Am I Really in Love?
If you have ever found yourself asking this question, I guarantee you, you are not alone. Love is so extremely complicated and yet simplistic all at the same time; it constantly causes our emotions to skyrocket and deflate in seconds. Have you ever looked at the Webster Dictionary definition for love? It states that love is, “(1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties (2): attraction based on sexual desire: affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3): affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests.” It seems that, once again, Webster has oversimplified and generalized the emotion of love. However, these are exactly what we are taught that love is, but because we are human and can experience love, we know that it goes much deeper than just affection or sexual desire.
If you have not heard the song Doo Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill, I suggest you go listen it right now, not just because of her lyrical genius, but because of the dialogue at the end of the song. The girls are asked about love, and if they are too young to know what love is, but their responses are completely poetic and accurate. They mention that you are never too young to be in love, but there is a difference between being in love and loving someone. In the dialogue they continue to say you can fall out of love with someone, but you know that you will still love them. We tend to miseducate today’s youth by telling them that they are too young to know what love is, so when they do fall in love, they are unsure how to proceed. Parents need to educate their kids on the difference between loving and being love with someone, in order to avoid mistakes in the future. If a person knows that they love someone and are not in love with that person, they are less likely to give themselves away to the wrong person.
Now once again we return to the main question, am I really in love? If we turn to the bible to see what it says about love, it is easy to see that God’s idea of love is much more complex than ours, and yet, it is utterly simple. In one of the most common verses in the bible, it is said that, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. Now, that is a lot to ask of a normal human being; sacrificing a son or loved one seems to be asking for a bit too much. So, when asking if you love a person, it seems a bit odd to ask if you would sacrifice your child for them, right? But maybe we are not too far off track. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. When you think you love someone, ask yourself what you would be willing to sacrifice for them? If God loved us so much that he would sacrifice a child, you can easily tell if you love someone by asking yourself the same question. When you truly love someone, you know that you would not only give up your time for them, but your life as well. It seems to be an extreme notion, but true love is a passion like no other, causing a person to be willing to go to great heights and even greater depths for the person that they are in love with.
Furthermore, if you are willing to put forth your life for someone because you are so passionately in love with them, you need to ask yourself if it is indeed love, or infatuation. If you tend focus on what you want out of the relationship or from them, it is probably infatuation. By no means are you selfish for wanting your significant other to contribute towards the relationship, but if you are asking too much, you probably are not in love. Also, if you do not see yourself as their equal, you are more than likely just obsessed with them rather than in love. In a real relationship, there is no expectation for perfection, just a happiness within the reality of the situation. In a relationship, you are two equal parts, one person is not above the other; it is not unusual for both parts to compliment and praise one another, but worshipping is a completely different situation. People frequently say that you know you are in love because you are jealous, but this is attachment not mature love. Being jealous is childish, kids become jealous when another possesses a toy they want; your significant other is not an object to be coveted, they are a person, designed to be fully cherished.
Some people might say that you are too young to be in love because you are too immature, just because of a number. Technically speaking, a person is not mature until around age twenty-five; “The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part” the University of Rochester Medical Center. Due to this fact, of course adults will doubt young minds and emotions, but they are wrong to do so because the bible says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” 1 Timothy 4:12. Sure, when you are a seven year old and say you are in love with your super cute classmate, Matthew, you probably are not. However, when you are sixteen, and you find that special someone, the person who makes your heart ache and makes you think of a future with them, that can be love. Once again there is infatuation and there is love, but you are never too young to be in love; we are taught from birth how to love. Our parents show us how to love, by showing us their love, therefore we grow up knowing how to love, so who is to say that we are too young to be in love?
Additionally, love causes a chemical change within our bodies; we respond to love like we would a drug or any other thing that causes us to experience extreme pleasure. Love causes the release of dopamine which is also activated by cocaine and nicotine, norepinephrine, otherwise known as adrenalin which starts us sweating and gets the heart racing, and serotonin, one of love's most important chemicals and one that may cause us to go temporarily insane. Of course, you cannot test this theory like a doctor would, but all these feelings are familiar to a human; we are familiar with pleasure and that sweaty palm feeling we have all had with our first crush. Love is confusing, but sometimes it can be boiled down to the simplest of chemical reactions within our bodies, but do not rely solely on these reactions because everyone responds differently.
The future is vast and full of different possibilities, and everyone finds themselves thinking and pondering on the events that will occupy that future. If you find yourself constantly thinking about having a future with them, it might be love. I do not mean just thinking about what you will be doing with them next week, or even that concert y’all have planned to attend next week; I mean thinking about settling down with them. Not just buying a house but having kids and thinking about how your careers will provide for your children’s needs, and where you need to move for your kids to attend the best school. These may seem like extremes thoughts, but when you are in love, you are helpless to those random ideas that pop into your mind as you day dream. Most importantly, when you are thinking about somebody, it is important that your significant other thinks like this as well and that (Does the comma go there?) you are not simply obsessing over a person but are in love.
Love is insanely complicated, and it can be hard to comprehend all its levels and complexities, but it is possible to do so. Yes, love is not always feeling butterflies and seeing rainbows, but it is still that warm feeling that spreads across your body and causes you to feel real and pure joy. Too put it simply, as intricate as love may be, I promise that you will know when you are in love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Seventeen-year-old Ansliee Stehling is currently a Senior in high school. She is a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Council secretary, and Captain of the golf team. She has been on the varsity golf team and is ranked in the Top 10 students in her high school. On the weekends she sings and plays the piano for Parkway’s Praise and Worship team.