True Love: Does It Even Exist? What Is It Anyway?

A couple in true love, laughing and cuddling on the couch.

Do you believe in ‘true love’? As I mull the question over in my head, my instinctual answer is a resounding yes. I’m a romantic tried and true. In fact, The Notebook is playing in the background as I write this to set the mood. I’ve forged a career in studying love, sex, and relationships because I’m that drawn to the mystery surrounding these subjects. Wars have started and stopped for love. Political movements have been inspired by it. There are songs, paintings, and books dedicated to it. So what is love? And what makes it true?

Love is an overwhelming feeling that can be platonic or romantic. It is caring deeply for someone or yourself. In the romantic sense, it is finding a lover and a friend. This feeling can feel like getting struck by lightning (in a good way.) The way I’ve experienced it was a complete shot to the heart. Meeting someone’s eyes and, in an instant, knowing there’s something meaningful between the two of you.

When I asked my mom what her definition of true love is, she told me that all love is true. In that instant my heart swelled. There is an aspect of selflessness that accompanies love. Again, this could be the love you have for you romantic partner, your parent or sibling, a friend, or even a pet or plant you keep around the home. In caring for something other than yourself you are truly honoring it. This kind of respect sets the foundation for any healthy relationship.

It doesn’t even have to be between two people. True love can be embracing the gifts we (as individuals) are given; to be aligned with who you are and what you’re doing. True love is showing kindness to those around us. Thus, bearing witness to ourselves and others. It’s living our life with intention and purpose. We also see this translating as self-love.

When we take care of ourselves like we do our loved ones, we prioritize our mental, emotional, and physical health. By being our best selves and nurturing our growth we prepare our hearts and minds to connect with others. As the saying goes, “you cannot love without loving yourself.” Self-love might be the truest form of love there is. When we are unkind to ourselves and put ourselves down, we feed into the lie that we are not worthy of love. Every human is deserving of love and has the potential to create it, first, within themselves.  

We have to let love unfold. True love is letting go and letting people be; accepting your partner for who they are. It gives up expectation and allows individuals to be seen, heard, and respected. It’s a reciprocation of one to the other; when you get what you’re giving. Acceptance. Trust. To be invested with dignity that represents something more than oneself. Being true to yourself and your partner. Dogs and babies are a great example—when you take care of them and treat them right, they give love back. You might miss out if you try to force love. What is meant for you, will be for you.   

Everyone has a different definition for love, and it’s important for each individual to define it for themselves.

Shelby Sells

I am a sexologist, writer, photographer, and cinematographer based in NYC. My work is centered around the intersection of love, sex and relationships. I aim to liberate sexual prowess through these mediums and educate my audience through emotional intelligence and awareness. I am finishing my degree in Psychology with a Human Sexuality focus.

Living in a society that lacks resources surrounding these topics, I believe it’s important to talk about how our identity, gender, sex, and love languages impact the relationship we have with ourselves and with the people around us. By opening the conversation around these intersections we can begin to eliminate fear and introduce love. I am excited to share this journey with you.

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