How to Know You’re in Love (Transcript)

Dawson McAllister: Remember, it doesn't start to be love until you give and give and give and give and give and give and give. And when the thrill seemingly is gone, you keep on giving and giving and giving. That's love.

Roger Marsh: Well now that's nothing like the Hollywood definition of love is it? But I'd have to say those words are right on target. Welcome to Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh here with your host, psychologist and author, Dr. James Dobson. And doctor, today we're going to answer a question that teens and young people, and maybe even some not so young people, have been asking for many, many years, and it's this: how do you know if you're in love or if it's just infatuation?

Dr. Dobson: Trying to understand the meaning of love is one difficult thing to do. It's a highly complex emotion, and I'm sure some of us go through our lives not being able to fully comprehend what's happened to us. Genuine love looks a lot like infatuation because people often get fooled by that first blush of a relationship. And they want to be together 24 hours a day and they can't imagine life without each other. And yet they run out and they buy a ring and they schedule a wedding, and then they hurry off to get married, and they make a tragic mistake often because they find out they don't even really know each other. They refer to love at first sight. There is no such thing. Love is not something you fall into like you would stumble into a ditch, you know "I've fallen in love."

It's something you grow into when you can appreciate the nuances of character and the deeper meaning of the personality and the person you're going to link yourself to. So choosing a marital partner is a delicate thing and must be done with prayer, caution, and I think scriptural principles come into it too. So the question that is posed by our speaker on today's program is how to know you're in love. Actually, I think his speech, his remarks could best be titled the meaning of love because that's where he takes us. So Roger, introduce our guests to our listeners.

Roger Marsh: Well, some of you may know Dawson McAllister because he is the host of Dawson McAllister Live, a nationally syndicated radio talk show for teens and for young adults. He has also founded The Hope Line, which is a 24 hour counseling chatline for young people, and he's written several teaching manuals offering a wide range of materials for kids, and parents and youth workers. In short, Dawson McAllister is a gifted communicator who can connect with people of all ages. So there is something for everyone on today's edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.

Dawson McAllister: Perhaps the greatest influence on your life right now is your date life, your thought life, your sex life, and how you're handling all of that. Statistics now tell us that from your generation, up to 50% of your generation will make a wrong decision. That is to say that up to 50% from your generation will either marry the wrong person or be the wrong person for the one they married. They made a drastic mistake. Why? Many reasons for divorce, but I'll tell you one of them, as I've already mentioned, you married the wrong person or you are the wrong person for the person you married. So that the second most popular question asked me by the American teenager is simple, "How can I know I am in love?" Well tonight I can't really tell you how you can know you are in love. I can't say, "Your liver will quiver," or, "Oh, you'll just know."

What I can from scripture is this. I can share with you from scripture how you know you have a loving relationship, and loving relationships make pretty good marriages. In fact, I can share with you how you can know the difference between love and infatuation. And that's what I want to do tonight. I want to give you an emotional eye test. The difference between love and infatuation. Well, let's first of all talk about what is infatuation. By the way, there's nothing wrong with being infatuated. In fact, almost every relationship starts out in infatuation, but you wouldn't want to get married on it. Infatuation is the emotional impulse of love. It feels like love. It looks like love. It acts like love. You can't eat, you can't sleep, you can't drink. Good thing it's not love, you'd die soon.

Oh, it feels like it. The only problem is, it has not passed some very important tests. And what are those tests? The test of time, the test of negative circumstances. And watch this, is based on very little understanding of what the other person is really like. People say that love is blind. Love is not blind. Infatuation may be blind, but love is not blind. What infatuation thinks is it's some mist that falls upon you when your eyes meet between the East and the West wing of school. And this mist is so emotional. It is so powerful. It is so temperamental that is so overwhelmed you that when it falls upon you, you must get married. Ah, but when the mist leaves you, you must get divorced. Think of all of the love songs, all of the movies you have seen that are really based on infatuation.

I remember in my era, yes, they had music then, they had these two rocks and a stick. In the Beatle era, and I remember a song by the Beatles, "Falling, yes, I am falling and I keep falling in love with her. Just met her." We had some other classics. "Yummy, yummy, yummy. I've got love in my tummy." Could be heartburn, might turn to gas. We don't know. Might be what you ate. You could probably think of some from your generation as well that are basically just based on infatuation. What is love? Well, love is more difficult to describe, but I will basically say this, love is an emotional need. You already know this, but the most strongest desire that we have psychologically is to love and be loved. Love is an emotional need. Watch this, and an act of the will.

