In my experience with speaking with youth and interacting with clients at Skylark, the subject of love comes up from time to time. A very common questions is, “How do I know they really love me?” If you are trying to determine if a relationship has a future this is an important question to consider.
Love is a difficult word to contemplate. You hear people use the word to describe many affections. “I love that band.” “I love pizza!” “I love my momma!” “I love my cat!” “I love you!” For many, love is an emotion or a feeling. Unfortunately for many, love can be used to manipulate or coerce. I hope that has not been your experience.
When answering the questions, “How do I know they really love me?” I usually try to break it down into a very simple definition of love. Using this simple definition, I desire for those I am engaging to be very honest with themselves in their assessment of the definition in their relationship. My humble definition of love: they want the best for you.
This is deeper than emotions and feelings – this is actually actions which demonstrate love. The words, “I love you” do not assure you that the person speaking those words actually loves you. Actions speak louder than words! If their actions do not seem to want the best outcome for you, perhaps you should question their motives. If they truly want the best for you, they choose to do what is best for you even if it is difficult for them. They have the character to do what is right even when it is difficult.
If their actions make you wonder, “Do they really love me?” this probably a good indication that you are not really experiencing someone who loves you. If you are wondering if you are going to be dealing with an unplanned pregnancy because of their actions, this is an indication they do not want the best for you. According to my simple definition those actions are not revealing love to you.
Are you wondering if they respect you or honor you?
Are you having to keep secrets from your family based on their actions?
Are you concerned they would leave you if you chose not to have sex with them?
Have they been pressuring you to participate in activities that you are not comfortable with?
Are you wondering if you will end up with a sexually transmitted infection?
Do you worry that they would leave you if you set some boundaries for the relationship?
Have they asked you to cross relational boundaries in order to continue the relationship?
If your answer to any of these questions is, “yes” you have a pretty good indication that this person does not have your best in mind. In other words, by my definition you know they may not love you – or they do not know how to express love in a healthy way.
If there is a question about their love, respect, or honor in the relationship you now have a tough decision to make. If you were to ask me, I would communicate, “It is time to make an exit plan.” The only reason I am inclined in that manner is because I believe you deserve the best relationships. You owe it to yourself to be loved for who you are. You should be respected and treated with honor in relationships.
As a result, if there is a question as to a partner’s commitment to love you for you, then in my opinion the relationship is worthy of your continued investment. I know this can be difficult depending on the relationship. However, your health and the health of your relationships is important for your future. Be honest with yourself and press forward with the best choice for you! You and your future is valuable. Demonstrate your own love for yourself by not settling for less than the best for you!