Examples of “love” are thrown in our faces every day in the way of love songs, TV shows, meet-cute movies, and romance novels. Love is probably the most universal human experience of all time. But what does it really mean to love someone?
If you’ve ever been in love yourself, you’ll know it’s worlds apart from some of the fictional relationships we’re force-fed. It’s not black and white, but a million shades of grey. And what love means varies from person to relationship. But if there’s no one-size-fits-all, then how do you know you love someone, I mean, really love them?
What is the difference between love and in love?
It’s likely you love many people in your life today: family, children, friends, the person who styles your hair, etc. And although you love these people, you probably wouldn’t say you’re in love with them, right?
This signifies a clear difference between the two. Similarly, you can love the person you’re in a romantic relationship with while still not being in love with them.
So, what does it mean when you’re in love with someone?
It goes way beyond the surface. Sure, you’re attracted to each other physically, but you have a deep, emotional connection and a desire to build a future together. You’re aware that looks fade, and when they do, you’ll love this person just as much as you do today. You’re fully open and honest with this person, you want to share your most intimate thoughts and feelings with them, and when you’re with them, it feels like home. When you’re in love, there’s compassion, tenderness, and generosity. There’s commitment, security, and respect.
What does love mean in a relationship to you?
The description I wrote above might resonate with you, and equally, it may not. This is because we are all so different. We all have different desires and needs in a relationship; we all have different love languages, so we all have a slightly different definition of love.
Similarly, as we age, our definition of love and our needs are likely to evolve. What you valued in your teens and early twenties might be very different from what you now value in your thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond. That’s not to say you weren’t truly in love when you were younger or were any less in love than a couple celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary.
This is why it’s important that you look inside yourself when searching for a definition. Although I can share certain common signs with you that indicate it’s real love, only you have the answers for what it truly means to be in love with someone.
So, what does it mean to truly love someone? Here are 16 signs it’s real
1. You feel deeply connected
One of the things I’ve researched extensively in my work as a coach is emotional attraction and the key triggers for men and women becoming deeply connected. Emotional attraction is essential for a relationship to progress from that initial honeymoon phase into something more profound and long-lasting.
But what does it mean to be deeply connected?
You know each other intimately. You’ve talked about your passions, dreams, values, strengths, and fears. You know each other better than perhaps anyone else does. If you ended up on a game show answering questions about each other’s likes and dislikes, you have no doubt you’d walk away smugly with the jackpot prize.
2. It feels emotionally charged
What does it mean when you love someone?
One of the signs is you’ll feel a strong desire to be with them. You miss them when they’re not around, and you crave more of them every time you see them. They’re always on your mind, even when you’re at work, hanging out with friends, or picking up groceries from the store. But it’s different from infatuation. They’re on your mind in a more subtle way. They don’t disrupt your focus; instead, they’re like a soft, steady hum in the background that puts you at ease.
3. You feel secure
In the early stages of falling in love, you’re always dressing to impress and on your absolute best behavior. It’s not that you’re putting on an act; it’s more that you want to look and feel your best around this person while keeping any potential flaws or turn-offs on the down-low. As long as you’re remaining authentic, this is normal.
But you’ll know you’re in love with someone when this need to “impress” all the time starts to dissolve. It’s not that you no longer care or want to make an effort, but you feel far more comfortable and at ease with them. You’re not worried he’ll be shocked by your bare-faced look first thing in the morning. You know he’s not going to break up with you if you accidentally end up with spinach wedged between your teeth.
Ultimately, you feel secure with the everyday realities of a long-term, committed partnership.
4. You want to build a future together
You know it’s the real deal when you see each other in your future and are committed to building a life together. This is the final step of my 7 Little Love Steps: align the relationship with a shared life vision.
So, do you regularly talk about the future?
Do you make plans for months (or even years) down the line?
Can you see yourself living with this guy, marrying him, or even having kids with him (if that’s what you want)?
It can be helpful to turn things around and ask yourself, can you picture life without him? Not because you’re afraid of being alone or scared of starting again, but because your life doesn’t make sense if he’s no longer in it.
5. You want him to be happy
The difference between loving someone and being in love with them is that you’re not just thinking about your happiness anymore; you’re also thinking about theirs. Because when you’re in love, you feel what your partner feels. His joy becomes your joy. His grief becomes your grief.
So if you go out of your way to do little things to make him happy and find yourself getting excited when he’s excited, it’s more than just love.
But remember, there should always be balance in a healthy relationship. You should feel his desire for you to be happy, and he should be making just as much of an effort.
6. You fully love & accept each other as you are
We all have our flaws and weaknesses, and being in a relationship brings attention to these flaws. If you only love your partner some of the time, or when they’re in a certain mood or behaving a certain way, then your feelings for them are conditional. You don’t love them; you love something they say or do.
So, what does it mean to love someone unconditionally?
You know it’s real love when you love and accept them for every part of who they are—flaws included. Because although no one is perfect, they don’t have to be in order to be lovable.
7. It feels permanent
When you fall deeply in love with someone, that love becomes ingrained within you. This is one of the reasons why you can love someone long after you’ve parted ways. It’s also one of the signs that you don’t just love this person; you’re in love with them.