That's something we tend to forget. You say, "Well, Dawson are you married?" The answer is yes. "Are there moments when you feel great highs for your wife?" Right. I do. "Are there times when you feel lows for your wife?" Right? I do, but whether I feel a high or a low, basically I'm still married. Why? Because love is an act of the what? Will, and not simply your emotions. Love is an emotional need and an act of the will that is based on a clear understanding of what the other person is like. Love is not blind. Lust is blind. Love is not blind. Love takes a long look at the other person emotionally, spiritually, mentally, socially, physically, and then love acts. What I'm saying is this, when you come to the altar with Mr. or Ms. Wonderful, you can get a lot better jump on what this person is like than most people have.

The Bible says, "How naive, how foolish to make a decision without the facts." With that in mind then let me now give you the emotional eye test. If you have your Bibles, 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is the love chapter. What I'm going to do is this, I'm going to give you the definition from scripture. For example, love is patient. In 1 Corinthians 13, we have the basic definition of love. From that, I'm going to give you a principle as to the difference between love and infatuation. First of all, the apostle Paul says, "Love is patient." Here we go. Infatuation is in a big hurry and wants to change the character of the one being dated. Love can wait fully accepting the character of the one being dated.

Infatuation is in a big hurry and wants to change the character of the one being dated. Love can wait, fully accepting the character of the one being dated. Infatuation is in a hurry. Rush, rush, rush. Infatuation is usually in a rush. Why is infatuation usually in a rush? Because there is a strong desire to keep up the hyped emotions, but that's not really love. That's infatuation. You say, "Well, Dawson, do people fall in love?" No, they fall in ditches. You say, "Well, Dawson, is there a love at first sight?" Well, not really. Let me explain that. Let's say you want to grow the world's greatest plant. I don't know why, but let's just say you did. So you've got the world's greatest seed and the world's greatest sunlight. There's only one, by the way, that I know of. The world's greatest fertilizer.

We get all of that together and the world's greatest seed. We get all of that together, would we have a plant? No. What's missing? Time. What do we have? Good chemistry for a good plant. What's missing? Time. You say, "Dawson, I meet some guy or some girl. I've met some guy or some girl, and there was just this attraction and I said, "I am in love." No, that was not love. That was chemistry. Good chemistry. What's missing? Time. You are in love, or you think you're in love, or you know somebody who thinks they might be in love. Your greatest friend is what? Time. Why? Remember, love is a growing process. Any amount of growth takes time. If you're not sure, don't. If you're still not sure, wait some more. Why? Time.

You say time for what? What am I waiting on? Time to find out what the other person is really like. Now you can't get 100%, but like I said, you can come closer than most people. You want to ask some real hard questions. One of the first ones you want to ask is this. What happens when this person is disappointed? You know why? Give your marriage about 36 hours and I guarantee it, you'll disappoint him. What is this person like when they're crossed? Why? Give yourself 48 hours and you're going to cross him. Is this person neat or is this person sloppy? There's some more. What does this person think about God? Oh, we've talked about this, but let's talk about it again. Remember, the deepest desires you have outside of being loved is what? God. So don't get this vague talk about God. Where does this person really stand with Jesus Christ?

I would say that one of the biggest complaints of Christian married women across the country is that their husbands do not lead them spiritually. Watch this one. Is this woman or this person romantically, mysteriously quiet? A person who is romantically, mysteriously quiet in dating may end up a bore in marriage. Same person. My wife and I always like to go to restaurants and we to restaurants, we like this little game. We try to pick out who's dating and who's married. The married people have what we call the 12 foot stare. They're just sitting there and one stare is going this way over his shoulder, one stare is going this way over her shoulder, and they're staring. It's called the five year stare.

And here are the people who are dating. "Oh, isn't this wonderful?" They're just really in the mood. "Oh, it's so wonderful. Isn't this wonderful. Oh you're wonderful, I'm wonderful, everybody's wonderful. Oh, isn't this great. Oh it's really wonderful." What happened? Well, after a while, for one thing, the one was exaggerated of people dating and the other one, in so many cases, simply quit growing. Simply quit growing. What happened? They didn't develop their communication skills. What are we saying? I am simply saying that all of this takes time, and infatuation is in a big hurry. Kid came up to me at a conference not too long ago and he says, "I'm in love with this girl and I want to tell her that I want to marry her. What should I do?"

