The Definition of True Love

“What is love, really?”

I’ve been wrestling with this question for decades.

The quest for love, and helping others with love, is pretty much my life.true love

As I grow and develop myself, I’ve changed my tune and re-calibrated my definition of love. Year in and year out, I refine and strip away. I listen. I observe. I experience. I write. I teach. I tweak.

Perhaps like you, I got schooled in “love” when I got married. And again when I helped create one child, then two.

When I really surrender to what love really means in a partnership or in parenting, I eat humble pie and shit sandwiches frequently.

It has only been in the last year and a half that I have a much wider, deeper understanding of what love really is.

I’m adjusting the dial some more and want to share what I’m learning with you.

So, this post comes from my own experience with me, individuals and countless couples I work with.  And as I continue to grow and develop myself I will probably refine it even more.

I trust this post will help you perhaps avoid a few of the potholes that will await, when you settle for unexamined love.

Let’s start with a question:

What if your version of love is what’s hurting your relationship?

I’m going to venture to guess that it is.

Try this on:

Love is impossible for human beings to achieve or sustain 100% of the time.


Love embraces support AND challenge.

I’ll come back to these two comments shortly.

First, what is your definition of Love?

Write down your definition right now, before your influenced…

Then watch this short video.

Love is NOT what you think, especially since if you are like most people, you mistake love for infatuation.


Let’s outline the 3 stages of relationship and how knowing them is crucial to long-term relationship success. You can superimpose this blog post (The 3 types of marriages) on top of the blog post as the underlying principles are the same. But this time, I’m framing it from the vantage point of LOVE.

These 3 stages of long-term relationship are also the 3 types of love, with the 3rd being the definition of true love.

This post is designed to help you grow up around love and help you assess which stage you are in so you don’t fall on your ass like me.

Stage 1– Infatuation or “Romantic Love”

The “support” or careful stage

First, quick back story…

In college I finally learned how to get a girl to like me. I was now “dating” someone. I “got the girl” and was mesmerized for a brief period of time.

Then when things got hard, or she needed something more from me, like an emotional connection, I bailed.

In those moments the relationships all got “hard.” Meaning, I started to feel uncomfortable for some odd reason…

…what was wrong?true love definition

What’s wrong with her?

Why does something feel off?

What happened to our spark or chemistry?

Why is she all of the sudden kind of annoying?

“Why are we arguing now when I thought we were just going on a date? What’s the big deal? Why can’t she just….?”

So, eventually I’d come to the conclusion it was her.

To get relief, I’d fire her.

“Ahhhh. yes…see, that annoying feeling went away!” This was hard evidence, and it showed me it WAS her.

“I knew it was her!!” I thought…

But later on I would learn that it was me. It wasn’t her after all.

There were many factors to my issues that began to emerge, but the main one was that I was stuck in a fantasy about love relationships.

Call me dumb, but I really believed an intimate relationship was supposed to feel good all the time.

After all, no one in my circles showed me, or told me, anything to demonstrate otherwise. Everyone’s pasty smiles told me relationships just felt good all the time. I didn’t know the vast majority of people were suffering behind their masks.

And, since I grew up in a normal neurotic family (where my parents did a pretty good job hiding their struggles too), I didn’t think otherwise. But deep down, something felt off and I knew there was more to the story…

In general, most people are like I was. Believing the fantasy about love relationships.

A fantasy basically means you think that the honeymoon stage is supposed to last. You think your partner is supposed to make you feel good, not upset you.

Remember, I was a pro at it.

When you are infatuated, you don’t see clearly. You are blinded by the dopamine rush and good feelings.

It’s very much like a drug.

And, like drugs, when you are infatuated, you do and say stupid shit.

You can make really poor decisions like not using protection with someone you barely know, or falling for someone who later is abusive toward you.

When you are infatuated, you are unable to truly see your partner. You have them on a pedestal. You are blind to their faults, their insecurities, their self-hatred, their self-centeredness, their mean side, etc…

…the darkness has yet to reveal itself….muuuaaahhhhhaaaa!

But the great thing about infatuation is that it has a short shelf life.

Give it a year or two, and you bail or graduate to the next stage.

Infatuation will inevitably end after you move in with the person, share a long trip, or meet their family a few times.  When you get a fuller picture of them in their “low” moments, infatuation quickly turns to resentment, frustration, and even hatred.

Under the unavoidable stress of life, your true colors come out.

Normally, the infatuation stage ends after a period of 3 months to a year when things “get real.” (check on the comments on this facebook thread where I ask “you know you’re in a real relationship when…”)

Infatuation always ends.

This stage is largely defined by a preference toward more support and less challenge. Dopamine breeds support without challenge behavior in order to pairbond.

Yet no one can live up to your fantasy or expectations (although a lot of people try) of chronic warm fuzzies.

