You may have used phrases “being in love with someone” and “loving someone” interchangeably. Both expressions focus on the love that you have for another person, yet there are important distinctions between their meanings. "The spark that defines a love-at-first-sight experience is better described as a strong attraction accompanied by an openness to a future relationship," says psychologist Theresa E. DiDonato. "Romantic love is more involved, encompassing emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. It's also not something that generally happens instantly, but rather, it usually tends to emerge over time." If you’re trying to interpret the strong feelings that you have for another person, here’s how to decipher if you’re in love, or if you love this person instead.
Determining if you're actually in love with a person can help you decide if you should be exclusive with them, stay in a relationship, or make a deeper commitment.
Being in Love vs. Loving Someone
Being in love with someone is emotionally charged. If you’re wondering what it means to be in love, one of the key distinctions has to do directly with your emotions. Specifically, when you’re in love with someone, you feel an intensely strong and almost inexplicable passion and desire for him or her. In fact, being in love means that you yearn for this person, you think about them constantly and you crave being around this person and spending time together.
Loving someone isn’t based on a whirlwind of emotions. On the other hand, when it comes to simply loving someone, this kind of affection and adoration is far more inherent and innate as opposed to being based on raw emotions. And whether the person you love is your partner, your friend, or your parent, your strong feelings for them stem from a deep-rooted place within you rather than from heightened feelings of passion and even infatuation.
Being in love with someone can fade over time. With this in mind, when you’re in love with someone, this spike of intense feelings and emotions can be fleeting. In other words, you can go from intensely adoring someone and being hopelessly in love with him or her to having these emotions diminish as time passes on and the novelty has worn off. In fact, being in love with someone isn’t a guarantee that you’ll feel this same way forever.
Loving someone is more permanent. Loving someone, on the other hand, is far more permanent and long-lasting. And even if the person you love aggravates you, disappoints you, or grows more distant, you’ll still always care about him or her on some level. In fact, your loving feelings towards another person can be so deeply ingrained that the affection you have for an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend can last long after a breakup has occurred.
Being in love can be shaken easily. When you’re in love with someone, your connection may not be strong enough to weather storms and make it through challenges unfazed. For example, you may be head over heels for your partner, but as soon as real problems arise or there’s a bump in the road, the highly passionate connection may not be strong enough to withstand life’s highs and lows. In fact, being in love doesn’t mean that you actually know this person well enough to overcome obstacles together.
Loving someone can sustain life’s ups and downs. When you love someone, your relationship with them is strong enough to make it through life’s challenges. In fact, your bond with one another is so inherently strong that when problems or issues arise, they can actually bring you closer together rather than farther apart. In actuality, there’s a deep sense of trust, respect, and honesty that’s inherent to a loving relationship that may or may not be fully developed or even present when you’re just in love.
Being in Love Opens the Door to the Possibility of Long-Term Love
In order to understand the difference between being in love and loving someone, it’s also important to recognize the way in which they’re related. Specifically, by being in love with someone, you’re actually setting the stage to transition your feelings of intense passion, desire, and longing into long-lasting love. In fact, being in love with someone can transform into a type of eternal love that you have with your partner. But in order to love someone in this everlasting way, you have to be in love with them first.