We all want to know the secrets to love and understand what it takes to find it, keep it and have it in our lives.
But there is a big difference between loving someone and being in love. In fact, there are about 12 differences that we’ve found, according to psychologists.
So if you are wondering whether you really love someone or you are in love with them, this list can help you figure that out.
1) You Can’t Choose to Love Someone
Loving someone and being in love are two different things. But how can you know the difference?
For starters, when you are in love with someone, you can’t choose that person. It just sort of happens.
Sometimes it happens quickly and takes you by surprise, and other times love builds over time and you find yourself wanting to be with someone.
You love your Mom, but you aren’t in love with your mom.
Psychologist Dr. Julie Gurner, explains that when you say you love some “as a person”, it often indicates that you “see them more as a genuinely close friend you care deeply about”, as opposed to someone you are deeply in love with.
2) You Want Them to Do Well
When you love someone, you want them to succeed. If your sister gets accepted to law school, you want her to succeed.
But if you are in love with someone, you will go out of your way to help them succeed.
Sure, you might help your sister out once in a while by driving her to school or sending her a care package, but your happiness doesn’t depend on her happiness.
When you are in love with someone, you might find that your happiness is directly related to how happy they are in the relationship.
3) Love Changes When You are in Love
Loving your mom or dad doesn’t really change with the time. You might want to call them names or even stop talking to them for awhile, but deep down, that love doesn’t really change.
They’ll always be your mom and dad and that is a kind of love that lasts forever.
Being in love, however can change on a dime. Especially if someone hurts you or if your feelings of love are not reciprocated.
Or if you were in love with someone, but find that you no longer feel that way for them. It changes over time for good and bad.
Toni Coleman, LCSW, psychotherapist and relationship coach, backs this up by saying that “being in love is more of a transitory experience. People fall in and out of love more than once in a lifetime. When we are in love, we have a unique sense of an intimate bond. However when hardships happen or when one person hurts or disappoints the other, people can fall out of love.”
4) Needing Someone and Wanting Someone
When you love someone, you need them to be around.
For instance, you might move back to your hometown to be closer to your parents or best friend. If you are in love with someone, you recognize that they must go where they need to in order for them to be happy.
And you acknowledge that the place they need to be might not be with you. But because you are in love with them and want them to be happy, even if it is not with you.
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5) Emotions Abound When You Are in Love
It doesn’t matter how long you have been in love, emotions are always top of mind in a relationship founded on being in love.
When you are happy, you are really happy. When you are sad, you are really sad. There just doesn’t seem to be an in between emotion for being in love.
Everything is ten-fold. When you love someone, you feel steady and they make you feel stable. Let’s face it: being in love can make you feel crazy most of the time.
According to Kemi Sugonle, certified relationship expert and author of Love, Sex, Lies, and Reality,
“Being in love with someone can stem from infatuation, possessiveness and obsession. You both talk, hold hands, hug kisses and develop surface feelings. You feel alone when your partner is not around you. You crave and yearn for them to be with you all the time.
“Loving someone on the other hand, goes beyond the physical presence. You desire to see them grow, you see past their flaws, you see opportunities of building into each other and together; you motivate, encourage and inspire one another. You do not have to second-guess or ask before you step in to do so.”
6) How They Make You Feel
When you love someone, you expect them to love you back. Again, this is most easily demonstrated with the love of a dear friend or parent, sibling, relative or someone else close to you that you are not romantically involved.
You probably have a lot of expectations of that person to make you feel a certain way. For example, your parents might have spent much of your life making you feel good about yourself.
But if you are in love with someone, you quickly realize that it’s not about how you feel or how the person you are in love with makes you feel. It’s about how you can make them feel. You go above and beyond for them no matter what.
7) Ownership vs. Partnership
Loving someone is about ownership. You love you brother. He is your brother. You love your best friend. She is your best friend. But when you are in love with your best friend – and it does happen! – you realize that it’s about building a partnership. Your parents love you because, frankly, they own you to a certain extent.
Being in love with someone is about more than ownership. A lot of trust and vulnerability goes into being in love with someone and you want to have an equal response from them.
There’s a difference, says clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow and host of The Web Radio Show.
“If you find yourself caring for your partner but not desiring them, caring for your partner but not needing to be close to them, caring for your partner but not wanting to share with them, you may love your partner but not be in love with them.”
8) You Might Climb More Hills Than You Wanted To
When you love someone, as in your parents, you might find that you struggle to make meaning of your relationship and struggle to find where you belong in that type of love.
