Recognizing Love

people in love

We all, hopefully, have someone in our lives we can confidently say we love.

We do our best to be there for them, support them, be loyal to them, possibly even provide for them.

But to even the most optimistic – there’s always a question that pops into one’s head, even if just out of momentary curiosity.

Do they love me?

That question is so important and impactful to relationships we named an entire brand after it.

Feeling and receiving love is what many consider to be the main of goal of ideal relationships in general, whether that be romantic with partners, or even just platonic love with your friends.

Most people want those people in their life they can truly say they love.

So is there a way to tell if they really do love you back?

For starters, there are certainly signs.

I’m going to do my best to phrase this – but I believe real, genuine love brings out the highest possible empathy from an individual.

When you really love someone, and they do something that hurts you, or even just irritates it, you tend to be slower to anger and try to see where they were coming from.

It’s much easier to assume a stranger is just a bad person with bad morals as opposed to someone you really care about.

But even that principle is tricky. As you may have noticed, I said highest possible.

Not everyone is evenly empathetic. Some people struggle to be empathetic at all.

So it’s important to be observant. If you genuinely think someone who is capable of being greatly empathetic, even to themselves, is very quick to judge and ridicule you; take a much closer look at the relationship as a whole.

That said – here’s another point to consider.

Love is not always tolerant.

I know for many MANY people reading that line, a lot of people will think this is going somewhere bad fast. Possibly even…political. Mm. That hurt to type.

But give me the chance to explain.

First off, love is often patient, but there’s a difference with tolerance and patience. A difference I find few are able to distinguish.

Think of it like this: Say your child, about three or four, keeps biting you.

So let’s say your response is, you keep letting your child do that.

You don’t scold them, you don’t look at them, you just try to keep walking with their jaws locked onto your ankle. And they continue their behavior until they’re fifteen and you get weird looks when you drag his ass around your local Target.

That would be a patient and tolerant response. You’re letting that child continue doing what you both know is wrong for the sake of making sure they’re comfortable or happy.

That isn’t love, that’s a lack of backbone. In other words, tell your kid it’s not okay to run around Olive Garden in nothing but their underwear when I’m just trying to enjoy my breadsticks.

But now let’s say you do discipline them. Whether that be with a spanking, a stern talking to, a timeout, whatever it is.

You make it clear you won’t tolerate that behavior, and it needs to quit.

However, you can still be patient. Patience is recognizing a kid is a kid; they’ll make mistakes again, probably the one you just told them not to do at least one more time. And patience is continuing to discipline them for it, not just giving up and letting them trot all over you, or even giving them up for adoption.

So, fine, patience and tolerance aren’t the same thing. What does that tell us about love?

Well for one, it says discipline, or even just someone speaking up, is not equivalent to a lack of love or empathy.

I make this point because I’ve had plenty of friends, I’ve even dated someone, who tended to make that mistake.

Sometimes, their parent would tell them not to do something. Or their friend would say they need to quit doing something, and people get genuinely upset over that.

For one, parents have legitimate authority over their child (to a certain extent past a certain age). They can tell you what to do and what not to do (again, to certain extents). When they do anything like that, most of the time, it’s not being mean. It’s being a parent.

Secondly is when it comes to romance and platonic relationships. If your girlfriend, for example, tells you you need to quit smoking, that isn’t a sign she doesn’t love you. She just isn’t tolerating what you both know hurts you. And, hopefully, she’ll be patient enough to let you work it out.

But yet again, there are nuances. It’s one thing to speak up when someone is knowingly doing something wrong. But it’s another to nitpick and prod them for their genuine mistakes, or even shove your own moral compass down their throat. That’s a quick way to distance yourself.

And honestly, a lot of times, real love finds you not asking that question very often.

When someone really, really loves you, they obviously care about you.

And part of caring about someone is making sure they themselves feel loved when it seems necessary to show.

Now – an important thing to note that I probably should’ve by now.

Not everyone is very emotionally intelligent, observant, or consistently empathetic. I, myself, tend to struggle with empathy after feeling forced to for repeated instances. But that’s a personal thing that’s waiting for another article.

But let’s say you just spent time doing something for a friend. Maybe you just washed their car to surprise them, maybe you got them a gift, point is, you did something nice that costed you time and effort.

Now, obviously, you shouldn’t do something nice for the sake of being recompensed. If you do, that’s not a kind act, that’s a forced trade deal.

But at the same time, let’s say they just learned you did all that for them. And you’re hit with the classic: “Thanks.”

Deadpan expression, literally moves on like you just handed them your coat.

That doesn’t automatically mean they don’t love you, or anything drastic like that.

But it also doesn’t mean you have no right to be frustrated, as that kind of thing can be genuinely deflating.

The simple truth is, some people just aren’t as easily able to express emotion, or even gratitude. They may have really meant that quick “thanks” that you just found so irritating.

At the end of the day, people are complicated. Articles like this, while hopefully helpful, aren’t usually going to give you the simple: “Oh yeah if they say I love you more than three times a day you’re golden.” Because people are rarely that straightforward.

You want to know if they love you? Be observant, and be patient yourself. Love them as much as you can, and see how they reciprocate.

Love is slow to ridicule, but willing to criticize.

See how they treat you compared to others, but don’t be waiting to berate them if you feel like you’re getting a raw deal.

Talk to them. Love them. Be patient. Listen and pay attention.

You’ll know.

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