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What is True Love?
(or: do you just like or love?)

Many times here at CenterWeb we get asked the same question "how do I get someone to date me", or "I really like someone...". Sure, we can give advice about it and what people might be able to do, but a lot of the time I get the feeling that people don't really know what love actually is...

I grew up, and like all young kids, fancied a few girls. That's normal: when you're about 10 it all seems very alien and everyone thinks it's very funny if a guy talks to a girl. Then as I got older I began to think about things more seriously. Once or twice I met girls which I thought I liked... Now when I say "liked", it was the feeling that I was really embarrassed to talk to them, because I didn't want to look like an idiot in front of them... Everyone knows that feeling. You're never quite sure what to say, and things always seem to go wrong when you're with them and trying to impress them. Well, I never told any of them about my fancying them, so that was that. I grew a bit older and started to like a girl who I'd known for some years, but had never really paid much attention to. That was hard. Over the 4 years that I liked her I was always trying to be with her and yet I never talked to her (too scared!), never went out with her, even sometimes avoided her! OK, this is a bit of a special case: few people go this far liking someone and then not saying anything. But anyway... one time someone got to hear about how I liked her and it was spread all over the school. That was hard on me, and I guess it was hard on her too. Well, that died down, but I still liked her. Very few people know what months of this are like: always wondering about how to tell her, what she would say... I never did. Then someone got to hear about it all again, and her best friend got to know and told her. In the end she called me and told me I was pathetic. I don't blame her... ;-). So then I was left "free" again, not knowing what or who was next, and wondering about it all. Sure, I was a Christian, so I'd prayed about it all, and asked God to make it clear what he wanted me to do. And then that had happened. He'd made it clear, but in a way I wasn't really expecting!

Like and Love: At this point I'll interrupt my story to try and let you know what I'm talking about: my problem was that my "liking" that girl was nothing like what real love is! When someone gets a crush on someone else, it's very likely that they've seen them a couple of times and thinks that they're good looking, and therefore want to be with them. Many think that they've found love at first sight. I admit that some people do (I don't know any of them personally), but for the vast majority that isn't the way things work. For me the "liking" made me feel lonely, apprehensive, and kept me wondering all the time. I'm not a naturally timid person, I like to talk to people, but liking that girl meant that I was so apprehensive that I wouldn't even talk to her (which kind of negated the point!!). When you "fall" for someone, think about this: do you actually know them very well? Are they more than just a friend? Why do you love them?

Love isn't about sex. That's a common misconception: many girls have told me that the reason they will sleep with a guy is to hear them say, "I love you". The guys therefore say it to get sex. Kind of sad really. Sex comes as a consequence of intimate love in marriage (see the article on sex before marriage), and is the highest expression of love that there can ever be between two people. Love comes from sharing and caring for each other. True love is not about liking someone: it's about spending time together, caring about each other, and telling each other everything because you trust each other. If you can't trust someone enough to tell something to, when you think you're in love with them, then it isn't real love. When you love someone, it's not something that hits you like lightening, and you go "wow, I really like this guy/girl", but instead you gradually feel closer to them. If it is true love, then both of you will have the same love for each other. As I said, love isn't about sex or appearance, but the person inside, and how much more than just a friend they are.

So what's my point? I don't think that when you think you "like" someone and they just treat you like a normal friend and nothing more that you're heading for true love. Bear with me, and read on...

And then... Just under a year ago, I was on a Christian team, about 1000 km (600 miles) from home. We were going round doing song and dance performances, and there were about 60 of us. The tour was 3 weeks long, and I got to know people very well through it. I got to know two girls particularly well, because I was translating for them for about 12 hours every day. So I became especially good friends with them. By the end of the three weeks I was spending a lot of my time with one of them, because we spoke the same language and therefore liked to talk together. When we said goodbye, she hugged me and said "I love you". Well, for most people that would have been normal: having been together for that amount of time there's nothing wrong with loving someone as a friend. She went back to her home about 3 hours plane flight away from mine, and we didn't really think that we'd got anything special in terms of a relationship other than we were good friends. Then we found out that in fact we were in love with each other. It wasn't something that had been obvious to us, and in fact we were a bit confused near the end of our time together about how we felt about each other, although neither of us said anything. So we started e-mailing each other. As it turned out leaders on the team had begun to think that there was something between us, although we never let that get in the way of our work. So... now, 1 and a half years later, we are truly in love with each other, despite being so far apart. We trust each other above anyone else, and each of us knows things about the other which we would never tell anyone else. We're honest with each other: there are no secrets between us, including stuff that is "bad". Our love is true, and it will always be growing stronger, day by day.

Many people would think we were crazy telling each other what we have, but it's led to a very strong relationship, which is what is needed. If you can honestly say that you can tell the person that you like everything, however embarrassing, that you've done, show them photos of you which you would never dare show anyone else, and above all care about them, then you have true love. Think about it.

So where does this true love come from? Well, I have to say that for our relationship it's only been through God that we ever first met and have been able to keep together ever since. The first time that we were able to see each other again after that team was 5 months later when I went to stay with her. That meant that the first time that were "properly" a couple, was also going to be me staying with her family for 10 days. Believe me, that's pretty daunting, wondering whether they'll approve, what they'll be like... I got there and it was absolutely amazing. I really felt part of their family, accepted. I don't accept that it could be a coincidence: it was God working to bring both of us together at the time when we needed each other most, and then allowing our families to not only accept us, but really like us too. It was the same when she came to visit my family and me. God was the only way in which this all could have happened so perfectly. The Bible says that all love comes from God, and I have a very concrete reason to believe that.

True love isn't about liking someone: it's much more. So think twice when you "like" someone. The chances are that it's not true love. Instead, wait for the right person, who will eventually come along. You probably won't realise it at first, and just be friendly with them. But one day you'll realise it, and if you can really be honest with each other, then you'll have a strong relationship, which in the end is what we all want, right? If you just try to make yourself look different when you see the person you like, then you don't have a lasting relationship: you have to be able to love someone wherever and whenever, whether you've just got up in the morning and look awful, or whether you look absolutely amazing when you're going out on a date.

Keep it in mind next time you're wondering how to get a boyfriend/girlfriend...