Things only mature adults understand about true love

Once upon a time, I was really into Nicholas Sparks novels and romantic movies, and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t happy in relationships.

Or rather, I knew exactly why I was unhappy: No one was living up to the fairytale I had fashioned for myself in my head.

I was only pleased when things were above and beyond romantic. I wanted to write a best-selling book based on my great love story.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting big romance, you aren’t ready for real love if you’re only focused on butterflies and sweeping romantic gestures. True love is grittier and sometimes a little more boring than the movies make it out to be. You need a dash of realism in your approach to love if you really want to keep the romance alive.

Here are seven signs that your romantic heart is finally ready for real love:

#1. You don’t believe in soulmates.
Let’s face it: There are plenty of fish in the sea, and the idea that there's only one person in the whole world for you is a little far-fetched. You can still have big love and big romance without chalking it up to being each other’s soulmates.
The idea that someone is fated to be your one true love makes it feel like your relationship should always be effortless, or that you should always grow and evolve at the same pace. True love needs to leave room for effort, because staying in love isn’t always easy.

#2. You aren’t looking for a rom-com romance.
You may not have the serendipitous first encounter that leaves you breathless. You probably won’t be forced apart only to be reunited against all odds — kissing in the pouring rain. And you know what? That’s OK. You can meet someone on Tinder and still get butterflies. Your romance doesn’t have to be fit for the big screen as long as it makes your heart race.

#3. You aren’t into the fairytale dynamic.
You don’t need to be saved and you aren’t looking for a knight in shining armor. You’re all about finding a partner to grow alongside, not someone to fulfill a sweep-you-off-your-feet fairytale. Finding a romantic partner isn’t going to solve your problems; you need to be able to save yourself and love yourself first if you want to find your happily ever after.

#4. You don’t dream about having a "perfect" love story.
Even if you do get that fit-for-the-movies romance story, no love story is perfect from start to finish. You have to be willing to work on your relationship and understand that love isn’t meant to be perfect. You know that hard times will bring you to a place where you have a closer connection and deeper love, and that's truly romantic.

#5. You're willing to work for it.
Real love is never effortless. No matter how well-suited you are for one another, and no matter how deeply in love you are, no relationship is always easy. You know that love isn't all wonderful all the time. Once the initial thrill subsides and you dive deeper into your relationship, it takes work to keep a relationship alive. You aren't afraid to put in the effort that real love requires.

#6. You aren't looking for your "other half."
When it comes to finding love, you shouldn't be searching for your other half. A relationship should never be what completes you. You know you're a whole person, worthy and deserving and interesting, regardless of whether or not you have a partner.
You should feel confident that you're enough, all by yourself. When you're looking for love, you're looking for someone to stand beside you, not become half of your identity. Only you can complete you.

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