Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


What It Means to Truly Be Loved

Love is often most apparent in the simplest acts.

Key points

  • Popular ideas about love tend to focus on "in love" feelings.
  • Action is a powerful way to communicate love for another person.
  • It often doesn't take much to let someone know they are loved.
Yaroslav Astakhov/Adobe Stock
Source: Yaroslav Astakhov/Adobe Stock

“True love is cleaning the broiler pan.” I heard my dad say this line countless times throughout my childhood. Our broiler pan was always a greasy mess after meat was cooked on it, and his quip underscored the verb form of love—being willing to do something for another person.

There are many meanings attached to the word “love.” Psychologist Robert Sternberg’s triangular theory of love describes passionate love, intimate love, and committed love. M. Scott Peck defined love as “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s growth” in his bestselling book The Road Less Traveled.

There’s an informal theory of love that’s captured in the pink and red hearts and roses of Valentine’s Day, with an emphasis on flowers and feelings. Our ideas about love often focus on emotions: Do I really love her? Does he love me? Will we always feel this close? These questions can be hard to answer with certainty because feelings are tough to pin down.

And then there are those moments that remove all doubt, when you encounter love and you know exactly what it is. When I think of times I’ve witnessed or experienced love, it’s the verbs that stand out more than feelings or professions alone.

Love is saying “I’m so sorry that happened” when you have every right to say, “I told you so.”

Love is cleaning a child’s puke out of the carpet.

Love is turning the car around and driving back to the motel to find the toy pistol for your sad 7-year-old’s Lone Ranger action figure.

Love is bringing you a cup of tea when you had no idea anyone was thinking of you.

Love is making your life easier in a way you hadn’t even thought of.

Love is holding your cold fingers in their warm hands.

Love is getting up to care for a child when all you want to do is sleep. Night after night, child after child.

Love is silently wrapping your arms around each other when you’re both too sad for words.

Love is sticking it out through that painful conversation that needed to happen and that breathes life back into your relationship.

Love is reminding you that you’re not as bad as your worst days.

Love is trimming your aging mother’s toenails when she’s no longer able to care for herself.

Love is when you’re having one of the worst days of your life and they move toward you instead of away.

Love is staying when worse, poorer, and sickness show up.

Love is waking up crying from a dream of being utterly lost and alone and feeling arms reach for you in the darkness.

You probably can think of times in your own life when someone showed you that you were loved in a way that was impossible to doubt, and when you did the same for another person. As many of these examples show, expressing love doesn't require a lot of money or a grand act of self-sacrifice. It’s often apparent in the simplest acts when awareness meets care.

How might you show someone you care about what it means to be loved?

Facebook/LinkedIn image: fizkes/Shutterstock


Peck, M. S. (2003). The road less traveled: A new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth. Touchstone.

Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93, 119–135

More from Seth J. Gillihan PhD
More from Psychology Today