A Guide to help Youth find True Love
Rishon and Gayatri began dating when they were both sixteen. She was a pretty with curly hair; he was a tall football player. From the time they started dating, neither had ever gone out with anyone else. They began to talk dreamily of marriage when they were both in college. But Rishon had a secret he never shared with Gayatri.
Rishon and Gayatri often went out with Rishon’s best friend, Jitesh, and his girlfriend, Amruta. The four seemed to have a special bond, a close relationship that forged ties not only between Rishon and Jitesh but between all four of them. Rishon and Gayatri married at twenty-two on the weekend after Rishon’s graduation. Jitesh and Amruta married the summer before.
Though the couples seldom saw each other after high school, a bond existed that neither Gayatri, Amruta, or Jitesh knew about until Rishon announced to Gayatri that he was leaving her less than eight months after their wedding. Rishon explained to his new wife that seven years ago – at about the time he and Gayatri has begun dating – he had fallen in love with Amruta, the girl who was now his best friend’s wife.
“I care for you,” he told Gayatri. “But Amruta is the one I love. . . always have.” Rishon had never dated Amruta. He had never before expressed his love for her. “But I’m going to do that now.” he said. “I don’t expect her to leave Jitesh. I just have to tell her how I feel, in person. And I have to be around her. I can’t live without her.”
Problem of Finding True Love
Everyone wants it. Without it, life would be, at best incomplete – at worst, desperate. The yearning to give and receive love throbs in the heart of everyone, male and female alike.
People try in many different ways to discover true love, real love, a love that is strong and deep, a love that lasts for all time. Yet the pursuit of love has caused more heartache and pain, more brokenness and bitterness, than all the diseases and all the wars in history.
Many young people struggle mightily to understand what love is and how they can find it. Many are willing to give almost anything in order to experience love, particularly from someone of the opposite sex. To many teens, love does make the world go ’round. Yet many – far too many – set themselves up for heartache, disappointment, and tragic miscalculations and mistakes because they lack a clear understanding of what love is – and what it isn’t.
Causes of Not Finding True Love
Teens Don’t Know What Love Is
So many teens are making trying tragic mistakes – some of them over and over again, like Rishon. Very often the reason behind such mistakes is the fact that teens (like many adults) don’t really know what love is; they confuse real love with other experiences and emotions. Consequently, they have no basis on which to evaluate the relationship they pursue and the decisions they make in search of real love.
Many public school “sex ed” courses teach kids the mechanics of sex; some even teach kids how to apply condoms. Movies stars and social media influencer make public service announcements to warn kids to practice what they call “safer sex.” Politician, public school or stars don’t tell young people what they most need and most want to hear – and what will be most effective in saving them from disappointment and disease – and that is realistic understanding of true love – what it is and what it isn’t.
What Love Isn’t?
Real Love Isn’t the Same As Lust.
Rock singer Jon Bon Jovi made an insightful observation when he said, “[Today’s] songs are about lust, not love.” Lust and Love are often confused in our minds, in our music, in our movies, in our magazines – in our whole culture, in fact. But love is much different from lust.
Love gives; lust takes. Love endures, lust subsides.
Real Love Isn’t the Same As Romance.
Some couples experience emotional fireworks when they kiss. Some guys can speak words that make a girl feel good inside. Some girls can make guy feel taller and stronger that anyone else just by looking into his eyes. Candlelight dinners, mood music, slow dances, and starry skies can make a moment special. Romance can be wonderful, but it’s not love.
Romance is a feeling; real love is much more.
Real Love Isn’t the Same As Infatuation.
Infatuation is a fascination with – an intense interest in – someone of the opposite sex, it can leave a young man or woman feeling breathless, lightheaded, starry-eyed, and addled brained! Author Joyce Huggett describes infatuation as:
……usually thoroughly “me centered” rather than “other centered.” You fall for someone; you trick yourself into believing yourself deeply in love with this person round whom your dreams revolve, you believe yourself ready to renounce your absorption with self for the sake of the well-being of this other person. Then, one morning, you wake up to discover that the euphoria has evaporated in the night. What is more, you find yourself held captive by identical feelings for another person.
When people talk about “falling in love” or about “love at first sight,” they are usually talking about infatuation.
Infatuation can be an overwhelming feeling, but it is not real love.
Real Love Isn’t the Same As Sex.
Many teens (and many adults as well) confuse the intensity of sex with intimacy of love.
However, the two are distinct. Love is a process; sex is an act. Love is learned; sex is instinctive. Love requires constant attention; sex takes no effort. Love takes time to develop and mature; sex needs no time to develop. Love requires emotional and spiritual interaction; sex requires only physical interaction. Love deepens a relationship; sex (operating alone) dulls a relationship.
Real love is not the same as lust, romance. infatuation, or sex.
What Love Is
“How do I know if I’m in love?” That question is vital to a teenager. It assumes a critical and urgent importance in the hearts and minds of young people. The question is made harder to answer by the fact that few people – adolescents or adults – know what real love is.
Just as many confuse love with lust, romance, infatuation, or sex, many also are unaware that there are really three kinds of “love,” three ways of behaving that people routinely label as “love:
Love If . . .
The first type of love is the only kind many people have ever known. It’s what I call “love if.” It’s the love that is given or received when certain conditions are met. One must do something to earn this kind of love:
“If you are a good child, Pappa will give you his love”
“If you get good grades . . .”