Being in love with someone seems so effortless though, and you’ll find yourself wondering where it even came from most of the time. That’s how you know the difference between being in love and loving someone. Being in love comes from unexpected places and loving someone is automatic.
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9) Being in Love With Someone is Like a Force You Can’t Control – Loving Someone is a Choice
If you’ve ever felt compelled to love someone, driven to love them, or like you can’t live without them, that’s being in love. You cannot help it if you are in love with someone.
Being in love is like a force that you cannot control. It’s why women stay with men who beat them, men stay with women who cheat, and relationships go on far longer than they should: you can’t control who you are in love with.
You can, on the other hand, decide to love people in your life. It’s why you can allow people in and out of your life, even if it hurts.
Gary D. Chapman, author The Five Love Languages adds,
“Our most basic emotional need is not to fall in love but to be genuinely loved by another, to know a love that grows out of reason and choice, not instinct.
That kind of love requires effort and discipline. It is the choice to expend energy in an effort to benefit the other person, knowing that if his or her life is enriched by your effort, you too will find a sense of satisfaction — the satisfaction of having genuinely loved another. it does not require the euphoria of the in-love experience.”
10) You Work Toward Goals Together When They Are in Love
When you love someone, you can cheer them on from the sidelines and help them succeed. When you are in love with someone, you get to be a part of their success and you see their success as your success. Their goals become your goals. Their dreams become your dreams.
Heidi McBain, MA, licensed marriage and family therapist, says,
“Couples in love tend to be happy in their everyday lives together, but they also have mutual relationship goals for the future.”
When you love someone, like a friend or family member, you don’t get invested in the day-to-day of a dream or goal. You want them to be happy and to find their success, but you don’t become emotionally charged by their dreams.
11) You Need People You Love, You Want People to Be Happy When You Are in Love
Something that is often hard for people to understand is the fact that you can be in love with someone and let them go. You can do this because when you are in love, you want them to be happy above all else, even if it means you don’t get to be with them.
Loving someone, like your mother or father, is the kind of love that you need. You need them around, you need them to show up for you, you need them to take care of you.
Don Miguel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love, points out,
“If you take your happiness and put it in someone’s hands, sooner or later, she is going to break it. If you give your happiness to someone else, she can always take it away.
“Then if happiness can only come from inside of you and is the result of your love, you are responsible for your happiness. We can never make anyone responsible for our happiness…”
But being in love, on the other hand, means giving people the space they need, when they need it, regardless of the place it leaves you.
12) You Want People to Feel Loved, You Want to Be Loved
When you are in love, you want nothing more than for that person to feel loved. You go out of your way to make them feel at home with you and your every move is about ensuring they know how much you care.
Loving someone, on the other hand, is about giving and taking. You can be in love and never get anything in return, such is the way of many relationships that never work out: one partner is in love and one is not. Some people never have their love returned.
Loving someone, like when you love your parents, is about them loving you and you loving them. You know that your feelings are reciprocated, at least, under normal circumstances. There’s never a worry that their love will go away.
What does it mean to “truly” love someone?
Love is something hard to define. And maybe it’s not meant to be.
We are all searching for something meaningful – a love that lasts a lifetime, something that can weather any storm, something that can make us feel like we’ve finally found “home.”
However, love can be a confusing experience. And sadly, some of us go on in life mistaking all sorts of feelings as “real love.” While love is intuitive, there are experiences in life that make us think toxic relationships amount to real love.
So what does it mean when you’ve found healthy, mature, real love?
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.,clinical psychologist and author of Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships says,
“Love should never be an act of manipulation. It is not a mark of ownership over another person, but the exact opposite—a genuine appreciation of a person as a separate individual.
“When we see a person this way, we allow ourselves to fully value them for who they are and for the happiness they bring to our lives.
“We are driven to be generous toward the person, to show compassion and kindness in a way that both they and the outside world would view as loving.”
The reality is, true love doesn’t deliberately hurt you. It is kind. It encompasses any selfishness. That’s how you know that love is real – when it doesn’t want to take anything away, but rather, just give.
If you’ve never been in love, you might not know what to look for in your relationship. Some people spend years together based on the premise that they are in love, only to find out that it wasn’t romantic love at all, but a love of friendship or family.
Pay attention to how you are defining your love and if you aren’t going out of your way for someone, it’s likely not the kind of love you are waiting for.