Audio version read by Rev. Steven Lane Taylor, B.Msc.
And why is this such an important question? The reason is that love, above all else in life, is the single most important source of happiness, apart only from one’s relationship to God.
So many relationships and marriages end because one or both partners could not distinguish real love from imagined love. Real love is from the heart—from the very soul of a person—and it is lasting. In all relationships there are disagreements and bumps in the road in communication, but in the case of real love, such dips in a relationship do not diminish the love. Real love can override any temporary negativity between two people.
Sometimes a separation gives both parties the time needed to study their respective feelings, and come to the realization that the love they have shared is lasting. Yet, even under these conditions, love, or the feeling of love, can be deceptive if two people have formed a bond not of love, but of co-dependency.
Co-dependency exists where the needs of the two individuals keep them clinging to one another in a pretense that they are in love, when in truth, their togetherness is based on a need. These needs can include finances, health, caretaking, sexuality, emotional companionship, children, security, and more.
When asking yourself if it is real love or imagined love, the first thing to ask is whether the relationship is filling one or more needs. Next, if your needs are not being fulfilled, ask yourself whether you would still wish to be with that person based solely on the feeling you have for them. By feeling, you might include loving the other person’s inner nature, such as their spirituality and goodness, their warmth and humor, and their sensitivity to the real values of life over and beyond superficialities.
In other words, do you really love that person for his or her “self?” If you cannot honestly answer that you love someone for what they are within, then you are probably experiencing imagined love rather than real love.
Short-term imagined relationships or marriages are generally brought on by temporary infatuation with a person’s appearance, their position in life, financial security, fame, or power. It could also have to do with your own loneliness, sexual hunger, and financial insecurity—that is, the need to be looked after or taken care of. None of these short-term fantasy needs has anything whatsoever to do with real love. In determining whether it is real love or imagined love, you must be totally and completely honest with yourself.
A person’s needs can manufacture an imagined love that passes itself off as real love. Numerous people delude themselves into believing that they are in love with someone, so that their needs may be met. This is very sad because it leads to the eventual breakup of a relationship or marriage. Perhaps the saddest part about it is the time spent in an imagined love that could have been spent experiencing real love.
On the other side of the coin, it might be that a person has to experience one or more imagined loves in their life to finally come to an understanding of what real love truly is. One way to avoid this dilemma of imagined love—something based on need rather than love—is to turn everything regarding your needs over to God.
Begin to think of God as the source for supplying your needs. Adopt an attitude that you look to God, not another person, to supply your needs. If a real relationship exists between you and God, then God will supply your needs, leaving you free from trying to fulfill those needs through another person.
Grow in spiritual maturity and realize that there is only one real need of the human soul, and that is the need for a relationship with your Creator. Being free of such needs gives you a state of mind and heart where you are truly able to see and discern whether yours is real love or simply imagined love.
In real love, two souls fall in love with each other, or in the case of soul mates, they are already in love with each other, as their love is eternal. The meeting of two physical bodies and two minds is secondary to an eternal source relationship that already exists. This is why, when real love is present, both people have an appreciation of the other person from within.
There is an appreciation of the beauty contained within another’s soul, for the beauty is a mirrored reflection of their own soul. For this reason, in real love there is a lasting feeling of oneness between people and their souls.
When you are with another person and you feel yourself seeing an inner beauty within that person with what can only be described as the eyes of your soul, then indeed, real love may be present.
Dr. Paul Leon Masters
Text taken from Dr. Paul Leon Masters’ “The Theocentric Way of Life,” Volume 3: Module 2.
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Intro and ending music © “Night Radiance” by Maxim Kornyshev