How can you know if it’s really love?

“Mom, how do you know when you’re in love?” the l6-year-old girl asked her mother.

“Oh, you’ll know when it happens, Trudy.”

“But, Mom, what is it that happens? And how does it happen?”

Realizing that this was a very important question to Trudy, her mother replied,” Honey, God built into everyone of us the desire to have someone for us to love, and to love us in return – someone to share our hopes and joys and dreams with.

“While we are children, our parents fill that spot. But as we leave childhood behind, our needs begin to change.”

Changing needs

“We learn through experience in work and at school that we are able, capable individuals, with our own personality and set of values. Our emotions, which up to now have been simple and childlike, become more sensitive and unstable. This is because of the hormones pouring into our systems. Haven’t you wondered why you feel like crying so easily lately?”

“I know that I get upset a lot more easily than I used to. I didn’t know why,” Trudy replied thoughtfully.

“Well, that’s why. You are becoming a young woman, and you aren’t accustomed to all these new hormones rushing around in your bloodstream, so they make you nervous and easily excitable. In time you will learn to handle this new energy, to use it to help you achieve your goals easier. That’s partly what it’s there for.

“Another effect of these hormones is to make us aware that we need a mate. You know, each man and each woman is only one half of a whole. Somewhere out there in the world is a young man who will become your perfect other half someday, when the time is right.”

How will I know?

“But, Mom, how will I ever find him? And how will I know it when I do?”

“Why don’t we go into the living room,” said her mom, affectionately placing her arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “I have an interesting story to tell you.”

As they seated themselves on the sofa, her mother said, “You know, Trudy, I had these same questions when I was just your age.

“There was a certain senior who worked after school at a service station I walked past every day on the way home. His name was Rodney Clark and he was the handsomest boy I ever saw! Every day as I passed by he’d call ‘Hi there!’ and wave at me, and I’d wave back.

“Well, it made my heart race, and I could hardly wait for school to be over each day so I could walk past the station and see Rod again. Just to see him made my heart sing! I knew this had to be love. What else could it be?

‘”About this time I happened to read an interview of a beautiful movie star about her successful, happy marriage.”

The movie star’s story

“I wanted a marriage that would last a lifetime,” the movie star told the reporter. “I didn’t want to suffer the terrible hurt and humiliation of a broken home because I foolishly chose infatuation in stead of lasting love. I knew that infatuation is merely self-deception.

“Real love is never blind – it sees the person as he really is, his faults as well as his good points. Only then can we see the character of the person and decide whether he is the one we wish to spend the rest of our life with.

‘So I made a list of attributes that I felt an ideal husband would have and I compared the men I met to it. I finally found a man who had nearly all those engaging qualities, couldn’t help loving him, and we have been married ever since. I would advise every woman and man to make up a list of those virtues that they hold most dear and then when one feels serious inclinations about someone of the opposite sex, get out the list and see how he measures up!’

“Well,” Trudy’s mother continued, “I don’t recall exactly what was on her list, but here is what I wrote on mine.” Rising and going to a small desk in the corner, she unlocked a drawer, took out a folded sheet of notebook paper and handed it to her daughter.” I’ve kept it for you all these years for a special time like this.”

Unfolding the paper, Trudy read: The man I love will be:

1 . Faithful – because it would break my heart if he were not.

2 Truthful – because love is built on trust.

3. Responsible – because he must provide for the family.

4. Forthright – because deception destroys trust.

5. Well educated – to set family standards and help us reach them.

6. Temperate – because I could not respect a drunkard.

7. A man with a goal, who is going places – and I’ll help him get there!

8. One with a good sense of humor – to help make life pleasant.

9. One who wants children – I will want to have children for him.

10. Patient and kind – for love’s sake.

11. One who loves me – (this may be the hardest of all).

“After I wrote this list, I no longer wondered if I loved Rod. You can’t love someone you don’t know very well. Oh, my heart still fluttered when he waved at me, but I knew it was just his friendliness and good looks that I admired.”

“You don’t even mention looks on your list at all, Mom. Why not?”

“Love is trust, Trudy. You don’t love a person for the way he looks. You love him for what he is. And when you love somebody, he looks wonderful to you because you see the person on the inside.”

“Did Dad have all the traits on your list?” Trudy asked, eyes twinkling mischievously.

“No, not all,” replied her mother. “As you know, patience is not his strongest point, and I can’t say he has a great sense of humor. But to me those were less important than the others. He had the qualities that enabled me to give him my unending trust, so I could love him without reservation, and I did. And I still do.”

Discovering character

Eyes filled with perplexity, Trudy asked, “But how do you find out what a person’s character is really like?”

“Well, Trudy, we become aware of a person’s character as we see them in various situations. When you see a person deliberately deceive someone else, you are aware that truthfulness is not important to him, and that he is selfish and perhaps unfeeling.

“If you discover that one of your friends thinks it is fun to shoplift, you know that she is basically dishonest and therefore untrustworthy.

“When someone says he will do something, but doesn’t, you know that he can’t be depended on. You also get a strong indicator that he may be lazy and a procrastinator.

“These are all vital signs – they indicate that the person is still immature and has not faced up to the responsibility of living as an adult. They are signposts of trouble a head and a wise person will consider them carefully.”

“But, Mom, we all make mistakes.”

“Yes, sweetheart, we all do, and a single mistake shouldn’t be held against anyone. It is the continual repetition of the mistake that makes it so threatening, because it becomes a habit. Our habits reflect our character.”

“Can’t habits be changed?” “Yes, but only through great effort. However, most people don’t want to admit their faults – even to themselves. It is a mistake ever to think that you can change others just because you care for them, or that they will change because they care for you.

“So now, while you are young and free from emotional entanglement, is the time for you to make your own list of principles you consider important in others, and then set out to live by them yourself. That way, when you find a man that you admire, he will admire you too.”

Love isn’t blind

“I didn’t realize that love was this complicated,” Trudy said soberly. “I thought it was just wonderful feelings about someone else that made you want to be with him all the time.”

“That’s what most of the world has thought, honey. That’s why there’s so much unhappiness. People base their decisions on feelings only. But, as the actress said, love isn’t blind. You have to think with your head as well as feel with your heart. And you have to think first. I did, and I’ve had a life long love affair ever since.”

Trudy gave her mother an appreciative hug. “Can I borrow your list for a while so I can make one of my own? Then I guess I’d better see how I measure up!” she added, smiling.” I guess it would be unfair to expect more from someone else than I am willing to give myself.

“Thanks, Mom. That movie star, and you, sure gave good advice!”

Anne Elliot ‘Youth’

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