Most people are familiar with the scene in The Princess Bride where the priest gives a speech before he *attempts* to marry Buttercup and Prince Humperdink. The topic of his speech is "Wuv. Twu wuv." (translated, "Love. True love.") Which causes me to wonder. What exactly is "True love," anyway, and how does one recognize it? Both in her/himself and in others? I'm still trying to figure that out. But I think I have some better ideas than I have before.
Some (not all) earmarks of true love are below. This applies to all sorts of relationships, not just romantic.
* The person respects him/herself.
*The person does not feel a NEED to be with another in order to feel of worth.
*The person is honorable, in that s/he obeys laws, and is honest, etc.
*Along with that, the person does not pretend to have values/standards that are different than what her/his true values/standards are.
*The person does not feel a need to change the essence of who s/he is.
*If change in behavior or attitude is necessary to become a better person, however, the person is willing to make those changes.
*These changes are not made to conform to what another wants, but because they are the right thing to do.
* The person's interest in the other person is not for his/her own selfish gain.
*The person doesn't want others to fail or look bad, and does not feel pleasure when others fail or look bad.
*The person understands that every human being is a son or daughter of God, and has infinite worth.
*The person does not feel a need to tear others down, or to assume the worst about others in order to feel of worth her/himself.
*The person does not tolerate being treated abusively in any way by anyone, and avoids relationships with abusive people as much as possible.
As I wrote before, these indicators are by no means the only ones that show whether true love is present or not. But I think the bottom line is, in order to truly love others, one must first respect herself or himself.
In my books I have tried hard to portray healthy relationships in which real love would be present if the people existed in real life. I hope I have done that.