The Definition of "True Love"

"Love means never having to say you're sorry," or so the famous line from the movie Love Story goes. But when asked to define what true love is, even the experts have to pause and think. Perhaps it's because true love has different meanings for different people.

Dr. Neder defines true love as caring about the health, well-being and happiness of another person to a greater degree than your own health, well-being and happiness. "When you carefully consider your words, thoughts and actions, and specifically how they will benefit that other person," says Dr. Neder, "you're in love."

Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Bantam, 1998) and The Wisdom of Menopause (Bantam, 2003), says "true love is when you care enough for another person to allow them the space and time they need to become all they can be."

Conversely, if someone says to you: "If you love me, you would ...," that is not love, says Dr. Northrup. According to Dr. Northrup, this is the "second chakra" talking. And when "love" comes from this place, it's about control. True love comes from the "fourth chakra" and is easily recognized as unconditional support.

Kathlyn Hendricks, Ph.D,. and Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., authors of the upcoming book Everlasting Love, say that true love occurs when you shift from unconscious commitment to conscious commitment. "When you hear people say: 'Relationships are really hard work,' this is an expression of unconscious commitment," says Kathlyn Hendricks. Conscious commitment, say the Drs. Hendricks, means that you reveal your true self to your partner and support your partner through thick and thin.

Laurie Moore, Ph.D., says all love comes from an open heart. "When you're together, it's open and safe at the same time," she says. Moore believes, however, that this doesn't mean the person you love is necessarily your life partner.