It’s important to clarify that everyone experiences and expresses love in their own unique way. However, with that in mind, clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner, Psy.D., says, “What we do know is that there is a difference between lust, attraction, and attachment, which combine to what I define as love.”
The attachment stage is key for long-term love, Wegner adds. Attachment is about feeling deeply connected to someone more than your physical lust and attraction. “It can be sexual and romantic or not (such as infant-bonding, close friendships, and loving family relationships),” she says.
Licensed marriage and family therapist Linda Carroll M.S., LMFT, explains the idea of wholehearted love as the last of five stages of a relationship. A couple must go through deep interpersonal connection but also doubts, disillusionment, and ultimately a decision about whether to stick it out, all before experiencing true, wholehearted love.
Notably, both experts note the idea of one soul mate seems to be a wash: “I think you can make a choice to spend your life with another person,” Carroll tells mbg, but “I think there’s more than one right person—I think there are many kinds of soul mates.”