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Few are qualified-.png-largeHealthy, loving relationships are about how well you are treated, not just how you are made to feel.—Alfred Edmond Jr.

This is one of the guiding principles of our book, Loving In The Grown Zone: A No-Nonsense Guide to Making Healthy Decisions in the Quest for Loving, Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem and Respect (Balboa Press). Authentic love is about the quality of treatment between relationship partners. However, too often, we disregard that standard in favor of the thrill of “catching feelings”—treating love as if it were some kind of random natural occurrence (like a lightning bolt), or worse, a disease.

And no wonder, when movies, books, television shows and “love” songs constantly present “that special feeling” as the ultimate proof of love, with hardly a mention of standards or a commitment to a consistent and loving quality of treatment in a relationship. For example, a close listen to the lyrics of many so-called “love” songs have nothing to do with healthy love at all. In the Grown Zone, we urge you to differentiate between fickle, temporary and often manipulative feelings, and the kind of lasting, affirming, reliable behaviors that are a reflection of authentic, healthy love.

Let’s look at just a few of the “romantic” promises that cause the less than Grown to prematurely open their legs, checkbooks, homes and hearts, and compare them to the more dependable behaviors that are characteristic of healthy, sustainable, truly loving relationships.

The Feelings Promise: We can keep our love a secret; no one has to know. The Treatment Commitment: I honor, esteem and respect you, treasuring our love in the light as much as I may enjoy it in the dark. I will never ask you to do anything that diminishes your love of self.

If a relationship can only be maintained in secrecy (no matter how sexy, erotic or “romantic” the setting), it cannot be healthy, and therefore is not love. It is not authentic love if the relationship is characterized by shame, deception or betrayal, or acts that bring about these feelings. Healthy love thrives in the light, not the dark.

Feelings: When I am with you, I make you feel better than you’ve ever felt before; and like no one else can. Treatment: I will treat you lovingly when I am not with you; always honoring our relationship and my words of commitment to you with my actions, choices and habits.

Healthy love is not only about how a person touches you. It’s about how a person treats you when he or she is not touching you, and especially when you are not in that person’s presence.