Sometimes we fall in love with the idea of falling in love, rather than take the risk of actually being in love. We might come together because we don't want to be alone, or we're trying to get away from something else. Or because everyone around us seems to be in a relationship, and we think we should be too. Often chemistry can be mistaken for love. But true love, and actually falling in love with our soulmate, is a rare and unique gift.
The problem is that falling in love is a notion that has gotten so cinematized and glamorized that sometimes it is hard to recognize what real love looks like. It might be right in front of our nose and it is possible that we could simply miss it.
In this time of mass information on the internet highway, Snapchat and Instagram, reality TV shows of the rich and famous, and movie stars in People magazine "who are just like us," we can get our expectations blown out of proportion. We see skywriting streaming across the perfectly blue Los Angeles summer sky that says, "Marry me, Pamela," or a prom invitation video -- gone viral -- with a 16-year-old young man and "his boys" in hip hop formation, asking the pretty girl to please accompany him to the dance, in a funkadelic, syncopated street rhyme. We start to believe that we should expect that too.
Don't get me wrong; I am a huge romantic. I will write poems to my beloved right along with the best of them. I love long walks at the beach at sunset, and want rose petals strewn across my perfectly white sheets. However, in this time of extreme information stimulation and heightened commercialized expectation, we could miss the innocence of love for the shine. As we are waiting for the glam-and-bang of ad-driven, Cosmopolitan-fueled, diamonds-in-our-champagne-glass acts of idealized and artificially romanticized love, we might not notice our man who might be standing right in front of us with a daisy in his hand, love in his heart, and the willingness to take care of us for a lifetime, because we are waiting for a 2-carat rock on our finger by a leather clad George Clooney rock star look-alike in a black Corvette!
So, what is real love? And how can we recognize it?
1. You can feel it. If you can't feel it, it's because it's not there. And you have to be able to discriminate between chemistry only, and the real feelings of love.
2. It's consistent. It's not confusing. It doesn't change from moment to moment. It feels comfortable.
3. You can be yourself. There is no effort of acting, pretending, hiding or proving. You can just be you. And so can he.
4. He brings out the best in you and you bring out the best in him. Something about the two of you advances the both of you. You find yourself growing as individuals and also together. You feel proud of your partner. And he is proud of you.
5. You can't imagine not being together. In your mind's eye, you see the two of you in your latter years on the front patio listening to your favorite music. And it makes you happy to think of it.
And one last thing to never, never forget. Real love requires real vulnerability. That means we need to let our partner see us. Really see us. Not our facade or our worldly personality, but our true and essential self. And vice-versa. And, this is scaaaaaa-ry! That's why it's rare. But that is also how you know it's true.
Real love is innocent. Real love is vulnerable. Real love is honest. And that's how you know.
-- Diana Lang is a spiritual teacher, counselor, and author of OPENING TO MEDITATION www.DianaLang.com