I said, how old are you? He said, "16." I said, "Well, I don't want to be cutting man, I want to really be loving to you, but you probably really don't know what love means." And I've always told guys, "Don't tell a girl you lover her unless at the same time you're willing to say, I'm committed to marrying you." I said, "Secondly, let's say you really do love her, even though you probably aren't totally sure what all that means." I'm not, by the way, we're all just babes in love, aren't we? We are growing in love. If we are growing at all, we are growing in the areas of love. I said, "But let's say you do love her and you told her, 'I love you.' What could you do about it anyway? You ready to get married?" He said, "No." I said, "Can you support her?" He says, "No." I said, "Then what are you talking about let's get married?" I said, "You are into the rush, rush, rush. Calm down, it may change."

Infatuation is in a big hurry. Love can wait. And watch this, infatuation wants to change the character of the person being dated. Now this almost seems like a paradox, but it's not. Infatuation sometimes will do this. "There's 80% of this person that I really like. Oh, he's so wonderful, white horse, white hat, guns, kisses the girl at the end of the movie, but there's 20% of this person I do not like and I'm going to change them." I don't want to get you depressed, but ready for this? But their basic personality is set. Now they may change. God in time, may change them. They may change, but basically their personality has been set. So when you try to change them, do you know what you do? You get them all insecure, get them on performance, get them all worried, mess around with their self-image. No, and that's not love anyway.

Love says, "I care all about you. I've studied you. I've thought about you, I've prayed about you." Marital love says, "I care all about you. I've seen you and I care about you, and even if you don't change." In fact, you ought to be able to say to the person you're going to marry after you find out their qualities, "I would be willing to live with you just the way you are even if you don't change." That's a heavy. But I'll tell you what, if somebody bugs you, little things bug you in the dating relationship now, when you get married, the bug grows into a monster. Love is patient. That's number one. Here's number two. Love is kind. Love is kind.

Infatuation quickly forgets deeds which are helpful to the other person. Infatuation quickly forgets deeds which are helpful to the other person. Love continues to give and give and give and give and give. Two hours ago I was talking to my wife. In case you hadn't heard earlier, she fell and hurt her knee. I want you to know that I'm going to fly back to Denver tomorrow afternoon. By tomorrow night I will be a complete zombie. Monday, the 12 foot stare. I begin to function a little bit on Monday night and I'm halfway human on Tuesday. By Wednesday night and Thursday I'm human and I leave Friday morning and become inhuman again. And I said, "How are you doing with your knee and with the baby?" She says, "It really hurts." And I swallowed hard and I said, "Look, don't worry about it. When I get home, I'll take care of the baby and I'll take care of you." Gulp.

Because I'm going to want to get home and I'm going to want to say, "Why didn't somebody take care of me? I gave away all that I had twice in Dallas, Texas," but I know what's going to happen. 3:00 in the morning [inaudible 00:16:37]. Now I have already developed the ability to act like I'm asleep when I'm not. Most men learn this incredible ability. Then in the morning we go, "Oh, didn't the baby sleep all night?"

"No, you slept all night" And I know what's going to happen. One time I saw my wife get up to go to the baby and she just kept making S shapes all the way to the bedroom. She was just like she was drunk or something. I felt bad, just not bad enough to get up and help her. However, I felt bad. It took me another 30 seconds to go to sleep, nice guy me. But I know what's going to happen when I get home. I know what's going to happen. I got to give and give and give and give and give and when it hurts, give some more. That's tough. Now usually when we start out in a dating relationship, we do pretty well. Hey guys? We give and give and give, little notes in the locker, phone calls until her parents are going El nutso. 10 minutes per call, no calls after 10:00. Calls three after 10. Sends the girl flowers.

When I was a senior in high school, it's irrelevant. Whenever it was, I sent a girl a dozen dead roses. All my buddies thought that was funny, but the girl didn't think it was funny. So you start to give and give, and then it starts to slow down, it starts to get monotonous. And you say, "Wait a minute, I thought we were in love." No, that was not love, that's infatuation. Remember, it doesn't start to be love until you give and give and give and give and give and give and give. And when the thrill seemingly is gone, you keep on giving and giving and giving. That's love. I went to school in Saint Paul, Minnesota, a school called Bethel College, and there was a guy there from Northern Minnesota, place called International Falls, which is the end of the world.

