What is True Love?
As an author I ask myself this every time I sit down to tell my characters' stories. The answer, at least for them, is pretty straight forward. In a well crafted story, the heroine will be emotionally strong, and the hero will not be an immature ass. They've got to be human enough to make mistakes, and their trip into love can't be without its ups and down.
The hero, or sometimes the heroine, will show their strength in the others' time of need. They'll show compassion and understanding for each other, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to keep the other happy and safe. Even if that means locking them in a basement, cuffed to the water heater. In all cases, there is an equal give and take, because even in fiction, a relationship can't work if it's unbalanced.
In order for characters to be loved by readers they need to have redeeming qualities, and I haven't met many people who would find a hero who cats around on his lady--or drops her like a bad habit, appealing. Even if he does realize the grass wasn't greener and comes back, metaphoric tail between his legs.
If the heroine takes him back, the readers will lose respect for her, and possibly put down the book. That's not True Love, that's romantic suicide.
Reality is much more complicated.
Love is a crazy and fickle thing. It can be amazing or horrible, but usually it falls somewhere in the middle. The Marine and I have been married for seven years, and I'm the first one to admit it hasn't all been perfect--though according to my therapist it's quite healthy and has every chance of thriving. We've had struggles, and we've made mistakes. We're still learning about each other, and trying to grow together rather than apart while we're separated.
Most of all, our love is real, because even when I feel like I'm running into a wall, and he'll never truly understand me, he helps me to be stronger. When I look at my future, he's the only one who is beside me. Since I've met him, he's the only one whose been there.
Of course, if the Marine hadn't had the characteristics of a hero when we met, or I'd felt insecure or like I was only half of a person, rather than a better, stronger, whole person, I never would have married him. No matter how well his dress blues fit him, and no matter how much I loved him.
Regardless if it's a book or real life, love is supposed to make you stronger. It's supposed to build you up, not break you down. It's suppose to heal your soul, and seal up your insecurities, not break you or make you wonder why you're not good enough.
True Love is strength no matter what. True Love means a deeper connection than hormones and great sex. (Don't get me wrong, those are also very important) True Love is knowing no matter what, you'll be supported, cherished and loved. When you find True Love, it won't come easy, but you won't doubt yourself either. You won't be sad all the time, and even when you're mad, you'll feel safer with them than anywhere else.
Have you experienced True Love? If so, I'd love if you'd share your story.