One of the most highly researched things in the field of psychology is why and…
Love is a fascinating subject. Thousands of songs, poems, and letters have been written about love and what it means to each person who experiences it. The sensation is often all-encompassing, particularly if you’ve fallen in love for the first time. The human body undergoes a variety of physical and emotional changes when you’re in love, from the feeling of having butterflies in your stomach to sweaty palms or an elevated heart rate. If the feeling is reciprocated by the person you love, you undergo a sense of unparalleled joy and euphoria. Unrequited love comes with its own trials and tribulations, some of which can be painful to experience.
If you’re in a relationship with someone and you’re trying to determine whether you love or you’re in love with this person, the lines become blurred and it’s often difficult to distinguish between the two. It’s possible for you to love someone without being in love with them. This is a common occurrence when you care deeply about a close friend, but you don’t have any romantic feelings toward them. Navigating the waters of love, whether platonic or romantic, is a confusing experience sometimes. So we’re here to help.
We’ve taken a deep dive into the difference between love versus being in love to help you determine what’s going on in your own love life.
Let’s get started.
Falling in love with someone is a passionate experience
Falling in love is often referred to as the “honeymoon phase.” This can occur at the beginning of your courtship and lasts anywhere between six months to two years (via Brides). You’ll know you’re in this phase when you feel like you can’t get enough of the person you’re dating. According to therapist, Michelle Mouhtis, “The biggest indicator of the honeymoon phase is if you feel the person in front of you is perfect.” Mouhtis added, “You see them in a completely positive light, and you can’t imagine what their faults or incompatibilities could be.”
This is usually a good indication of whether you’re in love in the first place. When you meet someone new and you’re instantly enamored with them, you many think this person is not only perfect for you, but they’re perfect in general. Whenever you’re around this person, you feel an overwhelming sense of excitement mixed with nerves and a general feeling of euphoria (via Healthline). The sexual attraction and lust are through the roof, as being in love with someone is defined by the level of passion you feel when you’re either around them or just thinking about them.
The easiest way you can determine whether you’re in love or not is by asking yourself: Can you picture your life without them? If you can’t, you’re in love with them. If you can, you only love them (via Bustle). This sounds a bit dramatic, because you may feel as though you can’t live without a beloved companion, but it’s actually a good place to start if you’re trying to make a distinction.
Love is experienced romantically and platonically
When you love someone, your body experiences a chemical reaction that amplifies this emotion. According to Better Help, oxytocin is released in your body when you’re around someone you love, and it’s this chemical that aids in the development of your bond with this person. If you feel deeply attached to someone it’s because your body produces an excess of oxytocin when you interact with them. This is commonly associated with “romantic love,” but it happens when you platonically love someone as well.
One of the primary differences between love versus being in love is sexual attraction. If you aren’t sexually attracted to someone, you’re generally not in love with them. As therapist Erica Cramer put it, “There has to be an element of passion, desire, physical attraction to go from love to being in love” (via Bustle). Cramer added that if you care about the person equally to other people in your life, you aren’t in love with them. So, if you’re in a relationship and you realize that you care about the person as much as you care about your best friend, it’s probably time to have a conversation with your partner about going your separate ways.
When you’re in love with someone, they’re your top priority
Another surefire way to determine if you’re in love with someone is if you’re naturally inclined to make this person a priority in your life. If the two of you constantly put one another first when making decisions and ensure the other person’s overall comfort and happiness, you’re in love (via Bustle). You and your partner will find a way to overcome anything life throws at you which shows how significant your bond is and how much you care for one another.
Psychologist Randi Gunther says you’ll know you’re in love when you’re willing to share anything with your significant other. “In relationships that harbor the potential of true love, people almost immediately feel the desire to confess and share everything about themselves, whether negative or positive” (via Brides). When you’re in love, and you know your partner feels the same way, you aren’t afraid to be the truest version of yourself with them. You know they’ll love you without condition or judgement, which is different from the general sense of love you receive from other people in your life.
Regardless of whether you love or you’re in love with someone, it’s important to be honest with yourself and with them to ensure all parties are on the same page.