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How Do I Know if It’s Real Love?

How Do I Know if It’s Real Love?

 CHAPTER 29

How Do I Know if It’s Real Love?

Answer the following questions:

1. How would you define “love”? ․․․․․

2. How would you define “infatuation”? ․․․․․

3. What, in your opinion, is the difference between the two? ․․․․․

YOU likely had little or no trouble answering the questions above. After all, it’s easy to see the difference between love and infatuation when you’re just thinking hypothetically.

All of that can change, though, the moment you set your eyes on the boy or girl of your dreams. Suddenly you’re smitten, and nothing else matters. You’re hopelessly in love. Or are you? Is it love​—or is it infatuation? How can you tell? To answer, first let’s consider how your view of the opposite  sex has probably changed in recent years. For example, consider the following questions:

● What did you think of the opposite sex when you were five years old?

● What do you think of the opposite sex now?

Your answers likely reveal that when you hit puberty, you gained a new appreciation for the opposite sex. “I’ve noticed that girls are a little prettier than they used to be,” says 12-year-old Brian. Elaine, 16, recalls a change that took place a few years ago. “All my girlfriends started talking about boys,” she says, “and for me, every boy was a potential crush.”

Now that you’re noticing the opposite sex, how can you cope with these powerful feelings? Instead of pretending that they don’t exist​—a surefire way to intensify them—​you can use this as a wonderful opportunity to learn something about attraction, infatuation, and love. Understanding these three facets of romance can spare you needless heartache and help you, in time, to find real love.

ATTRACTION What you see

“My friends and I are always talking about girls. We try to discuss other things, but as soon as a pretty girl walks by, well, we forget what we were talking about!”​—Alex.

“A young man who makes eye contact and has a nice smile and a confident walk would get my attention.”​—Laurie.

It’s normal to be attracted to someone who is outwardly beautiful or handsome. The problem is, what you see isn’t always what you get. Why? Because  looks can be deceiving. The Bible states: “As a gold nose ring in the snout of a pig, so is a woman that is pretty but that is turning away from sensibleness.” (Proverbs 11:22) Of course, the same principle applies to boys.

INFATUATION What you feel

“I had a major crush on a boy when I was 12, and when I got over it, I realized why I liked him. It was only because all my friends were interested in boys​—and he was a boy. So there you go!”​—Elaine.

“I’ve had many crushes, but most of the time, I was only considering the outer person. Once I found out what the person was like on the inside, I realized that we weren’t as compatible as I had thought.”​—Mark.

Infatuation feels like love. In fact, love includes romantic feelings. But the basis for each is entirely different. Infatuation stems from a superficial reaction to surface qualities. Also, it is blind to the other person’s weaknesses and exaggerates his or her strengths. As a result, infatuation is about as stable as a castle made of sand. “It doesn’t last long,” says a girl named Fiona. “You can be attracted to someone one day, and then a month later you feel the same way​—but toward someone else!”

 LOVE What you know

“I think that with love, you have a reason to be attracted to someone, and it’s a good reason​—not a selfish one.”​—David.

“To me, it seems that real love should grow over time. At first, you’re good friends. Then, little by little, you like what you have come to know about the person, and you start to develop feelings that you’ve never had before.”​—Judith.

Love is based on a well-rounded knowledge of a person’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the Bible describes love as much more than a feeling. It states that love is, among other things, “long-suffering and kind. . . . It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7, 8) And love makes a person act in these ways based on knowledge​—not on credulity or ignorance.

An Example of Real Love

The Bible account of Jacob and Rachel vividly illustrates real love. The couple met at a well, where Rachel had gone to water her father’s sheep. Jacob was immediately attracted to her. Why? For one thing, she was “shapely and beautiful.”​—Genesis 29:17, Today’s English Version.

 Remember, though, that real love is based on more than physical appearance. Jacob found that there was more to Rachel than her beauty. In fact, the Bible says that before long, Jacob was beyond the stage of attraction. He was “in love with Rachel.”​—Genesis 29:18.

Romantic ending? No​—because the story was far from over. Rachel’s father made Jacob wait seven years before he could marry Rachel. Fair or unfair, Jacob’s love was now put to the test. If it were a case of mere infatuation, Jacob would not have waited for her. Only real love can endure the test of time. So what happened? The Bible states: “Jacob proceeded to serve seven years for Rachel, but in his eyes they proved to be like some few days because of his love for her.”​—Genesis 29:20.

What can you learn from the example of Jacob and Rachel? That real love can pass the test of time. Also, it’s not  based solely on physical appearance. In fact, a potential marriage mate may not be someone you find overwhelmingly attractive at first sight. Barbara, for example, met a young man to whom she admits she was not overly attracted​—at first. “But as I got to know him better,” she recalls, “things changed. I saw Stephen’s concern for other people and how he always put the interests of others before himself. These were the qualities I knew would make a good husband. I was drawn to him and began to love him.” A solid marriage resulted.

