Q: I'm 18 and my girlfriend and I have been dating very happily for five months, yet she keeps asking if I really love her. I do, but I always feel inadequate compared to the way she describes her feelings about me. She says things like her heart "overflows" when she thinks about me, or that sometimes she feels "overwhelmed" by her love for me. I've experienced the same "butterflies" with her, but much less frequently. I wonder if it means I don't love her as much as she loves me. Still, I'm extremely happy to be with her and can't imagine being without her right now. Is there some biological/chemical thing at play here, am I just emotionally shallow, or am I just tricking myself into thinking I love her? -- Rick
Dr. Susan: You're both trying way too hard to fit some preconceived idea of what love is. I won't even go into the fact that you're both so young, but do you realize that the best love is one that grows and deepens over time and isn't mainly about butterflies and rainbows and single-minded focus on the idea of love? Would you give up a lot to be with her and help her out if she needed you to? Do you look forward to your times with her and feel safe and secure with her? It's okay if you feel mildly tingly while she feels overwhelmed. Sounds like she's a very emotionally expressive person and you're a bit more qualified in your responses and verbalizations. Maybe she's always either hot or cold, while you sometimes feel a little warm or a little cool. That sort of difference can work out just fine for most couples.
There's no need to quantify or compare the strength of your feelings. For now, enjoy one another and get to know one another. The first few months are usually a confused mess of emotions that doesn't tell you a lot about the future anyway.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.