12 Signs That You’re in Love – A Letter to My Daughter

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At breakfast the other day, Abby made a rather astute observation about babies:

“Babies are a lot of work.”

I laughed. “Yes, that’s why it’s important to wait until you’re sure you want a baby before you have one.”

“And you need to be married,” she said.

Nothing like your 5-year-old calling you out for having a child out of wedlock. Still, I nodded. “You need to be with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.”

Abby smiled a shy little smile. When she spoke, I could barely hear her. “I think I already know who I want to spend the rest of my life with.”

Eyes wide, I asked, “Who?”

“His name is Carver. When you came to school for lunch this week, he’s the boy who sat with us.”

Now Hold Up a Second

She’s five. Five years old.


Once I recovered from the shock, I asked, “How did you decide you wanted to marry Carver?”

“He started it.”


She smiled big. “At lunch one day, we were sitting next to each other and singing along to the same song. He turned to me and said, ‘Why don’t we get married?'”

“And what did you say?”

She laughed. “Nothing. I couldn’t respond!”

When I stopped to think about it, I realized she’s been commenting on kisses in movies lately. She catches me and Ty kissing and says “I saw you” in a teasing voice. She’s been asking questions about what it’s like to be in love. How you know.

And it reminded me of when I was a girl, when I wondered: How do you know when you’re in love?


This Is What They Tell You

When I was a kid, Sleepless in Seattle taught me about the signs of love:

“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together…and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home, only to no home I’d ever known. I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car, and I knew. It was like…magic.”

In Anne of the Island, Gilbert and Anne taught me a little bit more:

“I’ve loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.”

And I have a clear memory of asking someone, though I’m not sure who – my mom or my older, wiser sister – so maybe it’s not such a clear memory after all, but I asked: “How do you know when you’re in love?”

The answer?

“You just know.”

But all this won’t fly with Abby. She’s a child who craves detailed explanations. She wants the concrete signs that you know you’re in love. That you’ve found The One.

As it turns out, it’s a topic I’ve granted a fair bit of real estate in my brain in the last few years since my divorce. (Not unexpected for divorced folk.)

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have learned some life lessons the hard way on what it means to be in love.

So when she’s a little older, here’s what I will say to Abby. Although, she might get a preview here and there in light of this Carver boy proposing marriage and all.

12 Signs of Love - A Letter to My DaughterPhoto by latteda

A Letter to My Daughter – The 12 Signs of Love

Dear Abby,

I can’t tell you how love will feel for you. Everyone is different with different ideas of what’s important, what’s attractive, what’s funny. I don’t know whether there’s one single person in the world whom you’re meant to be with, or if it’s all about finding one of the someones out there who could be a good fit for you. But I can tell you how I knew.

These are the signs that told me what I had with Ty was different. Something unique and special and precious.

By the way, I’ve said “he” throughout because this is based on my experience, but if your true love turns out to be a woman, own it. Don’t let anyone EVER make you feel weird for being yourself.

Here are 12 signs that you’re in love:

  1. You can talk about anything. Tough stuff, easy stuff, and everything in between. Conversation is easy and open and honest and (most of the time) fun.
  2. You can’t get enough of him. You spend all day together doing nothing terribly interesting or important, and you wake up the next morning wanting more.
  3. When he touches you, you feel a spark. Yes, like real electricity. Your skin will feel like it’s buzzing. Or maybe humming.
  4. When he kisses you, you may feel light-headed.
  5. When you’re running late in the morning getting out the door for work, and you realize you still need to pack your laptop bag and find where you threw your jacket when you came in the door last night AND you didn’t empty out your travel coffee mug, then you look on the kitchen counter and see everything all neatly lined up and ready to go, with hot, fresh coffee in your clean coffee mug – and then you get to the car and see that it’s already running WITH the butt warmers turned on…that’s love.
  6. He will love you just the way you are – flaws included – and never make you feel like you’re insufficient or broken or that you have to change to make him happy.
  7. He will listen.
  8. He will treat you like a queen. I don’t mean blindly worship the ground you walk on. I mean he will respect you, completely. He will trust you. He will adore you.
  9. He will be your biggest cheerleader. And he will believe in you even when you may not believe in yourself.
  10. Expect to hear a lot of compliments from him. He may tell you that you are: awesome, smart, beautiful, amazing, gorgeous, or all of the above.
  11. You may find yourself wanting to do nice things for him, just because. These may be things you don’t typically enjoy doing, but the thought of doing them for him will put a smile on your face and make you feel good inside. Maybe you will want to cook him dinner, even though you usually hate to cook. You might take the car to get washed because you know he cares about that, even though you don’t. You could surprise him by having cookies delivered to him at work, even though it means you WON’T get a cookie yourself.
  12. Speaking of which, if you find yourself giving away the last bite of dessert to the person you’re dating, that’s a 99.99% sure sign you’re in love.