When you’re mature enough to date with a view to marriage, how will you know when you’ve found real love? Your heart may speak, but trust your Bible-trained mind. Get to know more than the person’s external image. Give the relationship time to blossom. Remember, infatuation often fades within a short time. Genuine love grows stronger with time and becomes “a perfect bond of union.”​—Colossians 3:14.

Be assured that you can find that kind of love​—if you learn to look beyond attraction (what you see) and infatuation (what you feel). The following three pages will help you to do just that.

READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC IN VOLUME 2, CHAPTERS 1 AND 3

IN OUR NEXT CHAPTER

Suppose you’ve found true love. How do you know if you’re ready for marriage?

KEY SCRIPTURE

“Many waters themselves are not able to extinguish love, nor can rivers themselves wash it away.”​—Song of Solomon 8:7.

TIP

To find out how well you really know someone you feel attracted to, answer the questions on the worksheet in Volume 2, on page 39 (for girls) and page 40 (for boys).

DID YOU KNOW . . . ?

Young people who frivolously enter and exit romantic relationships are, in a sense, “practicing” for divorce after marriage.

ACTION PLAN!

To help me determine whether my feelings for someone are an indication of infatuation or of love, I will ․․․․․

What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

● Why did God create humans with such powerful feelings of attraction to the opposite sex?

● Why do many teenage “love” relationships fail?

[Blurb on page 207]

“Love can overcome obstacles, whereas infatuation tends to end as soon as circumstances change or problems arise. It takes a lot of time to cultivate real love.”​—Daniella

 [Box on page 209]

Worksheet

What Would You Do?

Michael and Judy have been seeing each other for three months, and Judy says she’s “hopelessly in love.” Michael dotes on her constantly​—even telling her how to dress and with whom she can and cannot associate. He treated her like a princess​—until last week. Michael slapped Judy after she was “caught” talking to another boy.

He says: “Judy should know that I’m terrified of losing her. In fact, the thought of another guy stealing my girlfriend just drives me crazy! I feel bad about slapping Judy. But that’s how much I can’t bear to see her even look at someone else. Besides, I apologized!”

She says: “My parents say Mike is controlling, but he just has high standards. I mean, he’s never tried to force me to do anything sexually. And when he slapped me​—which I didn’t tell my parents about—​well, I was talking to another boy. And Mike gets jealous, which I sometimes find flattering. Anyway, he said he’s sorry, and he promised he’d never do it again.”

Your turn: Do you see warning signs in this relationship? If so, what are they? ․․․․․

What should Judy do? ․․․․․

What would you do? ․․․․․

 [Box on page 210]

Worksheet

What Would You Do?

Ethan has been dating Alyssa for two months, and he’s already noticed how contentious Alyssa can be, especially with her parents. In fact, Alyssa argues with her parents constantly, and she usually wins. She’s mastered the “art” of holding her position until her parents back down in exhaustion. Alyssa has bragged to Ethan that she has her parents “wrapped around her finger.”

He says: “Alyssa speaks her mind. She doesn’t take anything from anyone​—including her parents. Her dad can be annoying, and it’s no wonder that she loses her temper with him. But it’s not all yelling. Alyssa can cry, pout, or act all sweet​—whatever it takes to get what she wants from Dad and Mom.”

She says: “I don’t care who you are or what title or position you hold, I’ll talk straight to you, and I may not sugarcoat my words. My boyfriend, Ethan, knows that about me. He’s seen me around my parents.”

Your turn: Do you see warning signs in this relationship? If so, what are they? ․․․․․

What should Ethan do? ․․․․․

What would you do? ․․․․․

 [Box on page 211]

Worksheet

Is It Love or Is It Infatuation?

Try to guess the missing word in the statements quoted below. Fill in the blanks with either the word love or the word infatuation.

1. “․․․․․ is blind and it likes to stay that way. It doesn’t like to look at reality.”​—Calvin.

2. “If I have to change my personality when I’m around a girl I’m attracted to, that’s ․․․․․.”​—Thomas.

3. “Something may annoy you about the person. But if it’s ․․․․․, you still want to be with the person and work through the problem.”​—Ryan.

4. “With ․․․․․, the only things you let yourself consider are the things you have in common.”​—Claudia.

5. “When it’s ․․․․․, you don’t try to hide who you are.”​—Eve.

6. “․․․․․ is a selfish form of getting what you want​—perhaps just to say you have a boyfriend.”​—Allison.

7. “․․․․․ recognizes the faults and quirks and yet can still live with those things.”​—April.

8. “When it’s ․․․․․, you can’t define why you feel attracted​—you just are.”​—David.

9. “With ․․․․․, the other person can do no wrong.”​—Chelsea.

10. “When it’s ․․․․․, you don’t notice other members of the opposite sex the way you used to, because you feel a sense of loyalty.”​—Daniel.

Answers: Infatuation: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9. Love: 3, 5, 7, 10.

[Picture on pages 206, 207]

Infatuation is about as stable as a castle made of sand​—in a short time, it washes away