In college I dated a few guys who said they loved me, and maybe they even believed they did. I didn’t believe them though. But when I was dating my husband, I remember how I knew that when he said he loved me, he meant it. The difference between my husband and all those other guys is that when I spoke he listened and he was even willing to set aside his own desires to do what I preferred at times.
Many people think love is all about warm, fuzzy feelings. If someone thinks of love this way, then to say “I love you” to someone really means, “I like the pleasant feelings I have when I am around you.” If love is nothing more than a desire to have nice feelings, it would actually be pretty temporary, coming and going as those feelings wax and wane. But I don’t believe love works that way.
Real love should mean something like: “I am in awe of who you are, and I am willing to sacrifice to make sure you are protected and cared for.” This kind of love will stick around even when it’s inconvenient, even when times get hard, even if one’s health or youthfulness fades. Real love is proved not by strong, passionate feelings, but by one’s willingness to put the other first.
To this day, I still recognize my husband’s love for me through the way he puts me first. He shows me love through his attentiveness and his concern for me during the births of our children. One nurse told me that she has never seen a man who was so attentive to his laboring wife as my husband was to me. He shows me love in our daily lives together, like when he gets up at night with sick children to let me sleep (since I typically get up earlier than he does), and when he helps me with dishes even though he’s tired too and it’s not his chore. He shows love in so many ways, in fact, that he is my model of real love and he makes me want to love him better—that is, more selflessly.
When I was in high school, my mom told me, “You always know how much someone loves you by how much he is willing to sacrifice for your good. Real love wants what’s best for the other.” So to determine whether a person really loves you or not, you only need to look for one main thing: Do they make sacrifices for you?
Sacrifice, or putting another person before yourself, can be done in a lot of ways when dating. A big way a person can show their love is real is to put you and your relationship with one another before their sexual urges. If the couple can love one another enough to gain self-mastery over something so powerful as their sexual urges, then this is a good preparation for marriage—and for a lifetime of each partner looking out for the interests of the other before his or her own. This is one reason why waiting until marriage to have sex is a good idea.
This, of course, is not the only way to prepare to live a life of really loving others. It is shown in our willingness to take time to listen to others, even when we are busy. Love is shown by our support and encouragement of the other’s dreams, our willingness to help them when they feel burdened or overwhelmed, and in a million other ways.
For those who are wondering if the person they are dating might be “the one,” it’s simple. And for those who need to determine the quality of your own love, it’s simple. Real love equals sacrifice.
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