Then because that feeling (you know, the dopamine one) goes away, you blame your partner, like I did, for the great vibe dissipating or going away.

You say things like, “I’m just not feeling it anymore.” “It was fun while it lasted.”  “I think I love her, but I’m not in love with her,” “He’s great, but…” and on and on. Or you blame yourself. The self-blamers say “It’s all my fault”, and “I’m such a ______, I can’t believe I fucked that up!”

And, this is where you have two choices. Either:

1. Say yes to challenge and growth, or…

photo by Daniela Vladimirova, flickr

photo by Daniela Vladimirova, flickr

2. Loop in circles in your pattern, trying to come back to the yummies of the early infatuation stage. Because you purchased a false sense of love, perpetuated by pop culture and mass media, you continue to chase a very narrow version of what you call love and what I call fantasy.

Look, love is smarter than you. You attract the perfect person every time. Perfect from the standpoint of working out your shit. And, yes, sometimes the lesson you need to learn is to move on…

For example, I kept chasing the honeymoon, romantic, dopamine driven feelings and I had a hard time settling down with one person. My “commitment issues” were not about her. They were also less about commitment and more about delusions about what a real relationship is supposed to feel like and be like.

So, when the relationship gets hard, you will struggle like I did. Partly because you have no idea how to do conflict or communication with someone who is now upsetting you so badly, and partly because you’re simply chasing that darn fantasy again.

I repeated this one for years and had no idea until I was willing to take responsibility for my relationship failures and learn a new way.

But if you are in a lot of pain and tired of “the” pattern, which is really “your” pattern, then you will be the kind of person who will go to the next level because you are choosing to go to the next level.

Ironically, once you get over the infatuation phase by letting go of the fantasy that it will last, you graduate to the next level of “love” whether you like it or not.

This one took me until I was 29 years old to move past. Some people never make it…

true love

Stage 2–Challenging Love

The “challenging” stage or careless stage

Here you either choose to move on or your partner’s grating behaviors help the dopamine wear off.

Enter sobriety…

One of the first signs of sobering up is being challenged.


Your partner, just by being their neurotic self, starts to challenge how you operate, how you do life, and how you see the world.

It starts will little things you notice–the way they talk to their family, the body language ticks, the speech patterns, their friends, or the day to day choices they make…

…A little ripple at first can soon turn into a tsunami of an issue.

Either way, challenge has now found you.

Challenge has come to befriend you and help you snap out of your trance of not truly seeing this person as they are.

As the mirage wears off you now notice undulations in the landscape you didn’t see or feel before.



Ugliness comes…

…The storms come in…

“Hey, where did the sun go?”

Like it or not, challenge brings you to the new phase of your relationship, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.

And, challenging love is here to stay.

What are you going to do now?

Since most couples don’t consciously choose how to handle the new adversity, the choice is invariably made by your patterns and preferences.

And your patterns, if you stay asleep and try to get back to stage 1, will lead you to making your partner, or yourself wrong.

Challenging love is now happening and it came when you want nothing but a supportive relationship.

You now have three choices about what kind of couple you want to be.

  1. Careful
  2. Caring
  3. Carless or carefree

More on the 3 types here (And you can learn more and get a visual of the marriage success map here).

Careful and Careless types will continue to seek an overly supportive relationship and thus unconsciously invite more challenge, now or later.

When you embrace both sides, you get love, real, raw, mature love.

Stage 3–True Love or mature love

The “true love” or the caring stage

Real-deal love goes beyond borders and crosses every boundary there is. “Love knows no boundary” as it’s been said.

Love is who we are.

Love is calibrating you to align with the way things are.

Love is so accurate that it brings you the perfect person that upsets you in the exact spot where your wound is.

Like a dagger, it penetrates any attempt of yours to wiggle away from what is NOT love.


Our spouse pisses us off, hurts us, and behaves in ways that can drive us mad. All of this “tension” inside of us is “caused by” activity outside of us to get us to come back to our true nature–love.

In other words, everything in your relationship (and your life) is designed to get you back to the fundamental state of love that you are.

So, love here is the noun. It’s the place we arrive at.true love

And, the process to help us get there is the verb love.

You are being “loved” all the time. Your job is to get with the program and align with that.

And, alignment is sexy by the way…

Your partner’s job is to just be their neurotic self, assisting you in your alignment process.

Your job is to thank them and receive the painful gift by re-calibrating, owning, healing, and loving the part of you in tension, thus coming into greater alignment.

Everything without exception is pointing you back to love.

And, then if you have kids, from birth onward, you get challenged at every level, year in and year out until you surrender.

Surrender to what?

Surrender to your non-loved place so you can love it.

If you just want the fantasy of love, where your kids or partner “make you happy” you are doomed as a spouse or parent and will suffer an enormous burden.

