Every day we hear songs about the paradise of true love and pain of love gone wrong. How can you be sure, in advance, what real love is?

It feels so right, it can’t be wrong.”

“If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.”

“What is love, anyway?”

Hundreds of songs have been written about love, right and wrong, and the feelings that go with it. And for good reason. It’s a major part of life.

And right love, with the right person and at the right time, can bring a lot of happiness. But wrong love can bring a ton of trouble instead.

Right or wrong?

The story often goes something like this: A teenage girl of, say, 15, falls in love with an older guy of, say, 17. They feel so good about each other, so swept up with romance and love, that they do things that cause their parents concern.

They date steadily. They begin kissing and necking, and maybe more. Then one day they go further and have sex or run away and get married.

And why? Because they are in love – or are they? Their parents don’t usually think so. Arguments fly back and forth between parents and children about if it’s really love. Eventually everyone is confused and hurt.

Who is right? Or, stated another way, what is real love, and how do you know when you’re in it?

Even if you’re not in love now, someday you’ll want to know for sure whether what you are experiencing is real love. Your future happiness depends on it.

You need to be prepared!

The answer to the question of whether you are in love obviously depends on what real love is. But that is the problem. Most people, including most adults, simply don’t know what love is.

Love, as the Bible shows, is an outgoing concern for the one loved. It is a selfless desire to give of yourself for the benefit of the other.

Right love, with the right person and at the right time can bring a lot of happiness.
But wrong love can bring a ton of trouble instead.

But, even so, there are obviously different types of love. For example, you no doubt have a family love between you and your brothers and sisters (sure you may argue, but you still have that deep family bond). Also, you have strong feelings for your close friends that could also be called a type of love.

Romantic love

But in those cases the feelings you have are far different from your feelings about the girl or boy of your dreams. It seems that romantic love is much different from other kinds of love. Just what is this thing that is called romantic love?

First, let’s understand what it’s not. It is not the power surge of warmth people feel when they are near the person they think they love.

It is not the excitement, the rising pulse rate, the blushing, the dry mouth, the butterfly stomach or the perspiring brow of the person in love.

It is not daydreaming about the person when he or she is gone, or staring at the person when he or she is near. It is not the loss of appetite or of a girl thinking of her prince charming or a boy, his dream girl, it is none of these.

These things are merely physical and emotional responses and feelings. They are triggered by our body chemistry when we’re in the presence of a person of the opposite sex who is appealing.

They might be triggered by a good figure or body build. Or by a pretty or handsome face. Or by other things you are not even consciously aware of – but that still have the effect of causing excitement.

These things are just feelings. Happy, exciting, powerful feelings, yes. But just feelings, not love.

Feelings plus love

Romantic love is a lot more than just these feelings. It also includes something much deeper. That something is love as it was defined earlier-an unselfish outgoing concern toward the one loved.

So romantic love really isn’t that different from other kinds of real love. It includes the additional element of the romantic feelings mentioned above. But these feelings are not the love. The love isn’t just some surface thing that fades after a while. Love is much deeper.

But this is where many people go astray. They confuse the feelings and emotions of romance with love. Or, they decide that since they have the feelings of romance, they must also have love.

Believing that these feelings are a sure sign of love is a tragic mistake. Love can and should produce these feelings of romance, but these feelings can also exist without love. They can exist merely because the mind and body of one person react emotionally to the presence of another.

This is natural, for God intended romantic attraction to spark interest that eventually, if the people are compatible and old enough, might develop and grow into true love and lead to marriage. This takes time.

The qualities of love

Since romantic feelings do not ensure that it is real love, how can you know when it is real? What are the qualities of a real, right kind of love?

First, real love must be selfless.

A person with real love wants the best for the other person, not from him or her. Real love isn’t concerned with getting affection, gifts, attention or anything else from the person, but in trying to do what is really best for the one loved.

Second, real love survives troubles.

The type of love that comes and goes with the first misunderstanding is not love. It is just a passing romantic feeling.

Third, real love remains steady over time.

Right here is where many people planning marriage should stop and think. Something that has lasted only two months may not be based on love, because it has not yet proved itself. Love takes time to grow strong enough to last.

Fourth, although it is accompanied by romantic feelings, real love does not die out even when the first excitement of romance decreases

Many other things could be said about real love. It is such a deep subject that it takes years to understand fully. But too many people treat it lightly and end up with the kind of love that hurts – with broken romances, painful divorces, premarital pregnancies, miserable marriages.

How sad these results are, especially when you realize that waiting patiently for real love would have led to such tremendous happiness!

Avoiding the pitfalls

One thing that tends to complicate the matter is this. When you do become attracted to a person, the strong romantic feelings may so overwhelm you that you have great difficulty deciding whether you are reaIIy in love or not -even if you know what true love is.

And even if you can tell that it is real love, if you are still a teen, you probably should not get married yet because you haven’t had enough time to prepair before the awesome responsibilities of marriage.

Some people think that if you love someone you should marry him or her no matter what. But there must be a lot more to it than that. Are you spiritually, educationally, emotionally, financially and in every other way compatible and prepared for marriage?

Many people wonder how they can be sure that a particular person is compatible with them – that they’ve found the right one.

The best way is to get to know a lot of different people of the opposite sex and find out what types of personalities and characteristics you get along with best. Many unhappy marriages result from people narrowing down the field too soon.

You can avoid the pain of wrong love. Remember that feelings are not themselves love and can lead to pain if they are followed blindly.

But right feelings, backed up with right, true love, at the right time and with the right, compatible person, can be more right than just about anything else can be!

Bernard Schnippert ‘Youth’

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