Both universal and essential, love is as ancient as humankind itself — which makes it a strange and humorous paradox that it is still largely such a mystery. It could be argued that love is one of the most common and simultaneously misunderstood phenomena of human experience. Maybe it’s just its all-consuming nature: Everyone craves it; everyone thinks and talks about it almost constantly; many of us chase after it doggedly, the way a puppy pursues a bouncy rubber ball. Whatever it is, one thing is certain: Humans are obsessed with love — finding and feeling it, getting and keeping it. Still, as mysterious as it is, there are certain basic truths about love that everyone should know. Knowing these eight basic truths greatly increases your chances of inviting true love into your life.
1. There is someone out there for you. That is a simple fact — a mathematical truth, even — which should come as a relief for those of us who are currently single and lonely. There is someone out there, waiting to find you, who will love you — who will appreciate your sense of humor, who will think your smile is the best thing since sliced bread, who will want you to be the first person they speak to in the morning and the last one they think of at night. If you’re open to finding love, you stand a great chance of finding it with this person. That being said...
2. You have more than one potential “soul mate.” Now, this is not intended to crush anyone’s romantic sensibilities. If you’re lucky enough to find “the One,” to fall in love and build a life together, that is a bond that should be revered and protected. But there isn’t just one “One” out there for you. The term “soul mate” is a bit of a misnomer, since it implies that for every human soul, there is only one, single other soul in all the world that can be its true match in love. In reality, however, there are plenty of people in the world whom you could potentially meet, fall for, and consider your soul mate. That’s why people are regularly able to find great love again after having already experienced it once. It’s all about being open to it. For those true romantics who might believe this detracts from the sacredness of love, consider instead that, statistically speaking, it’s actually great news: It increases your chances of finding your soul mate and the true bliss that comes from experiencing your perfect match. And if a blissful relationship happens to end, your love life isn’t over. You can find true love again, in time.
3. Love and lust are two completely different things. And it’s all too easy to confuse them. But sexual attraction can exist without romantic love, and romantic love can certainly bloom without sex. Love is an emotion first, after all, which is then turned into an action: At base, it’s about caring for someone. Commitment and trust are essential to love, while physical intimacy is not. So next time you feel a strong physical attraction toward someone, mark it as an exciting and important connection — but don’t confuse it with real love. Lust can be immediate, while love often takes longer to grow and mature. Lust can be short-lived, while love tends to last, even after the relationship has ended. Lust is all about physical pleasure, while love is about giving someone your attention, affection and emotional support. See how different these two really are?
4. Everyone shows love in different ways. Since love is about caring for someone, it’s no wonder that each of us has our own concept of what that means. For some of us, showing love might mean showing worry and concern, like a mother reminding her child to wear a coat outdoors. For others, showing love might mean giving lots of kisses and embraces. For still others, it might mean being an excellent listener, doling out well-intentioned advice, or cooking healthful, nourishing meals. It all depends on what we grew up with in our families of origin, and what we have experienced since then — the blend of past and recent influences that blend together into our concept of what it is to love someone.
5. True love means being willing to say you’re sorry. The old, well-known saying, of course, asserts the opposite — that true love means never having to apologize — but in truth, loving someone includes the ability to be truthful and vulnerable, along with caring about the other person’s feelings. And when you’re the one responsible for hurting those feelings, if you truly love the person, you should find it within yourself to admit your responsibility for what happened, and apologize. Once your ego steps aside, saying “I’m sorry” can be such a simple act — but it can be so meaningful for the other person, who loves you and wants to be loved in return.
6. When looking for a long-term partner, open your eyes and follow your nose. This gets down to the basic physiology of love. If your lover smells delicious to you, it’s possible that it’s just their cologne — but if you gain pleasure from their natural, heady scent, what’s really happening is you’re responding positively to their pheromones. Pheromones are natural chemical substances produced and released by animals into their environments. Humans do it, too; we are, after all, animals. So when you really adore the way your sweetheart smells, it’s an indication that you two make a grand genetic match. As far as eyes go, it turns out there’s a scientific reason that gazing into your lover’s eyes feels so wonderfully connective. Neural synchrony — the scientific term for the brain’s complex process of turning raw sensory input, or simple information taken in through the five senses, into actual perception, which is closely related to emotion — is greatly enhanced when two people look into one another’s eyes. In other words, deep, absorbing eye contact makes all kinds of incredible connections occur within the brain. The image of your lover’s eyes is actually creating awareness and emotion within you. In essence, it’s love in action.
7. Love is addictive. Speaking of brain chemistry in relation to love, all those song lyrics claiming love is a drug may actually be on to something. The pleasurable sensation of love creates its own chemical changes in the brain — namely, an increase in your brain’s production of dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical that also plays a key role in substance abuse and addiction. (Incidentally, eating chocolate has the same effect.) If you ever wonder why people pursue love so single-mindedly, often making the same mistakes again and again in that rush to experience the bliss just one more time — well, it makes sense when you think of love in similar terms as addiction. But is that all love is — looking for another high? Absolutely not. While the various addictive substances are definitely not essential to sustaining life — entire lifetimes can be lived, happily and fully, without ever sampling these intoxicants — love is essential to a life well lived. This information is important to remember, however, when trying to move on from a destructive relationship or a one-sided love affair. Framing your feelings as simple chemical reactions in the brain can demystify this otherwise overwhelming emotion, allowing you to gain much-needed perspective and objectivity. (When moving forward after the end of a love affair, it also helps to refer once again to numbers 1 and 2 above — there’s someone out there for you, and you have more than one potential soul mate.)
8. Love is limitless. The more love you give, the more you receive. This may seem like a tired old platitude; it’s certainly been repeated a thousand different ways in countless greeting cards and sappy poems. But that doesn’t make it any less true. When you love others courageously and wholeheartedly, you open yourself up to being loved in the same way. The main block to being loved, after all, is our own fear — of betrayal, of being let down and left behind. Once you let these fears go, you open the path to loving others completely and joyously. Most wondrously of all, you also start to notice that the love you’re putting out into the world is rebounding back to you in a huge way.