Now, it may take you a while to find someone who fits the bill. You may date some losers along the way. It happens.

But that spark inside you? The one that lights up your eyes and makes you my beautiful Abby? The minute you get wind of someone you’re dating trying to snuff out that spark, you drop him like a dirty diaper. If he insults you, or makes fun of your ideas, or talks down to you like you’re stupid, or says you need dental work – he is not The One.

Sometimes you may not want to admit it when you realize you’re dating someone who’s not The One. Because it means you made a mistake. Because it’d be lonely if you left him. Because he’s really damn cute.

But please, dear, sweet Abby. If you’re not sure? Have the courage to let go. Learn and move on. Make room in your life for someone who truly and completely loves you.

Above all, trust yourself. Maybe the love you find will be different from what I found. You’re a smart girl. You’ll know when you find it.


p.s. When your baby sister comes to you with this question, can you please pass along the high points? From the defiance she’s showing at 8 months old, I’m pretty sure she won’t come to me and even if she did, I doubt she’d listen to what I have to say. Thanks, kid, I owe you one.

12 Signs That You're in Love - A Letter to My Daughter

Want More?

For more thoughts on love, follow my Pinterest board I and Love and You.


Your Turn

How do you know when you’re in love? Leave a comment to share your signs of true love.

  • Christine Bacas Tutor

    Kelly, these points are SPOT ON! I wish I had a relationship with my mom where I could talk to her about this subject. (Unfortunately, I don’t have a sister.) Every young girl needs to read this post! It took me YEARS to realize the fine points you mentioned to sweet Abby. I had to go through the school of hard knocks, living through bad relationships and battling with low self-esteem. I knew Keith was the one when early on, I babbled self-consciously about a subject that he and I disagreed on the proper way to handle, and in the end, he said, “Hey, if it’s important to you, then it’s important to me!” And that was that! I’m saving your letter to give to my girls when they’re old enough. Thanks, Kelly!

    • http://idealistmom.com/ Kelly @ IdealistMom.com

      Chris, that’s such a sweet story of you and Keith. :-) I know what you mean – I had to learn these lessons the hard way too! I’d rather Abby and Bailey learn life lessons like “how to balance a checkbook” and “how to drive on ice” and skip all that low self-esteem dating losers crap. I sure hope talking about dating and love early and often will help!

  • Lori Anderson

    ooooooh soooooo beautiful! thank you for sharing!

    • http://idealistmom.com/ Kelly @ IdealistMom.com

      Thank you, Lori. :-)

  • frugalfamilytimes

    Kelly – this is wonderful. Truly, truly wonderful. I’m pinning it in hopes that Pinterest is still around when I need this. My dgt is turning 10, so another decade? Yup. A Decade. I’m not kidding my self or anything. 😉

    • http://idealistmom.com/ Kelly @ IdealistMom.com

      Robin, thank you so much for your comment and the lovely pin too! I’m in denial too. Abby asked when she will start dating, and Ty said when you’re 22. She hasn’t figured out yet that he’s kidding, and I don’t plan to correct her. :-)

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  • Tony

    I’m a twenty five year old mans man and this letter really made my day…I remember times when the girl I loved dropped her half of the sandwich on the ground and I gave her mine without thinking about it, I remember that at times after she told me she didn’t think she could love me that I wondered if I tried too hard, gave her too many compliments…now I realize that there’s nothing wrong with being honest, and girls are complicated heck maybe a ill crazy, and as a man you have to be honest with them (as if you could be anything else with a girl you love, it’s hard to contain your excited when with them) so that during all their moods and changes as we grow up, they can remember the one guy that always saw nothing but the best in them

    • http://idealistmom.com/ Kelly @ IdealistMom.com

      Tony, thank you so much for your heartfelt comment. It makes *my* day that this letter spoke to you!

  • Elle

    Kelly, stumbled upon this post on Pinterest and every point was true. I have been divorced for almost 9 years and had given up on finding someone and was even accepting of the fact. Lo and behold, the right guy finally walked into my life, and just like the quote, I realized why it had never worked out with anyone else. I do not have a daughter, but these points will be valid for my son.

  • Trix

    I cried. Thank you.

