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 20 differences, 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.
(#3 may come as a surprise — but it’s a hot topic in relationship psychology at the moment).
We have a lot to cover so let’s dive right in.
1) Excitement and desire vs. deep connection and comfort
Being in love is a giddy experience like a sugar rush of the emotions. You appreciate all the good things about them and feel like you’re walking on sunshine.
Loving someone is a bit different and gives a feeling of deep connection and comfort. You don’t necessarily feel so excited and everything isn’t brand new.
It’s an even more profound, grounded kind of emotion. You just love them, and nothing changes it.
2) You always want them around vs. you’re fine giving each other space
When you’re in love you’re like a kid who just got a new bike for Christmas. You want to ride it all the time and marvel at its bright colors and fancy gears. If you lose sight of it you start to feel nervous and crave the next time you’ll get to be around it.
As Rudá talks about in his free masterclass, this fear can become crippling.
When you love someone you don’t mind giving them space and you don’t have the fear of loss or deprivation when they’re away.
You have a deep connection that time and distance won’t destroy and even though you love being around them you’re perfectly fine giving them space and spending time apart, too.
3) He feels like a ‘partner in crime’ vs her hero
One surprising difference between loving someone and truly being in love is this:
A guy will act in a very specific way around the woman he loves and she will actively encourage him to do it.
Let me explain.
When a guy falls in love with a woman, it’s often because she has triggered something deep inside him. Something he desperately needs.
What is it?
To fall in love, a guy needs to feel like he’s her protector and provider. And that she genuinely admire him for this.
In other words, he needs to feel like her ‘hero’.
And the kicker is that a guy won’t fall in love with a woman until this powerful emotion is triggered.
There’s actually a psychological term for what I’m talking about here. It’s called the ‘hero instinct’. This concept is generating a lot of buzz at the moment as a way to explain what really drives men in relationships.
I know it might all seem kind of silly. In this day and age, women don’t need someone to rescue them. They don’t need a ‘hero’ in their lives.
But this misses the point about what the hero instinct is all about.
The hero instinct is an instinctive need that men have to step up to the plate for the woman in this life. This is deeply rooted in male biology.
Although you may not need a hero, a man is compelled to be one. And if you want him to fall in love with you, then you have to let him.
Because a man doesn’t want to be your ‘partner in crime’, ‘best friend’, or a mere accessory. He wants to be your rock and provide you something no other man can.
But how do you trigger this instinct in him?
The trick is to make him feel like a hero in an authentic way. And there are things you can say, messages you can send, requests you can use to trigger this natural biological instinct.
If you want some help doing this, check out James Bauer’s excellent free video here.
He tells you everything you need to know about the hero instinct, including how to trigger it in your man.
I don’t often recommend videos but the hero instinct is a fascinating concept in relationship psychology. From my own experience in relationships, I think there’s a lot of truth to it.
4) You crave their approval and attention vs. you are secure in your relationship
When you fall in love one of the worst things that can happen is for your feelings to not be returned. For this reason, the craving for approval is extremely strong.
You hope that the person you love feels the same about you and approves of your interests, style, appearance, personality and everything else about you.
You would feel devastated if they didn’t. You would feel next to worthless.
When you love someone it’s different. You are secure in your relationship and comfortable being different.
You know that they won’t necessarily like every single thing about you but you also trust that any serious issues will be discussed openly and with honesty.
You’re not craving approval.
5) You’re focused on how amazing they make you feel vs. you’re focused on how great you can make them feel
The experience of being in love is hard to describe, but one of the best parts is that you feel amazing.
It feels like all your hard work has paid off and like you have stumbled on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Bingo! You can’t get over how this person makes you feel, the emotions they bring out in you, the exhilaration every time they smile at you.
When you love someone the way they make you feel isn’t your focus.
Instead, you take your greatest joy from how amazing you can make them feel.
Whether it’s a foot massage, breakfast in bed or giving helpful advice, your new buzz comes from the way that you make them feel more than how they make you feel.