There's one bobsled, one hockey puck and a Coke machine and the abominable snowman. That's it. Well I had a buddy, really neat guy, but he was about 10 years behind. You ever met somebody like that, nice person where they just stepped out of a time machine, you know? They're going, "Where have you been?" First of all, he had a pair of engineer boots. Remember those things? Who knows? They're probably back again. But at any rate, it all goes in circles, never throw away a tie. Had taps on the souls and taps on the heels, [inaudible 00:19:15]. Windows would break, walls would fall down. Then he had a pair of jeans he never took off. He was afraid to, that's how strong they were. Caked by grease. Then he had a black leather jacket with 87 zippers. Yeah, they'll be back. They're real classic. You can ever remember where you put the last piece of paper. You got to look through 87 different pockets. That's a real fun thing.

Then he had what's called a chopper. You know what a chopper is? It's a cross between a Learjet and a tricycle. Well, he had a girlfriend too, and people were always saying, "What does she see in him?" Which I thought was a pretty good question. Like I said, he was a friend of mine. Well, he graduated and they got married. He went onto law school. They gave him about a 10% chance to make it. Like I said, he was a friend of mine. He graduated in the top 50% of his class. In fact, even higher than that, I couldn't believe it. I saw him years later and I said, "Steve, how did you do it?" You know what he said? "My wife." He says, "I am what I am because of my wife." He said, "She believed in me. She worked. She helped me type out those miserable law papers and study for those miserable law exams."

He said, "I would not be anywhere near what I should be apart from my wife." Men, lest I sound the least bit chauvinistic, now listen to me. Women almost by intuition know how to give to make a relationship work. You ready for this? Do not, I repeat, do not get married unless you are willing to make your wife the second most important priority in your life. God, first, your wife and family second, then comes your job, then comes your toys, then comes your hobby. Then comes all these other things, because if you don't do that, she will get bitter and she's got a pretty good case.

Roger Marsh: You've been listening to Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh and today our guest on the program was Dawson McAllister, world renowned speaker and counselor for teens and young people. Dr. Dobson, great program today.

Dr. Dobson: Well Roger, we promised Dawson McAllister would bring our listeners some practical information about love from a Biblical perspective here on Family Talk, and I think you'll agree that he delivered.

Roger Marsh: Oh, he did.

Dr. Dobson: You know, this would be such a great program to share with teens and young people, and it would be so helpful as they begin to date and to think about finding a future spouse. This could also be a very useful recording if you find that you're struggling in your own marriage, because there's a lot of good information here. So if you find you need to hear this program again and you want to share it with others, you can download it from our website at Roger, why don't you give them the other information they need to make a connection. I hope our listeners enjoyed this classic program today.

Roger Marsh: Oh me too, doctor, absolutely. And if you want to hear more, Dawson McAllister offers the same kind of clear advice to listeners, primarily 29 and under, on his call in radio program, Dawson McAllister Live. He also sponsors a free 24 hour counseling chat line called The Hope Line, which helps people navigate difficult life issues. Now we have a link for both sites on our webpage, which is, and while you're online, would you please remember that Family Talk is a listener supported ministry. Your gifts right now, they help us to provide resources to families in need, so you can donate online at or call us at 877-732-6825 today. Thank you so much and be sure to join us again tomorrow for another edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.

Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.

Dawson McAllister: If you want to know whether or not you're really in love, give it the test of time.

Roger Marsh: For Family Talk, here's Dr. James Dobson.

Dr. Dobson: Infatuation is the name we give to that first bright burst of attraction between two people. It sets our pulses racing and it makes us think of clouds, and fireworks and stories that end in "happily ever after." And there's no doubt that infatuation looks and feels very much like love. The only problem is, it doesn't last. It's a quick emotional high with no commitment behind it, and when it runs its course, we find ourselves back where we started with little or nothing to show for the experience. How then can we distinguish real love from temporary attraction? If the feeling is unreliable, how can we measure the commitment of the will?

There's only one answer to that question: it takes time. The best advice I can offer a couple contemplating marriage or any other important issue is this, make no important life shaping decisions quickly or impulsively. Measure your motivations carefully and when in doubt, stall for time. Give your emotions a chance to evolve and oscillate. If your love is real, it can handle the weight, and your relationship will be all the stronger for the seasoning of an unhurried foundation.

Roger Marsh: To find out how you can partner with Family Talk, go to

Dr. Clinton: This is Dr. Tim Clinton, executive director of the James Dobson Family Institute. Thanks for listening today. We hope you found this program helpful and encouraging. Please remember that our ministry is here to serve you and your family. For more information about our programs and resources or to learn how you can support us, go to That's, or call us toll free, 877-732-6825. I pray that God will bless you in 2020. We're so grateful for your partnership. We ask you to stand with us and to continue to defend the Christian values in an ever changing culture. Thanks again for joining us. We hope you'll join us again on the next edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.
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