  • angie

    Reading your post really makes me smile and think about the first time I feel inlove hahaha. It’s the best feeling ever. Wondering what will be my reaction if my 10 year old son will ask me same question. I hope I can be as cool as you. Once again thank you so much for sharing your post.

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  • Christa Fry

    I’m reading this at 22, I have a boyfriend and I know from reading this that he’s who I need to spend the rest of my life with. We argue like an old married couple sometimes, but when it comes right down to it, we’re always there for each other. He’s in the Army four states away and a 12 hour drive. I’m here at home attending nursing school. Even though we’re far apart right now, we have not our own, but each other’s hearts in our chests. We’re very happy with our military relationship. It is hard sometimes, but we look forward to every moment we have together and we work hard to stay with each other. Even when you’re deeply in love, things can be hard. You shouldn’t give up, especially when you’re still fighting because that just means you both still want to fix it. Love is patient, kind, gentle, self controlled, etc. It is also strong and when you take proper care of it, nothing can break it’s bond.

  • http://www.ForLadiesOnlyParty.com Nane Tolson

    Yes, love is all of that and is such a great rush. Great article and love the list!

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  • Brooklyn

    I am 15 and I have made many stupid mistakes in my recent years with love, chose the wrong person, said the wrong things, and made the wrong decisions. And when I think of love, I think of my parents. They do everything for each other, treat each other well, and never hurt each other’s feelings. But they also fight sometimes…and it happens, but every time they forgive each other without having to say sorry. That is part of love. Some people used to call me desperate. It was mostly true. I am young and clueless, I don’t know what love is or how to love. Sometimes I feel like I am just dating because i just want to have the feeling to have someone to talk to when everyone else is busy, not be lonely, have someone to tell me I am pretty, but after I read your advice, I now understand that I thought I was in love, but really it was just a friendship with a boy. We never loved each other, we didn’t even call it love, we “liked” each other, and to me, they are not the same things. “Like” is a friendship whether it is with a girl or with a boy. Love is exactly what you described it as. Thank you so much for the advice it helped me in so many ways, and when I grow older and eventually have kids, I will let them know exactly what you said so that they probably wouldn’t make the same mistakes I have.

  • HeartWarmed

    I love this post, thank you so much. Wish I’d read it 20 years ago, before I married someone who wasn’t great for me…but then I wouldn’t have my beautiful children today.

    Now I have given myself a second chance, and I live in hope of meeting someone who I connect with like this.

    Wish me luck!


  • Lucky Lady

    I always tell my daughter that in the future she should marry someone that will treat her the way that her Dad treats me and her- with respect, love and deep affection. She has the perfect example of what a good man should be right here at home. I hope she will be blessed one day as I have to find such a wonderful husband.

  • Realist

    This is seriously fantasy. I challenge anyone to prove this is true and still happening after 20 years of marriage. My letter to my daughters will be honest, raw and no fairytale BS. Perhaps then they may have a chance at finding true respectful love.

    • Mt Peak

      My dad still does these things for my mom and they’ve been together 34 years.

  • swetha

    its a lovely article Kelly. Im glad I found this. its straight from the heart and fits my life!

  • Mieks

    Just wanted to let you know that I found great comfort in this post. Our generation has corrupt views on how things are meant to be and what needs to happen when. I started dating a guy and knew I really liked him but everyone kept asking me “are you in love?” and “is he the one?” to the point that it made me nervous to think about it. I’m 24 years old and had never been in love before… I had no idea what the heck it meant until one day, I realized that he made me happy and that I could no longer picture my life without him. A few days later, stumbled upon this post that made things so clear for me and simply confirmed that it’s not actually as complicated as people make it out to be. Reading this list made me take a deep breath and made me smile. I’m young. I’ve found someone who truly cares for me. I wish I had had this conversation a long time ago but I guess it came at the perfect time after all. Thanks for giving nurturing motherly advice for all of us.

  • mabel

    my soon to be 17 year old daughter started dating this boy right before she turned 16. He has been a life long friend of hers. She has never dated anyone else. Growing up in a small town and he lived very close by, they have been best friends forever before he asked her out. She says they are going to get married. They just know that they are meant to be together. Watching them together, I know that it is a match made in Heaven. The way they care about each other and support each other and each others decisions and they are help mates to each other. I have been married for 26 years and did/do not have this. I am enjoying watching the two grow up together in such a close and intimate way, and watching how they work their way through the rough patches of the relationship. They are laying a great foundation for themselves. And if it doesn’t work out, they are teaching each other what it means to be and have a great partner in a relationship.

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  • Raina T

    I cried! Well written. As if I had written this myself!