Real Love vs. The Fake Stuff

Tonja Weimer

With a Masters in Human Development, Tonja is an columnist, coach, speaker and author. Her latest book 'Thriving After Divorce', offers insight on how to become a better person and getting through after a break up.

Do you know the difference between real and counterfeit love?  Just like any counterfeit object or characteristic, it can be tricky to know and identify the real from the fake.  Sometimes, even experts can’t tell what is genuine and what is not.
The fake stuff resembles the real thing in many aspects.  The facade can look exactly like the true article.  Hollywood sets with their cardboard exteriors are good examples of that.  So when it comes to falling in love, if the object of your affection looks good, sounds reasonable, and seems to feel the same way you do, you may not get it that she is not what you think she is. 
Even your friends and family could be fooled.  You may hear people say, “You two are just the perfect couple.  You are so lucky to have found each other!”  People will often give you the opinion you want to hear.  So you have to be aware of the red flags when you meet someone.  When you combine chemistry with hope, loneliness, and longing, you might not be able to see if the love is real or not.
What are the defining characteristics that can signal to you what is real and what is fake?  What are the warning signs that you need to pay attention to?  Essentially, the fake love fades away or evaporates quickly when the chemistry wears off.  But love endures, showing up in the actions and deeds of the two people. 
Here are the signs of fake love:
1.    Time
Fake love, which is chemistry only, lasts anywhere from three weeks to a year and a half… and then disappears.  Real love loses the immediacy of the chemical rush, but retains chemistry while it grows deeper and calmer.  The onset of both kinds of love is marked by obsession.  For a period of time, the two people in love cannot think about anything but the other one.  They may lose weight, lose sleep, and lose all concept of time.  Nothing else exists for them except the other person.  When this chemical high wears off, the true picture of the person emerges.  This can take some time.
2.    Projection
Fake love is based primarily on physical intimacy and what two people assume about each other.  They can see no problems; they cannot see characteristics that may create disharmony in the future; they cannot imagine any imperfections in the other one.  Idealized qualities, lives built on fantasy, and a perfect future together is all they can think about.  Each one insists that the other one is the greatest person they have ever met.  The problem is, they haven’t really MET each other yet.  They are relating to their idealized version. When this cyclone of projection comes to an end and the dust settles, the true person will stand before them.  Then they can see each other through a clear lens and decide if they are right for each other. 
3.    Fairy Tales
Counterfeit love feeds off of the stuff of fairy tales.  The women in the story want Prince Charming to swoop in and carry them off to the perfect life.  They will have riches, happiness, and love in a land where nothing ever goes wrong.  The man in the story, who felt like a frog, gets kissed by the princess and feels handsome, brave, and dashing.  When two people get together and fall into the chemical cocktail, they may unconsciously believe this stylized version of life.  When the chemicals wear off, they may discover they like each other, in which case, real love can develop.  Or— the chemicals become toxic, the guy goes back to being a frog, and she takes off the tiara.
4.    The Future
When two people meet and fall into chemistry, they may begin to plan their future together within weeks.  Their “real” selves are not talking to each other here— it’s their counterfeit selves that can’t be trusted to make clear decisions.
What does REAL love look like?  Fake love involves conflict, drama, and pain, once the chemistry wears off. Real love evolves into service, thought, care, and sincere emotions for the other.  Real love is shown in loving acts – over and over – with no one keeping score.  Real love responds to the needs of the other, flowing effortlessly from one day to the next.
Real love happens when two people honor each other’s values, standards, and purpose.  They don’t just talk about it, however.  They live it.  They “do” love.

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  • bigspenda says
    Real love is great and if you really got on well beautiful but working togeither in business it really pushes your love to the limit and can either make or break your relationship besides you can not be lovey dovey all the time .
  • Cinty says
    Even so, fake love and real love have similar characteristics and like mentioned, can make it hard to distinguish.
    Real love is when your partner takes your son on as his own before he's even born.
    Real love is having your partner tell you you're beautiful every day.
    Real love is wanting to wake up next to your SO and make sure they're the last thing you see before you go to sleep at night.
  • Lauren says
    Very interesting.
  • Wice says
    I believe that no matter how much you love your partner, the greatest love most women experience is their unconditional love for their children - the total wonder that they exist because of you. No matter what they do, how they look, you always love them, want them to be happy and most of all, want only what is best for them.
    • KH says
      Do you think people who decide not to have kids really miss out on this special sort of unconditional love? Or never quite know what it is like?
      • flowery3 says
        I dont believe so myself. I may not have children, but I have much love for others, and for the world. Its not conditional on who shares my DNA...
      • Wice says
        Yes, I do think that they miss out (for better or for worse). I know that there are some Mums who for whatever reason, don't bond with their children. However, for the vast majority that do, there would be few Mums that would save their drowning husbands over their drowning child. A child is part of you, your flesh and blood, so it's a bit like loving yourself. I just don't think that depth of feeling is possible with a partner. There are always conditions. I believe that the love you have for your children goes beyond anything superficial and is the most honest, selfless love you can experience. It is undemanding and exists regardless or any tradeoff.
        • flowery3 says
          AS I said above, I don't think we DO miss out. You see love for your children as unconditional, and that's a good perspective for me to think on as someone without children. Those of us without children are not without love. We love without the basic biological drive that ensures parents love their offspring. I feel I truly love freely and unconditionally.
        • Anna says
          awww hehe me and my partner fall into the real love part =)
        • Wice says
          I hope I can write this in a way I would like to. The point I am making is that people fall in and out of love whether they want to or not. Even if you are no longer ‘in love’ but have found a deep love with your partner, there are always expectations. With the joys are disappointments and little things that can whittle away at your relationship. People grow and change. Outside factors can and do affect relationships. I love my husband deeply, but I am under no illusion there are things he does which, if I let them, could chisel away at my feelings for him – and no doubt vice versa.