But, if on the other hand, you embrace love (I mean the big, cosmic love), and you say yes to it, which embraces the parts of my kids and spouse I dislike or despise, then I’m on point to grow and develop in an ongoing way and have a fulfilling, and lasting relationship over time.

So the key distinction I learned from a profound teacher a couple of years ago is that Love isn’t a one sided vibration that tries to get back a happy place.

Contraire mon frere…

That is animal infatuation.

And, you are pretty dumb if you try to stay there like I did.

Remember love isn’t just support (infatuation).

Love is also not just challenge.

Love is a balance of both challenge and support at the same time.

Or as John Demartini says, “Love is the synthesis and synchronization of opposites occurring simultaneously.”

True love then, is the moment when you can genuinely embrace both sides of your partner. In that moment, you LOVE your mate. And, I’m not talking about intellectually embracing your spouse while at the same time wanting to punch them in the face. That’s not love. That’s you being shown where you are NOT love.

Notice how I said “moment.”

Because no human being can sustain that kind of Love 100% of the time, even though most people claim they can. I have yet to meet that so called “enlightened” person. Every enlightened person falls on their face trying to hold up to this kind of fantasy.

True love goes all the way down, in your head and heart.

Your marriage (or long-term relationship) must embrace both challenge and support if it is going to make it past a few years. 

Loving your partner is challenging her and supporting her.

Loving your partner is challenging him and supporting him.

But in our culture and mass media, people really believe it’s just support. And when the challenges come, they shut down or run like animals.

But you are different right?

You are not an animal, you are a person who wants to learn, truly learn, to love and be loved.

And most people are getting sub-par relationship help because they are invested in one-sided love full of support. You might go to weak therapy to get support and rarely does the therapist challenge you, call you out, or hold your feet to the hot flames of your shit.

There’s good news if that’s you.

If you don’t embrace challenge in your marriage and try to run back to the support-infatuation camp, you’re asking challenge to come find you and it will.

The irony though is that once you embrace the bigger love—both sides–challenge AND support—you set yourself up for a relationship where you can, and will, get what you want. Why? Because you’re no longer running away from challenge hoping to get your one-sided version of love.

If you don’t want to be challenged in a loving way, my relationship map and tools can’t and won’t, help you.

If you are ready to experience true love (through challenge and support), you are a probably a growth-development type of person, so welcome…

I’m offering an incredible supportive community that embraces both sides.

Why? Because that is my LOVE. That is HOW I love when I’m at my best.

This is how I parent my kids too. I challenge them, and I support them with tremendous fervor. I do both. And, they feel loved (support and challenge), instead of coddled or enabled. They feel loved (support and challenge) instead of pushed beyond their limits where they shut down.

When you embrace both sides in your relationship, you are willing to meet what is coming up for YOU, and you relax out of the chronic need where you try to stop your partner’s challenging behavior so you can get back to your fantasy happy place of one-sided love. That is a dead end.

The smart couple sees that the only way to get your challenge to decrease is to embrace the very thing you are trying to run from: challenge.

Then, and only then… can you get to what you want….

So, are you up for both sides?

Because love embraces both sides, and your love is that big.

Are you up for the real-deal LOVE?

If so, game on.

You found your new home.

true love



  • Mark Usher

    Reply Reply August 2, 2015

    Thanks for the wisdom Jayson. Yeah, I have found that the first six of eight years together with my wife Matilde was characterised by trying to unconditionally support without giving sacred space to challenge in our relationship. My wife has suffered divorce as a child and numerous breakdowns with her mothers partners afterwards on top of both her sets of grandparents divorcing also, so challenge was causing an allergic breakout for her every time. I had my own backpack of shit obviously in the mix not helping either. I would try my best to practice deep acceptance of aspects of her behaviour that were upsetting and return to support, support, support. This led to inevitable outbursts of literal challenging the living hell out of her, but coming from a place of anger this was doomed to fail always.
    In the last few days, I have learned to come to Matilde from a place of loving support for her as a person whilst at the same time challenging her very directly. I think it is the first real time when she has felt my deep love for her in the moment of challenge.
    My experience has been that it could not have been easier once I brought both support and challenge to the conversation at once, not seeing them as separate aspects.
    My foundation for this has been my own humility in opening up to fears I have tried to hide for years. Once I did this Matilde’s outer seemingly rock hard shell melted like butter in the sun.
    Previously, introducing challenge directly separate from support appeared like the last nail in the coffin of a rocky relationship.
    Now, introducing challenge while still rooted in supporting has grounded us in the highest place we have ever experienced relationships in our lives.
    Sorry about the long comment, but your description of love has hit me very potently in this very moment of my journey in love,
    Thanks again,
    P.S. The website is ready for launch in 10days and my reflections here will be helping my content massively for this blog. Thanks on the double!

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field