Nothing about your relationship feels fleeting or temporary. The connection you share is now a significant part of your life and who you are and a continuous source of joy and comfort.
8. Your relationship requires more effort than it did before
It’s easy for things to feel effortless when you’re in that initial honeymoon phase of a relationship. You don’t argue, you’re on the same page when it comes to pretty much everything, and it feels easy.
But this isn’t what a real relationship looks like as it progresses and evolves over time. You will have disagreements, it may become more difficult to prioritize each other (especially if there are kids involved), and it will require you both to devote more effort to it than before. But when you’re in love with someone, you do it because it matters to you.
9. You have set and respect each other’s boundaries
There’s loving someone, being in love, and then the other extreme, which is codependency. This happens when you both fail to maintain independence and end up blurring into one person, which is not a healthy dynamic.
To avoid this, it’s vital you both set personal boundaries regarding time, space, and values and that you respect these. You should both feel free to build a thriving career, enjoy an active social life, pursue passions and hobbies, and enjoy some much-needed alone time. It’s real love when you actively encourage each other to live and lead rich, whole lives outside of your relationship.
10. What does it mean to love someone? You support each other
You know how in most wedding vows, there’s a part that goes, “for better or for worse”? Well, that rings true in long-term relationships. You’re going to see each other at your lowest and highest points. There will be challenging times, moments of disagreement, and unexpected obstacles thrown your way by the universe. To love someone unconditionally means to be there by their side and support them through it all, no matter what.
That means when his all-time favorite TV show gets canceled, and he’s balling like a BABY, you console him. When you’re out on a date and the heel snaps on your favorite pair of shoes, he piggybacks you to the car.
11. You’re able to navigate through conflict
You might have heard friends or celeb couples on social media claim they never fight with their SO. But these people are straight-up LYING to you.
It’s normal to have disagreements with the people you love most, whether it’s with your partner, your parents, your kids, or your best friend. But the key difference here is when it’s real love, you don’t allow minor conflict to drive you apart. You’re able to communicate effectively, work through any issues, and resolve them kindly and respectfully as a team. Rather than tearing you apart, these “fights” can often bring you even closer together as a couple.
12. You’re genuinely interested in each other’s lives
One of the key research findings at The Gottman Institute is that showing interest in someone’s life is a timeless and universal way to show your love for them. When you’ve spent months, years, or even decades with the same person, it’s easy to forget to do the little things you did when you first started dating, like asking each other how your day was. But checking in like this with each other is what loving someone is all about. Love happens in the small, seemingly insignificant moments.
When was the last time you asked your partner what’s going on in their world? When was the last time they asked you how your day was?
Couples that take an active interest in each other’s separate lives have a much stronger relationship.
13. You notice what each other needs
What does it mean to love someone? You pay attention to each other and are attentive to each other’s needs. This will always be a careful balance, and there will be times when one of you has to give a little more and vice versa.
For example, if your partner is in the middle of building a side hustle, and you know he’s been super stressed recently, you might plan a surprise spa day for him. Or let’s say you’ve recently undergone a serious operation, and need to rest more than usual, so he takes on more chores around the house.
These little, thoughtful gestures make all the difference in relationships and help show that you care. But for you to do things like this that matter to your partner, you have to be paying close attention.
14. You practice accountability
You’ll very quickly realize in a serious, committed relationship that there’s no room for egos. It’s not about being right, scoring points, or throwing blame around. Real love is about owning up to your mistakes, saying sorry (and meaning it), being humble and vulnerable, and making a conscious effort to do better after you’ve f*cked up.
And the truth is, these things are difficult and uncomfortable, but this is what it means to hold yourself accountable. It’s also crucial that you hold each other accountable when you mess up or fall short. This isn’t about being perfect; it’s about calling each other out when you’re being less than you can be and being responsible for your behavior and actions.
15. It feels like a real partnership
Another sign you’ve found real love with someone is when it feels like a genuine partnership. You’re on the same team, you face challenges together and find solutions for them, and you’re excited to do this crazy thing called life together. You both give and receive in equal measure, you’re committed to nourishing your relationship, and even the wildest storm could not tear you apart.
16. When you’re in love, you focus on how you make them feel
One of the best ways to distinguish between loving someone and being in love is how you answer the question, “why do you love them?”
If your answer is solely about you, i.e., “I love him because of how he makes me feel when I’m with him,” that’s a sign you love them, but you haven’t reached that unconditional stage yet.
When you’re in love with someone, you’ll be more focused on how you make them feel.
Conclusion: are you searching for real love?
I hope you’ve now got a clearer picture of what it truly means to love someone. Maybe you’ve finished reading this article and realized you’ve never actually been in love before, and that’s okay. Long-term relationships require constant energy, commitment, and nurturing to thrive. It won’t always be easy (trust me on that one), but if you’re both willing to put in the work, then you’ll build a deep connection that could last a lifetime. It might not be as intense or steamy as when you first started dating, but it will be real, it will be strong, and it will be beautiful in its own way.
I’d love to get your take on what it means to truly love someone. Drop your thoughts in the comments below.
PS. If you’re ready to start making men pursue you for love, then join me on this free webinar to discover the 3 steps to building emotional attraction – Register here to get started (it’s 100% free).