This completely quirky but totally true description of love is courtesy of Montreal author Heather O’Neill in her novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. (Read Heather O’Neill if you can; her work is brilliantly engaging.)
Love is like this small room where a child brings you to show you all their treasures. First the child shows you all the new toys that are bright and shiny and top of the line. But then she shows you all the stuff that has ended up at the bottom of the trunk. There are dolls with eyes that wobble, hair that is falling out of their heads, and dirt behind the ears. Their fingertips have been chewed off by dogs and they have been drawn on with ballpoint pen. It has been so long since they have been held or anyone has told them that they are lovely. They lie at the bottom of the toy chest, hidden and ashamed. You are either going to be disgusted by them, or you are going to be so filled with love for them that your heart almost breaks.
At some point, any long-term relationship will expose you to the bad, the sad and the vulnerable in your partner, alongside the good, the happy and the strong. That is the point when you find out if your love is real.