How do you know if someone loves you?

What does love look like and how do you know if someone loves you? Dorothy Black believes you should create a love ‘must haves’ list.


I made the mistake of googling ‘how do you know if he loves you’ for this column. The lists went from the inane (‘he brings you coffee’, ‘he doesn’t play on his phone when he’s with you’), to the co-dependent and absurd (‘he cancels plans for you’, ‘he remembers every little conversation’, ‘he thinks your annoying habits are cute’…).

My knee-jerk reaction to this sort of content bumph is to cut it down to size and say there’s only one way to tell if someone loves you. Ask them: ‘Do you love me?’ Get answer. Boom.

I used my list as a referral sheet whenever all the voices in my head second-guessed my feelings or denied reality

But it’s too flippant a response to what is actually a good question. How do you know if someone loves you? It’s one thing to hear the pretty words, but quite another to feel them in action.

Years ago, my therapist made me describe what a good, loving relationship looks like to me. My ‘love list’ included all the actions I believed would show me that someone was treating me with love. I use the word ‘actions’ because, as the saying goes, love is a verb.

As someone who was habitually attaching themselves to emotionally unavailable people, I used my list as a referral sheet whenever all the voices in my head second-guessed my feelings or denied reality. This is what came up for me…

I am a priority in my partner’s life. We put all kinds of stuff into the priority basket of our lives: health, kids and career are usually the common fillers. But ‘our relationship’ and ‘me’ needs to be there as well – way above partying, exes, and TV watching.

They make time for me and the relationship. Emotional availability is paramount. This means that they are open to investing time, intimacy and vulnerability in the relationship.

They are willing to communicate openly. Even if it’s difficult, they trust me and the process enough to share their honest thoughts and feelings. A willingness to engage in good communication is the only way two people move forward together.

They want to be physically close with me. I am a big cuddler, toucher and sexer. It’s vitally important that my partner can express himself physically with me. It’s why long-distance relationships, digital relationships and being ‘the side’ has never worked for me.

They consider me in their plans. If you say you love me, but can’t see me as a part of your life plans, or feel uncomfortable planning a mini break and involving me in group friend hangouts, there’s a problem.

Your love list might be different. But remember to separate your wants from your needs. Do you need flowers and want respect? Do you need compliments and want to be a priority? Or are the flowers and compliments nice extras to your love must-haves: to be respected and considered a priority?

Once you know what love looks like to you, it’ll be easier to spot when it comes your way – and when someone is just paying you ‘I love you’ lip service.

This column was first published on