Young people need to learn the difference between true love and its counterfeits

If we are serious about preparing young people for a stable and lasting marriage in later years, we need to make sure they understand what true love involves.

The Family Education Trust is currently mailing a new leaflet to all secondary schools in the UK aimed at helping young people appreciate some of the key differences between true love and its counterfeits.

Entitled ‘What is love?’, the attractively-produced leaflet shows that while love certainly involves the emotions, it involves much more than that. A love that stands the test of time will need commitment, faithfulness, perseverance and patience – character qualities that run much deeper than feelings that come and go.

Sex education campaigners often talk about needing to teach young people about relationships, emotions and feelings in a very vague and airy-fairy way, but they invariably fail to draw a distinction between a love that is true and pale imitations of the real thing.

The problem with so much relationships education is that it confuses love with infatuation, lust and mere physical attraction. The result is that it has become the norm for young people to embark on a series of short-term casual relationships that all too often prove to be a training-ground for divorce rather than for happy and fulfilling marriages.

There is all the difference in the world between true love and the selfish pursuit of short-term romance. A love that is real will be expressed not only in the midst of the most intense feeling and emotion, but in all the ups and downs of a shared life.

We need to encourage young people to question the notion that we have a ‘right’ to every good thing, and we have a right to it ‘now’. Because we live in a culture that expects and demands instant gratification, we have become impatient, and growing numbers of people are suffering the consequences in terms of personal debt, emotional trauma, sexually transmitted infections and family breakdown.

But it hasn’t always been like that, and it doesn’t have to remain like that. We need to show young people that there is a better way and start emphasising the importance of patience, self-control and commitment.

Norman Wells is Director of the Family Education Trust, an organisation committed to researching the causes and consequences of family breakdown – Sample copies of ‘What is love?’ are available on request at