When it’s love, a man has his hero instinct triggered and feels like an integral part of the relationship. You can find out more by checking out this unique video here.
6) You want them for yourself vs. you want what’s best for them no matter what
When you’re in love you want all of someone. You want their time, their affection, their interest, their life story. You want to be around them 24/7 and if not you want to know the next time you’ll see them (hopefully as soon as possible).
When you love someone you truly want what’s best for them no matter what. When you love them then your own desire for their company and love will never overrule their own life path and needs.
When you’re in love you want more, when you love you want to give more and help your partner be more.
7) You’re emotionally unavailable vs ready for loving commitment
Men want deep and intimate companionship just as much as women do.
So why are so many men emotionally unavailable to women? In my opinion is has nothing to do with not being in love.
An emotionally unavailable man is typically someone who is unable to emotionally commit to a loving relationship with you. He wants to keep things casual and undefined to avoid commitments he doesn’t think he can handle.
I know about emotionally unavailable men because I am one myself. You can read more about my story here.
If you’ve ever been with a man who suddenly goes cold and pulls away, you’ll see a lot of myself in them.
However, the problem isn’t you. The problem isn’t even with him
The fact is that male and female brains are biologically different. For instance, did you know that the emotional processing center of the female brain is much larger than in men?
That’s why women are more in touch with their emotions. And why guys can struggle to process feelings, leading to serious commitment issues.
If you’ve ever been let down by an emotionally unavailable man before, blame his biology rather than him.
I learned this from relationship expert Michael Fiore. He’s one of the world’s leading experts on relationship psychology and why men act the way they do.
In this excellent free video, you’ll learn about Michael’s life-changing solution for dealing with emotionally unavailable men.
Michael Fiore reveals exactly what to say to make a man commit to a passionate relationship with you. His techniques work surprisingly well on even the coldest and most commitment-phobic men.
If you want science-based techniques to make a man fall in love with you and STAY in love with you, this video is well worth checking out.
8) Your feelings fluctuate vs. your feelings stay steady
Feelings are powerful, and they can change faster than we expect. One day you may feel you’ll do anything for someone you’re in love with and the next day after finding that they’re still flirting with an ex you may feel deeply betrayed.
When you’re in love the world is a grand drama of passion. Your heart is on an epic quest seeking the love it so desperately wants.
When your feelings stay steady and you have a healthy trust and comfortability with someone this is more like the stage of loving someone.
Sure, you still have good and bad days and you don’t always get along, but the dramatic tension eases off just a bit.
9) You feel giddy and nervous vs. stable and committed
When you’re in love you feel giddy and nervous. You analyze your love interest’s every sign of affection and crave every moment together with them.
You’re buckled in on an emotional rollercoaster, getting to know someone on such a deep level physically, spiritually and in every way. The twists and turns can get really wild.
When you love someone it’s more like paddling a canoe on a serene lake and marveling at the wildlife and beautiful nature. You are loving your time together but you aren’t being jolted side to side on a crazy rollercoaster.
You are going along, enjoying each other’s company and the beauty, together on the journey and committed to each helping out.
10) You feel a sense of ownership vs. a sense of partnership
When you’re in love you feel a sense of ownership. You want the person by your side and you feel like you’ve “got” them. You want their time, energy, and attention.
When you love them you leave space and work together voluntarily.
You feel more like partners with a choice, rather than two people swept up by a wave of love you can’t control.
11) You ride the euphoric wave vs. you put in hard relationship work
Being in love can be like being on top of the world. You feel like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Titanic: “I’m the king of the world!”
This is obviously a pretty great experience. But it doesn’t tend to last permanently.
Real life comes up, including all sorts of challenges from finances and career to personal issues, health problems and life plans.
That’s where the hard relationship work kicks in.
If you’re in love the hard work can start to become too much and lead to disillusionment. When you’re full of long-term love it’s just a part of the journey.
12) You can’t control your feelings vs. you choose to love them
Falling in love with someone isn’t really a choice.
It just happens.
Your feelings buck you around like a bronco and you would do anything for them. You envision a future together that would be grey and bleak without them in the picture.
