By Nina Rubin


“You remind me of everything that followed.”
~ Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

“Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it empowers us to develop courage; to trust that courage and build bridges with it; to trust those bridges and cross over them so we can attempt to reach each other.”

~ Maya Angelou

How do you know?

What does it feel like? Is it real? Will it last?

LOVE. Love. love.

There are so many variables, circumstances, descriptions, scenarios.

The best feeling is when it’s fresh, the most comfortable feeling is when it’s right, the worst feeling happens when it’s ending, and it’s downright tragic when it’s unrequited.

There are so many types, flavors, ways, and people to love.

One of my dear clients, a young woman in her early 20’s, has recently fallen in love. This is different from other experiences of love that she’s had. She is so happy talking about the musician she met at a concert, someone who is passionate about his music and is more expressive than anyone she’s known. She loves his openness and honesty, which has made her feel safe.

One of my best friends, after years of working around the clock and pursuing professional success without time or energy for love, has recently been reunited with a man with whom she had one date a decade or more ago. She has quickly grown to love him and think of a future together.

Actually, my friend mentioned here is someone I’ve basically grown up with, even though we have not lived together since our Freshman year of college. She is an amazing, brave, practical, hard-working, neurotic, precise, beautiful woman with a heart of gold and an impeccable mind. She has devoted her life to saving lives, as she’s a pediatric surgeon with years of practice and education under her belt. This woman, my dear friend, is someone who has faced hardship with her chin up and has taught me the value of hard work.

She’s relentless in her pursuit of excellence and persistence.

We rarely get to see each other, so when I learned that we’ll both be in the same place in a few weeks, I cried. In addition to getting to see her, I’ll have the wonderful opportunity to meet her new beloved, a man who sounds loving and caring. He sounds perfect for her. I wish nothing more than absolute happiness for them as they develop a loving relationship.

Additionally, I now understand the profound feeling of deep, trusting love that just doesn’t go away, but builds and grows over time. I have deep, unconditional love for my friends, and know how different that is from love for a romantic parter. In the romantic sense, I wish to build a life with someone, to know and accept the deep intricacies of his psyche.

What does love feel like?

The words I use are sticky, sweet, heavy, profound, intimate, trusting. My clients say they feel accepted, googly and fluttery. A few friends say love feels fast, addictive, scary, powerful and all-encompassing. It’s hard to dilute love into mere words when the feelings take over. Playing it “cool” is virtually impossible when falling in love, and taking it slowly can require real work.

How do you know when it’s love?

I used to feel so frustrated when people would tell me “you just know.” Because I’d ask what will I know? And then I met someone who felt so right that I just knew. He became my emotional home. This feeling made me realize I could be myself, no questions asked, unconditionally. I was not too much, too big, or not enough. Those insidious doubts went away. Getting to know him was simple, exciting, fun. There was life to live, brighter shades of green grass and blue skies. When we are together, the smiles come readily, easily and I don’t stop laughing.

There are so many types of real love. There’s friendship, both long-term and new. There’s parental love. There’s pet love. I’m sure I’m missing others, so please share your experiences below in comments. What I do know is that in each of these situations, I’m extraordinarily grateful for the people I love and those who return the feelings. I know acceptance is huge in all of them.

Is it real?

My client and I brainstormed on this question and came up with this: When you’re in love, it’s real now. And the immediacy—or nowness—may be transitory but it also could be forever. It changes with circumstances and depth of intimacy. It’s real, tangible in your heart.

Will it last?

Love lasts until it doesn’t. It’s one of those feelings that happens when we choose to let it in, and it also chooses us. In my opinion, to love deeply, we have to be open to loving. We must decide everyday to love and see goodness in someone else. When we decide to criticize or find faults within someone, the love chips away. Love is about timing, chemistry and willingness. Hopefully it’s a shared experience full of laughter and honesty, acceptance, empathy, delight and wonder.

Timing, willingness and chemistry are so subjective.

None of them can be forced or made to fit if they’re not already there. I’ve certainly had my share of would-be love when one of us wasn’t in the right place, didn’t want to try, or we weren’t attracted to each other.

And just when I nearly gave up, love returned and hope was regained, sparkles came back to my eyes, and butterflies flew in my stomach.


Photo: blackswandive/tumblr

Editor: Dana Gornall