          Either of us could wake up one morning realising that enough is enough. Hubbie might find he just doesn’t like what I have become, despite his love for me. This might be because I have changed or he has changed, or maybe we have just woken up to what matters to us as we go through different phases of life. It’s only one more step to find we not only don't like each other, but we realise we don’t love each other any more. I am under no illusion that if for some reason, either of us chose to behave in certain ways which betrayed our trust or made us lose our respect for each other, we would part. The mirror would be shattered. There are always limits to what we will accept from a partner. Our love is conditional whether we like it or not.

          Sometimes the trigger for marriage breakdown comes from one side only, sometimes on both. It is a daily occurrence. Almost as often as couples get married and pledge their undying love, other couples’ relationships break down or fade away.

          On the other hand children can be utterly horrible - as tinies, teens or adults. They can disappoint you and do things you find hard to understand. They can be annoying. They can be disrespectful. They may eat, dress and speak in a way you don’t like. They can hold entirely different views on the world from you. They might commit crime, get hooked on drugs, live a life for which you have no respect. However, you still love them no matter how much you hate what they might do or the trouble they might get into. Even if you can’t cope with their behaviour, you still wish them happy and fulfilling lives – not because you will gain from this, but for their own sakes. You would do anything to help them. You soar with their successes. You never feel jealous. You accept their weaknesses along with their strengths. You would die for them. You also feel enormous pride when they go out into the world to do their own thing, even though you know you are losing part of them. Love is.

          In contrast, those who have long, loving marriages, whether with a soul-mate partner or not, will be the first to tell you that it takes real commitment, compromise and hard work to keep it going. You have to consciously work at love in marriage. It is like a flame that must be continually fed. Your love for your children is more like the sun. It simply and inescapably exists!
        • Bernadette says
          ^ Wise words Wice! I strongly agree with the first paragraph. Lots of interesting things have been said here!
        • flowery3 says
          Perhaps that's one of the many reasons I don't want children, I don't want to love someone just because of the DNA they contain, to be forced to love someone because of biology and evolution, no matter what they do or who they are. That feels more like slavery than love to me - like saying you dont CHOOSE to love your children. I dont want my parents to be proud of me because I am their daughter, but truly proud of the things I have done, and said, and been, and who I really am. That gives me something to work towards. For me, my love is given freely, but consciously. I aim not not only love the lovely people, the ones that are easy to love. I strive to find the lovable parts of anybody I meet. Sometimes I do better than others at this. But my love for folk is NOT conditional on whether they are related to me or not. And I believe that that love, given freely, not biologically engendered, is truly the REAL DEAL. Love means something because you choose to give it.
        • Wice says
          I guess I’m not very good at this; in response, I’ll try again flowery3…

          Not slavery, a mother’s love for her child is an absolutely incredible, wonderful gift. It’s total, unselfish, undemanding love. It can’t be measured. It's certainly not something you decide to do or not! You are not forced to love your children. No one makes you - often least of all, them! For the lucky majority, the love simply exists.

          I’m afraid I couldn’t imagine a world where children were loved by their parents only if they did well, if they always had to prove themselves in order to earn love. What would a baby or toddler have to do? Imagine what sort of society we would live in.

          All children need to feel loved, no matter what they are like or what they do. What’s more, it may start as a survival instinct but it’s through being loved that children learn to love. Sadly, those unfortunate children who are not loved, are more likely to be those we read about who end up in Starship Hospital or as juvenile offenders.

          I’m not saying for an instant that there are not other kinds of love as well - couples, families and kids wouldn’t exist otherwise. Romantic, platonic, spiritual love - none of these other relationships are based simply on a genetic connection. You may have a love of nature, of the earth, of mankind – but it is usually only the extremist or soldier who would be prepared to lay down their lives, as a mother would for her child, for these loves.

          I may be misunderstanding what you are saying, but the love you are talking about doesn’t’ seem like love at all to me. I’m not sure what it is. Love is an emotion. If you have to choose it, it is coming from the head, not come from the heart. It has no emotional basis. It is merely a calculated decision based on give and take . If you can find something , or enough about someone to please you, then you will give them your ‘love’. Maybe this love is kindness, friendship, affection, compatibility – but I can’t agree with you that it is love if you have to think about it before choose to give it.

          So back to the love ‘that makes the world go around’. A woman meets a man. She notes that he is kind and handsome… “I will choose to love this man” she decides. Then he kicks a dog. “No, I will choose not to love this man” she decides. The scenario may take a day or a decade to play but it’s still not love if it involves conscious decision making.

          As for a mother’s love for her child, maybe it is something that you need to experience to comprehend - like joy or pain. You might see millions of instances of it all over the world, but if you haven’t felt it yourself, well maybe it’s just too hard to believe in magic!

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