“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:4

I believe that is the truest statement about love. In media and in real life, we are bombarded with so many images of disconcerted “love” that it’s easy to forget the true essence of what it means to love and be loved, but if you follow the simple words of that scripture, you’re well on your way to a healthy and fulfilling relationship — romantic or otherwise.

Last week, I overheard a conversation a young woman was having with her girlfriend at a restaurant. She was discussing her relationship with her boyfriend. She spoke of the constant fighting, the cheating and the jockeying for pole position in their relationship. “Girl, you know I gotta put his [butt] in check,” she gleamed. Then, she said the thing that almost made me fall out of my chair. “But you know I like all the drama, it lets me know he loves me.”

She implied that all the negative things that were going on in the relationship verified his love for her. So many of us get it twisted about the true nature of love. Love is sane, and what she was describing wasn’t, however, instead of focusing on that insanity, my thoughts turned to the great examples of love in my life.

My first example of true love is my mother. I am very fortunate to have a mother who has that old-fashioned “love you through anything” kind of love. It is the singular relationship in my life that I can say has consistently been an example of that First Corinthians scripture. And, I don’t take my mother’s love for granted, as I have seen many parents, who have not had the same unconditional and wide-open love that my mother has shown me. I am so grateful to have that in my life, it has made all of the difference.

If you read this column regularly, you know I’m always bragging about my friends. I have pretty much had the same friends my entire life. While I love all of my friends equally, there are three friends that hold a near and dear place in my heart. I have known my best friends; Andrea, Antonious and Danielle, for thirty-five-plus years, and they have never wavered in their friendship and love for me. It is almost unbelievable that I’ve never had a fight with any of them. Not even a major disagreement and I even lived with Danielle.

I count those three friendships as a top blessing in my life. We’re always supportive of each other no matter what. We tell each other the truth — even if it’s unpopular. Most importantly, there’s never been any jealousy or envy in any of those relationships. And, that’s pretty hard considering they are all rock stars with great talents. I couldn’t have asked for purer relationships than with those three people. It really is all about love; always has been and always will be.  

Recently, I’ve experience some disappointing endings to friendships that I thought were solid. As I evaluated those failed relationships, I realized that if I had applied the standards of love set by my three best friends, I should’ve known the difference. Truly, these relationships were the antithesis of that scripture on love. If we pay attention, we know the difference between a sane relationship and one that is not.

I have often said that if you don’t like my best friend, Danielle, then there is something wrong with you. Quite frankly, I have never met anyone who doesn’t like her. She’s gorgeous, smart and a ball of fun. With that said, she’d experienced some difficult times in dating when we became adults. So much so, she believed she was never going to get married. I thought, “Well, if Dani can’t find anyone then, it’s a wrap for me.”

Thankfully, she met a great man! They’ve been married for years, and over those years they have been an example of what it means to be truly committed to your partner and give them unconditional love. The way they still look at each other, after two kids and years of marriage, just makes me smile. She supports him and he supports her. At his retirement party (from the NFL), the final statement of his speech summed it up for me. “The best decision I made in my life was marrying Danielle.” And you knew he meant every word of it. My heart melted.

Real love is all around us! Even though we are constantly fed bad information about love, we all know what it is supposed to be and feel like. I refuse to believe that love is contentious. And no matter what anyone says or does, I will always believe in the sanity of love.