‘Love’ is a big word and an even bigger feeling.
It’s difficult to define what love really means.
And then there’s the question of how, exactly, loving someone is different to being in love with someone.
Do you love them? Or are you in love with them?
Can you be both?
When it comes to ‘love’ vs. ‘in love,’ what are the key differences?
1. Infatuation vs. Commitment
Being in love with someone is often felt as infatuation more than anything else.
This is what you experience in those early days when you can’t get enough of the person you’re with.
You want to be with them all the time, and you miss them the second they leave.
This is a really lovely part of a relationship, or dating, but it can be quite confusing.
You might find that you’re in love with someone without necessarily seeing yourself with them in the long term.
They have some great qualities and they make you very happy, or at least, being around them makes you very happy.
They might not be your ideal person, but the situation of being with them works well for you in the moment.
The feelings may feel deep, but they may actually be more surface-level than you realize, and can be more physical than those involved with love itself.
You crave their touch, even if it’s just holding hands or showing some form of ‘ownership’ of them to others.
Loving someone, on the other hand, is accepting them.
The lovestruck awe of infatuation can still be there, but you truly know the person and love them as a whole.
You can see things more objectively (yes, their table manners aren’t amazing), but you accept and love them anyway.
You can see things in a clearer way, without the rose-tinted mist that can often swoop down in the early days of dating.
Rather than just wanting to be around someone all the time, you want to be with them for the long-term.
Loving someone is embracing them and building something real together; it’s not just the daydreaming stage.
It’s seeing the flaws in someone and loving them anyway, because you want to be with them, not just around them.
Unconditional love truly means just that – without conditions – and you almost don’t have a choice in whether or not you feel it.
2. Ownership vs. Growth
The infatuation stage can be all-consuming, and so can you!
When you’re in love with someone, you’re desperate to be around them, to know everything about their life.
You want to be involved in everything they do and you’re almost desperate to be a big part of their life.
Yet, when you love someone, you want the best for them – whatever that may be.
And, in some sad cases, that’s not being with them.
This shows the huge difference between loving someone and being in love with someone – you’re willing to let them go if it’s better for them.
Feelings of ownership fade, if they were ever there, and instead you learn to appreciate your partner’s growth and progress in life.
The idea of being a support system for another person, as well as yourself, becomes very important.
3. Short-term vs. Long-lasting
This isn’t the case for everyone, but being in love doesn’t always last for that long.
Those intense feelings of infatuation can fade just as quickly as they arrived because they may not be all that deep.
That’s not to say that they’re not genuine feelings, they’re just so intense and sped-up that they can fizzle out pretty quickly.
Lust and desire play a huge role in these kinds of feelings, so it’s important to be self-aware as you date or go into new relationships.
Of course, being in love with someone can lead to loving them, truly. It depends on the people involved more than anything.
Loving someone tends to last for a long time, with some believing these feelings last forever.
Because they are so deep-rooted and pure, they can be much harder to dismiss than feelings of infatuation.
Some people can love each other without really being in love anymore.
This can happen further down the line in relationships, where the spark has faded, but there is still a closeness; a healthy interdependence.
This is because those initial feelings of obsession and awe can be dampened by the realities of everyday life…
…the bubble of being in love can burst once busy work schedules, kids, and financial issues crop up.
And as we grow old together, the emotional closeness of loving someone tends to become far more important than the emotional intensity of being in love.
The companionship, the shared history, the life you have led by each other’s side – these things form the deepest of bonds.
You may also like (article continues below):
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- When Love Turns Into Unhealthy Emotional Attachment
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- Sure Signs Your Love For Someone Is Unrequited (And What To Do About It)
4. Dependence vs. Stability
Being in love is often about putting the other person first – you put their needs above yours and may find that you lose yourself to the relationship.
This links to the feelings of infatuation, as you’ll do anything for them.
You might find yourself cancelling your plans because you’re so desperate to be around them, and you prioritize them in ways that aren’t always healthy.
Loving someone can still involve this kind of sentiment and sacrifice, but there’s a lot more stability involved.
Rather than sacrificing everything for a moment with the person you’re in love with, you’re comfortable knowing that things will be fine in your relationship if you focus on yourself.
This is such an important stage to get to – being with someone doesn’t mean that you’re codependent!
You can still very much have your own life.
It’s all about feeling stable and confident enough in your relationship to let it go a little bit and be your own person.
5. Pressure vs. Comfort
Dating in the early days of a relationship can be great, but there’s definitely a level of pressure involved.
When you’re falling in love with someone, you want them to see the best possible side to you.
Being in love with someone often involves being the funniest, smartest version of yourself.
It’s totally natural to do this, of course, but those feelings can change once you’re fully in love with someone.
Loving someone and being loved by them means being yourself – whatever version of that it happens to be!
Loving someone means accepting their flaws, their bad hair days, and the struggles they go through.
This really links back to the notion of unconditional love and that commitment you make to loving someone as they are.
This is a really healthy stage to get to.
In the beginning of relationships, you’re both likely to be on your best behavior.
Once you’ve realized you love each other and you’re comfortable, you’ll still want to make them happy, but there’s less pressure to be ‘perfect’ all the time.
6. Doubt vs. Confidence
When you are in love with someone, you can sometimes find yourself wracked with doubt and anxiety about the future of the relationship.
Will it stand the test of time? Are we right for each other? Do they feel the same way?
This is especially true when the honeymoon phase draws to a close and the chemically-induced highs that you felt at the beginning start to fade.
Little arguments can feel like the beginning of a downward spiral of relationship doom.
When you love someone, you feel safe in the knowledge that you and they are a good match and the chances of a successful and happy long term relationship are high.
You accept that there will be ups and downs and that your emotions toward your partner can vary greatly.
But you also know that, deep down, you care for them a great deal and that these feelings are what truly count.
The choppy waters on the surface do not disturb the ocean of true love that lies beneath.
The difference in meaning between loving someone and being in love with someone is sometimes subtle.
It is possible to feel both types of love at the same time, though the relative importance of each will shift as a relationship continues.
Hopefully you are now better equipped to identify what, precisely, you are feeling at this moment in time.