What does real love look like in real life? Deep, satisfying, joyful love isn’t magic. It requires attention and intention to keep it thriving. 

Don’t get me wrong…it’s AWESOME and worth the effort, but it doesn’t just “happen” as depicted in movies or romance novels. The representations of “true” love in our cultural narratives are not always accurate or helpful. From fairy tales to love songs, there’s a lot of misinformation about what it’s supposed to feel like when you meet “the one” and ride off into the sunset together.

In this week’s episode, I’m sharing the top 10 traits of Real Love.

First, let’s get some clarity on what real love is not. 

Real Love Is Not:

…pervasive jealousy 

…being controlled (or in control)

…walking on eggshells

…being afraid of being judged

…worrying about what your partner is going to do or say

…being someone’s possession or possessing someone else

…feeling like you can’t live without them (or vice versa)

…deeply believing someone else ‘completes’ you

A healthy love relationship is one where both partners feel safe to show up as the fullest expression of themselves. There is a shared goal of interdependency. Healthy, loving relationship dynamics are cultivated over time. I am obsessed with healthy love (Y’all know, as a love and relationship expert, it is actually my fave topic and my job). So although I could talk about it forever, I will restrain myself and share my top 10 traits of REAL love.

Real Love Looks Like:

  1. Respect

This means appreciating and respecting each other’s differences. Even when you disagree, you hold one another in high regard and can agree to disagree. There is respect and reverence in the way you communicate with and about each other, even in conflict. You assume the best of one another. 

  1. Acceptance

You each accept one another’s weaknesses and strengths. You can let go of preconceived notions of how your partner “should” behave or what they “should” believe and accept them for who they really are. To clarify, this is not to say you should accept demeaning or abusive behavior. (Please don’t.)

  1. Trust

Jealousy and possessiveness are often romanticized in movies and even in

some cultures, but the truth is that chronic or extreme jealousy is toxic and

indicates insecurity. Trust is essential to a healthy, durable relationship that will last the test of time. Real love is built on trust that each of you can count on the other to be honest and uphold your agreements. 

  1. Equity

A sustainable love relationship has an equity of power. Each person feels empowered and trusts that the other won’t use that power to manipulate or hurt them. In real love, being intimate and voluntarily vulnerable does give your partner power over you, in a sense and in a healthy dynamic, neither party abuses that power. 

  1. Choice

Choosing to be in the relationship because you WANT to be with that person, not necessarily because you NEED that person. Healthy, lasting love looks like CHOOSING your person, every day. 

  1. Effort + Intention

Have you ever heard the saying “love is a verb”? I couldn’t agree more. Love isn’t just a feeling, it’s about what you DO and how you behave. Real love is about your actions. It is consciously making choices to be a positive force in their life. It is supporting the dreams they have for themselves and celebrating their successes. This level of support requires mindful effort and intention. 

  1. Effective Communication

For healthy love to thrive, effective communication skills are absolutely mandatory. It is essential to learn how to talk true and voice your preferences, needs, and desires inside of your relationship. It’s not about asking for permission, it’s about being partners. 

Real love partners communicate regularly and discuss the big and the small stuff – you don’t make massive unilateral decisions that will affect both people in the relationship, without talking about it. Effective communication is clear, open, and honest. It’s a skill set you can learn together, so I’ve tucked some resources on communication inside this week’s downloadable cheat sheet for you, and you can grab that right here.

  1. Sense of Unity

Real love has a sense of ‘us’. You are a team living a shared life. This doesn’t mean you aren’t still separate, full people, but it does mean there is a shift from “what’s good for me” to “what’s good for us”.

Everything you do is done with consideration for what impact it may have on your relationship. It’s not about controlling what someone else does, or being afraid to act on your own – it’s about prioritizing the relationship. 

  1. Empathy

You feel for where your partner is at, whether they are in pain, seeking your advice, or just need to vent. It doesn’t mean you must 100% understand exactly what your partner is going through, but you can always care about how they feel. 

Real love means both partners have the right to feel the way they feel and they can turn to one another knowing that empathy and caring are there. 

  1. Remorse

It’s critical to have the flexibility within a relationship to be sorry – to be able to apologize, and for your partner to accept that and not endlessly punish you or throw your mistakes back in your face. Real Love makes room to be sorry and to be forgiven. Remorse means you can readily admit when you are wrong and when your partner is right. 

Remember: changed behavior is the best apology.

So there you have it, my top 10 traits of real healthy love! Real love isn’t about some magical, effortless thing that only happens when the stars align. 

I hope this gave you some clarity around what IS possible and what it takes to cultivate a true partnership. I’ve created a little cheat sheet for you with more resources on Real Love, and you can download that right here

You deserve to create deep, lasting love in your life and if that’s what your heart’s desire is, I am thrilled to let you know about my newest non-challenge (‘cause this year was challenging enough)! 

My Raise Your Love Vibe 2021 Kickstart is a FREE, therapeutically-based training to help you (single or partnered) intentionally curate + attract some next level love in 2021! Here’s the link to save your spot. 

Have an amazing, love-filled week and as always take care of you.

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  1. Dr. Cole,
    I really enjoyed your video with Dr. Rosenberg.
    Do you have any resources for a married woman to use to help her love and accept herself so that even though or when she doesn’t feel like she’s getting proper love and acceptance from her husband, she’ll be okay and not sad, lonely, unaccepted, and depressed? I’m really struggling right now. Thank you!

  2. Thank you so much Terri, and Happy Holidays. I continue to integrate these important qualities into my new relationship with Adam. I am so grateful that we both realize why these matters are important because we have both experienced relationships that failed miserably because there was a lack of open communication, or respect and empathy missing from those past relationships. We both enjoy each other’s company and want to be the best we can be for each other. The cheat sheets help me bring up topics that we can discuss, so we have a better understanding of each other.

    1. Right on, Yvonne!! I love that you’re able to have open and empathic communication with your partner, and you’re able to use the cheat sheets as a jumping off point to continue the conversation. I’m cheering you on! ❤️

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