Reasons Why Real Love Is Never A Waste Of Time

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Sometimes looking for romantic love can seem so difficult that we question whether it’s worth it. Is there any real point in wading through the modern dating scene to find a partner? Should you bother putting in the work to build a long-term relationship, or are you better off staying single and sticking to a set of casual flings? Could your time be better spent on your career, your friendships, and your hobbies rather than chasing romance?

Though they’re not always obvious, there are good reasons for pursuing and cultivating real love. Healthy, stable romantic relationships—if you’re interested in them—can make you happier, healthier, and more well-rounded as a person while giving you a greater sense of fulfillment. 

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Counseling can help you process your doubts about love

What is real love?

Some readers might be confused by the statement that “real love” is worth the effort.

What makes love real or not, and how do you tell the difference? 

In this case, we’re using “real love” to mean a long-term romantic commitment involving:

  • Mutual trust
  • Compassion for each other
  • Cooperation
  • Respect for your partner
  • Confidence that your partner respects you
  • A sincere desire for the other person’s happiness

The lifetime movie-like excitement and infatuation of a new relationship can be wonderful, but they’re not what real love means in this context. We’re talking about the kind of love that endures over time because everyone involved is willing to work on it and make sacrifices. It’s not something that “just happens” to you — it’s something you choose to do every day. 

People who’ve experienced that type of love often acknowledge that it involves challenges, whether it be disapproving parents, financial disagreements, or conflicting opinions on issues as major as family values and as minor as whether rock or hip hop is better. However, they tend to feel that the effort to overcome those challenges—even the big ones—is well worth it in the end.

Romantic love isn’t for everyone

Before we continue, it’s important to note that not all individuals experience the drive for romance. There are a wide variety of sexual and romantic orientations, with some people experiencing little or no interest in romantic love — for example, aromantic or gray-romantic people. 

Despite the benefits of real romantic love that we’ll be describing below, people who are not strongly romantically oriented can lead just as happy, fulfilling lives that do not involve romance. They often form other kinds of meaningful emotional bonds, especially with family and friends.

The point of this article is not that everyone should seek out a romantic relationship, but rather that those who are interested may benefit from seeking certain elements.

That said, if you are inclined toward romantic love, there are lots of good reasons to think that it’s anything but a waste of time. 

Real love can bring happiness

We’ll begin with the most basic argument for cultivating love: it makes you happy. For many people, simply spending time with their beloved partner can bring a powerful sense of joy and contentment. This may be how you recognize that you’re in love in the first place. You realize that just being around another person, or even thinking about them, brings a smile to your face.

A study conducted in 2002 found that the happiest people tended to be those with the strongest romantic and social relationships. Having a stable, loving bond with another person may provide a powerful support for our sense of well-being.

This doesn’t mean that real love makes you equally happy all the time. The same study found that even the happiest people in their survey still experienced negative moods. Sometimes even good relationships involve hardship, conflict, and sacrifice.

In fact, some researchers have found that occasionally expressing anger and getting into arguments may be necessary to make a relationship work. Despite the rough patches, people tend to be happier in the long run that they put in the effort to make their love last. 


Real love can make you healthier

Having a long-term, loving connection with another person appears to be good for your body as well as your happiness. Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since contemporary science has found important links between mental and physical health. Still, many people may not realize how many different ways real love can improve your health, such as

  • Stress reduction. Stress can have harmful effects for nearly every one of your bodily systems. But being in the presence of your romantic partner, or even thinking about them, appears to lower your body’s stress response

  • Improved immune function. The body’s immune system, which helps you fight off diseases, may work better when you’re in love. Studies suggest that immune function is boosted by oxytocin, a hormone which tends to be present in higher concentrations when you’re in a loving relationship.

  • Better odds of detecting disease. Sometimes we might not realize something is wrong with us until another person points it out. This may be why, for example, married people are more likely to detect a cancerous growth before it metastasizes.

  • Heart health. Love may be literally as well as figuratively good for your heart. A meta-analysis of the scientific literature found that being married reduced the odds of cardiovascular disease. 

  • Longevity. Given all the other factors above, you may have already guessed that marriage appears to increase your expected lifespan. 

Once again, we should note that these benefits don’t necessarily apply only to romantic relationships. Other studies have found that close social relationships of all kinds can have similar health effects. But if you’re concerned that you desire for love is a waste of time, it’s worth remembering that a genuine partnership might help keep you out of the hospital.

Real love may help you improve yourself

Having a partner who believes in you and whose happiness is important to you might help you become the person you want to be. Lots of loving couples have experienced this phenomenon. People tend to view their partners in idealized ways, sometimes thinking better of us than we think of ourselves. This can prompt us to work on ourselves as we strive to live up to the way our loved ones see us.

One simple example: researchers found that married people are less likely to use harmful and addictive substances. The feeling of having someone else to live for may make it easier to avoid self-destructive habits. And the desire to be a better person for your partner’s sake may also help motivate you to exercise, pursue career goals, learn new skills, challenge yourself creatively, and broaden your mind.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Along with helping you reach important goals, a relationship with real love could also give you a wider sense of who you are. Some psychological research hints at the possibility that people in love may grow by taking on aspects of each other’s personalities. 

This concept is called the “self-expansion model.” As the name suggests, it’s not describing an unhealthy situation of codependence or suffocation. Instead, in a self-expanding relationship, both partners gain a wider sense of self by learning and adopting positive characteristics from one another. 

Love isn’t the only way to grow your identity, but a healthy partnership may be a strong source of self-expansion. We can pick up many positive things from the people we love, such as a better sense of humor, a new interest, or a different way of looking at the world. Real love may help you grow in ways you never would have imagined.

Real love is a choice

No matter how good we’ve made love sound, there are many ways of living a happy and satisfying life on your own. It’s entirely up to you whether romance is something you want to pursue. Real love is an ongoing, enthusiastic, natural choice, even when you’re the opposite of thrilled or overjoyed. Trying to force yourself to commit to a romantic partner because of ideals or inflexible expectations, rather than a genuine desire to do so, may only bring misery.

Those who have long-term, fulfilling relationships tend to report that love takes work and that both partners must make the consistent choice to keep it alive. In a subtle way, the freedom not to choose love may be part of what makes it so meaningful. Knowing that your relationship is a gift that you and your partner are freely giving each other might make it seem all the more beautiful.

Counseling can help you process your doubts about love

What if you’re still worried love is a waste of time?

Even with all the benefits we’ve described above, you may still struggle with doubts about whether love is worth it, especially if you have had unpleasant or hurtful experiences in the past. Any close relationship can bring both happiness and pain, and negative experiences with love can leave you torn between desire and dread. A trained therapist may be able to help you sort through your feelings and figure out what’s best for you.

Some people prefer to connect with therapists online through services such as BetterHelp, which can often be faster and more convenient than trying to find a mental health provider through traditional channels. This may be a good option if you’re not certain you’re interested in long-term therapy. If you think you might only need a few sessions to talk through your feelings about love, the flexibility of internet therapy might be right for you.

Counseling delivered online can be every bit as helpful as talking to someone in person. A recent meta-analysis of research on this subject found “a similar therapeutic effect” for in-person and online therapy. And people pursuing love and relationship counseling online often report high levels of satisfaction and positive outcomes from the process. BetterHelp’s online platform can help you locate a therapist who’s right for you. 


Real love can be extremely meaningful and beneficial for those who are romantically oriented. Real love often makes people happier and healthier, while helping them with self-improvement and personal growth. If you’re having doubts about whether you should work toward love, online counseling from a trained therapist might help you find clarity. 
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