It’s an age-old question: What is true love? And how will you know when you’ve found it? Does it strike you like lightening or does it tiptoe up to you and settle in gently? Does everyone find it or only a lucky few? And how do you know it’s real?

We’re talking about romantic love here, of course, between two adults. Paternal or maternal love, for example, will have a totally different definition. But authentic love between two individuals is a wonderful thing, if sometimes elusive. It is easy to trick yourself into thinking you are in love because it is so desirable. It is the one thing everyone wants.

How Do You Know Your Love Is Real? Nancy'S Counseling Corner


Ego Love

You’ve heard the expression, You complete me. It sounds wonderfully romantic in the movies, but this is a way of looking at your loved one for what she will do for you—complete you. In other words, another person is a reflection of your needs and wants. You are not thinking of the needs and wants of the person you love when you think about what she does for you.

Another egocentric love is often based on how infatuated you feel—elated, euphoric, full of butterflies. You are constantly craving the other person physically and emotionally. You are consumed with thoughts of her. A certain amount of this is normal, especially at the beginning of a relationship. You want to know everything about the person you love—what they think, how they feel, what their history is and what they want in the future.

When you expect reciprocity, then you want the object of your desire to be consumed with thoughts of you, too. This can be a balanced and healthy relationship. The trouble comes when your expectations are conditional—when you expect to continue to receive as much as you continue to give or else you withhold your largess. That is not authentic love, it’s ego love.

Ego love says, “I will love you as long as you love me back in equal measures.” Ego love says, “I love you as long as you make a few changes I have in mind.” Ego love is not selfless because there is always some hitch, some desire to control or change the other person.

Authentic Love

When you feel authentic love—soul-mate love—you only wish the best for the object of your desire. There are no conditions on his behavior, only a wish that he is happy. You value him just as he is and you have no need to control or possess him. You want the best for him, whether that means you’re in his life or not. You make no demands on this person because you have no expectations. You simply love him.

There’s no histrionics, no conflict, no manipulation. There is only a mental and physical connection—joyful and unfettered, kind and loving. Two souls in harmony with one another.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: