ask yourself to help you figure out whether it’s love or the idea of being in love that is keeping you in your relationship.
When our gut sense is telling us that something isn’t right, but we are holding onto a partner despite this deeper awareness, it’s time to step back and confront ourselves. It will most likely become clear that it’s not the person you are holding on to, but the love or companionship that they give. The more you find yourself trying to convince yourself that you are in love, the more likely it is that love is what is missing in your relationship.
When we are relying on someone’s love to boost our self esteem and self concept, we are in dangerous territory. It can make us highly vulnerable to being in relationships where it is not love that is fueling the connection, but emotional dependency. In contrast, knowing that you are loving someone from a strong place, from the part of you that believes you are loveable even if you are not in this relationship, means you are loving from a place of desire and want instead of need and desperation.
If you notice that you are one person when you are around friends and family, but a completely different person when you are with your partner, this is another red flag that rather than true love, it is the idea of love that is driving you in your relationship. Being less yourself, constantly trying to please, or continuously attempting to become the person you feel you need to be instead of the person you want to be, are all indications that you are clinging to the idea of love. On the contrary, when you feel comfortable bringing your full self to a relationship — all of your wonderful qualities and your flaws too – that is when you know it is love that is at the core of your connection.
– Dr. Kelly Mothner