Love is empathy
One of the signs is a comfort people feel when they are together. They also can feel bad being apart. "I love him very much but he’d better be away" is not a loving attitude. But even this sign is questionable since it’s not always clear if you love your partner or the enjoyment you get from your relations.
To me, the reliable characteristic of love was given by the Apostle Paul who said, "Rejoice with them that rejoice and weep with them that weep". When a joy of someone becomes your joy, when everything that makes someone happy makes you happy too and his /her pain is your pain then there is love. I would say that on a more basic level, love is empathy; on a higher level it is a case when someone else’s life becomes your life. Everything related to this person touches you to the most of your heart.
In a classical literature and in daily life we often can see this kind of situations when people believe they love each other, even suffer being separated for a while. But at the same time, their closeness to each other can occur just in some small part of their lives and in all the rest people can be almost strangers to each other. Say, a guy might start talking of something and a girl gets bored; or a girl has some worries and a guy considers them to be unimportant. One of them may even make fun of something that is of great importance to the other. I think this is a dangerous sign.
How can you tell if this is a person you can spend the rest of your life with? I don’t know such criteria. The only advice I can give is take your time, there is no rush to get married. You have to gain some experience of communicating with each other first. A thousand-year practice when people engaged before marriage was very reasonable. Possible partners had to study each other for quite a while, maybe for a few months. You’d better spend some time together being involved in each other’s lives, say, for at least half a year, physical intimacy excluded of course.
Some people think that a couple should have close relations in all respects. As for me, I keep telling that intimate relations in their full extent must wait until after marriage. If people spend a sufficient amount of time together, 6 months is usually enough for them to understand each other and show their worth in everyday situations.
Igor Gagarin, archpriest
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