Loving someone is a commitment and a choice you make to stick by someone and be patient and kind. Loving someone takes the connection and spark and fosters it, building it up into a nice warm fire that keeps both of you warm.
13) Ups and downs throw you off course vs. ups and downs bring you closer together
Even if you fall in love and are very happy, life has all sorts of ups and downs.
Things can start out perfectly and quickly spiral into a disaster.
When you’re in love sometimes this can break you, especially if a disaster hits one of you much harder than the other or there is a deep misunderstanding about how a life circumstances affects one of you.
When you love someone ups and downs bring you closer.
Even if a challenge affects one person more than the other, the other partner is patient and kind, sticking beside them to see the situation through.
The bond grows closer through the hard times.
14) You love your image of someone vs. you love who they truly are
The time you’re in love can be a time of idealism. You see the absolute best in the object of your love even things that otherwise might annoy you.
The French writer Stendahl called this process “crystallization.” All the qualities which are just normal begin to crystallize as amazing and incredible, and the negatives fade into the distance or even become positives in your mind.
Often when we’re in love we build up an idealistic version of someone that isn’t completely accurate. The coming down from this can be a process of growth or it can break things apart.
Loving someone, on the other hand, is a choice that takes into account someone’s faults and downsides. You see the bad but you still love them.
15) You are impatient and want everything right now vs. you are full of patience and long-term optimism
When you’re in love and falling into a ring of fire you want everything right now. You’re impatient and heady. You can’t get enough kisses fast enough and you can’t dream enough of the bright future that lies ahead.
When you love someone your emotions are more tempered and you have patience about what will be or will not be.
You feel optimism for the future, but you’re not dependent on it and you trust your partner and yourself to do what’s right for both of you going forward.
16) You try to fix or change each other vs. you accept each other’s flaws and love on a deeper level
Sometimes when you’re in love and the other person wants help or has a problem their partner will try to “fix” or help them.
This can go on for years. It usually doesn’t end well, and some challenges we have to go through on our own.
When you love someone you accept their flaws and – even though you trust your relationship may heal them in certain ways – you never depend on your time with them acting as a salve for their problems.
17) You can’t imagine losing them vs. you will always love them even if they’re not in your life
When you’re in love you’re attached. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you definitely depend on the other person and couldn’t bear the thought of them not being in your life.
When you love someone your attachment comes second to your deep connection with them. Even if they weren’t in your life, your bond is stronger than time or distance.
This is a tricky one, because anyone who loves someone wants them in their life, of course, but it generally holds true.
18) Time apart makes you needy and lonely vs. time apart makes you appreciate them on an even deeper level
Being in love with someone releases a boatload of hormones like oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine. It makes you crave their company and feel needy and lonely when they’re away.
Loving someone is more mellow. Time apart just makes you appreciate them more, but you don’t have that needy feeling of a part of you missing.
When you’re in love everything feels exciting and new; when you love someone it doesn’t need to feel exciting and new for you to be fully invested and comfortable with giving space and spending time apart.
19) You want to like everything they like vs. you are comfortable being two different people with different interests
Being in love can feel a bit like finding your “other half.” This often leads to a desire to imitate and be similar to the other person or do what’s agreeable to them.
You may find yourself trying out their interests or musical tastes even if you formerly thought their style was silly.
You may find a craving to be accepted and validated growing inside you.
When you love someone, however, you are comfortable living with differences. You can hold space for the parts of you and your partner that have different likes and dislikes.
You don’t need them to share all your passions and vice versa.
You’re comfortable just both being you.
20) Outer circumstances shake what you have vs. outer circumstances can’t change the love you feel for them
If you’re in love you can sometimes feel a bit like a gambler. You want to go “all in” and put down all your cash no matter what.
A big win or a big loss can leave you elated or completely shaken, and outside circumstances rule your fate.
When you love someone – be they a parent, a partner or a friend – the outer circumstances don’t change the love you have for them.
You feel a deep connection that lasts through the good times and the bad.