“If you act or dress a certain way . . . “
“If you meet my expectations as a lover . . .”
“If you have sex with me . . . “
The love is offered in exchange for something the lover wants. Its motivation is basically selfish. Its purpose is to gain something in exchange for love.
Many young women know no other type of love than the love than the one which says, “I will love you if you will ‘put out.'” What they don’t realize is that the love they expect to win from someone by meeting his sexual demands is a cheap love that can’t satisfy and is never worth the price.
Love if . . . always has strings attached
As long as the conditions are met, things are fine. When there is reluctance – to meet expectations, to have sex, to get an abortion – the love is withdrawn.
Many marriages break up because they were built on this kind of love. When the expectations cease to be met, “love if” often turns to disappointment and resentment and, tragically, the person involved may never know why.
Love Because of . . .
The second type of love is “love because of . . .” In this type of love, the person is loved because of something he or she is, has, or does. This kind of love reflects attitudes, usually unexpressed, such as:
“I love you because you’re so beautiful.”
“I love you because you’re rich.”
“I love you because you give me security.”
“I love you because you’re so funny.”
This love may sound pretty good. We want to be loved for what we are and what we do, right? It’s certainly preferable to the “if” kind of love. The “if” kind of love has to be earned constantly, and it requires a lot of effort. Having someone love us because of what we are and what we do seems less demanding, less conditional.
But what happens when someone comes along who is prettier? Or funnier? Or wealthier? What happens when we get older or lose a prestigious job? If such things are the reason another person loves us, that love is temporary and very weak.
There’s another problem with “because of” love. It’s found in the fact that most of us are two types of people; we display a “public self,” the person everyone knows, but we often hide our “private self,” the deep-down-inside person that few others, if any, really know. The man or woman who is loved “because of” a certain trait or quality will most likely be afraid to let the other person know what he or she is really like deep down inside . . . for fear that, if the truth were known, he or she would be less accepted, less loved, or may be rejected altogether. Much of the love we know in our lives is of this kind, uncertain and impermanent.
The third kind of love is as uncommon as it is beautiful. It is love without conditions. This love says, “I love you in spite of what you may be like deep down inside. I love you no matter what might change about you. You can’t do anything to turn off my love. I love you, PERIOD!
“Love, period” isn’t blind love. It can know a great deal about the other person. It can know the person’s shortcomings. It knows the other’s faults, yet it totally accepts that individual without demanding anything in return. There’s no way to earn this type of love. Neither can one lose it. It has no strings attached.
“Love, period” is different from “love if” in that it doesn’t require certain conditions to be met before love is given. “Love, period” is different from “love because of” in that it isn’t produced by some attractive quality in the person who is being loved.
“Love period” is a giving relationship. It’s all about giving. The other two kind of love are all about getting.
Response to the Problem of Finding True Love
A concerned youth worker, teacher, or parent can help a young man or woman understand true love by pursuing the following plan:
Encourage the young person to put his or her concept of love into words. Ask questions like:
- What is true love?
- Have you ever been “in love”?
- How do you think a man or woman know if he or she is in love?
- What do you think being in love feels like or looks like?
Keep in mind the fervor and urgency with which most teenagers approach love issues. Talking about love will probably not be a primarily intellectual or educational exercise for a teen; it will more likely be viewed with the intensity and urgency most adults reserve for life-and-death situations. The empathetic adult will be careful not to dismiss a young person’s feelings on this subject but will take the youth seriously and address him or her carefully.
The tragic mistakes many teens make are a result, not only of not knowing how to give true love, but of not receiving a love that is accepting, affirming, and unconditional (particularly from a parent). Parents and other adults who are concerned for youth must strive to communicate acceptance, affirmation, affection, and appreciation to them at every opportunity.
Take every opportunity to model concept of true love to the young people in your life; let them see you love someone whose happiness, health and growth is as important to you as your own. Pray with youth about their love lives, encourage them to involve God in their search for true love. Seek “teachable moments” (shows, the “soap opera” of relationships at school/college, the behavior of couples in public, etc.) to communicate the concept of true love to the young people in your life so they will know what they are looking for in relationships and be more likely to recognize it when it occurs. Share the content of this article, not just once, but repeatedly.
Enlist the young person’s participation in evaluating relationships, perhaps using the following 10 questions proposed by Barry St. Clair and Bill Jones in order to determine if a relationship reflects mature love:
- Can we be honest with each other?
- Do we accept each other completely?
- Do we have our parent’s approval?
- Do we have control over our sex lives?
- Do we share common values?
- Can we handle disagreements?
- Can we handle being apart?
- Are we really friends?
- Are we “whole people”?
- Am I willing to commit myself for life?
Healthy attitude about love cannot be developed in a school class or even a weekend youth groups; they require involvement of and an ongoing commitment from youth’s parents and other significant adults in his or her life. Cooperation among the principal influences in a teen’s life is vital to the development of strong, healthy concepts and conviction about love.
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Bijo Joseph is the founder of Bijoyful Foundation, a faith-based NGO (reg. 357152/sec. 8 co.) that aims to deliver positive changes in the lives of young people troubled with adverse mental health, addiction or other life challenges through range of strength-based, recovery, livelihood programs and support offered by counsellors, social workers and volunteers. He has youth leadership experience of 17 years and with educational foundation from TISS, Mumbai & IIM Calcutta.