A common reason that people split up is that they love their partners, but they’re no longer in love. How we define love vs in love affects how we go about being in relationships and whether we achieve successful relationships. If you want to make your relationship last, you’ll need to understand the difference between being in love and just loving someone, and it can be confusing.
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE IN LOVE
We all know what it feels like to be in love (looking for these 15 signs that you’re in love), even if that love was unrequited. Your heart pounds and your stomach turns while your palms sweat. You have obsessive thoughts about the object of your affection and may even forget about your other loved ones and hobbies if you get a chance to spend time with this person and want to be close to them all the time. You see the world in a more positive light and this person through rose-colored glasses.
Yes, we all know those feelings well, and we all know that those feelings fade, perhaps for the best. After all, we wouldn’t be very productive if we never got past that obsessive stage, and you need to be able to look at your relationship logically to see if it’s tenable.
All sorts of things can make us feel like we’re in love when we might not really be. For example, unrequited love (discover how unrequited love feels) can make us desire a person that much more because they don’t return our feelings (or give us any attention at all). And if you’re in love with the idea of being in love, then that facade might crumble as soon as you come to terms with the reality of who that person is.
LOVE TAKES WORK
Many people say that this is when real love begins, and real love can be work. Some people also describe love as something that you do, an action and not just a feeling. That goes hand in hand with the idea that love is work, sometimes more difficult than others.
For some people, though, they expect that love, especially true love, has to be effortless. They move from relationship to relationship whenever those intense feelings fade because they don’t know better.
Those people are likely serial monogamists. 5 signs of serial monogamy here. They lack the maturity to stick it in out in a relationship because they think that initial high is how it should always be with no effort on their part.
They don’t understand the difference between love vs being in love.
LOVE VS IN LOVE
But it’s easy enough to understand the concept of what love is when you think of all the other people whom you love. Imagine your parents and siblings or children if you have them. You also love many of your friends.
The love you express to the people who are often called your loved ones tends to be more stable and familiar than the feelings of being in love. In some ways, it might be unconditional because you’d never think of leaving your family, even if you would consider leaving a romantic partner. Your relationships are built on companionship and care.
Some people think you can’t really achieve those feelings in a relationship. Read this if you want to know if you can really achieve unconditional love in a romantic pairing.
Imagine the selfless way a parent takes care of their child or the way that child grows up and takes care of their aging parent in turn. These people love one another, but they’re certainly not in love. If you’ve ever had to care for someone else, you might have surprised yourself by the lengths you were willing to go. You cared more than you thought.
Sometimes people who are in love care less than they think, however. It’s all about the feelings in a way that’s pretty selfish. When push comes to shove, you might still choose yourself over your partner or your relationship.
Sometimes it seems difficult to achieve that sort of selflessness in a romantic relationship, to care for someone else’s needs or the health of your relationship more than you do your own needs. That might be one of the big distinctions when it comes to love vs being in love.
LOVE IN THE LONG RUN
Of course, many couples do achieve that sort of lasting love once they move past the racing-heart, in love stage of their relationship, which many people describe as the honeymoon stage (more about the realities of the honeymoon phase). These couples can become partners in life as their share finances, a home, children and other responsibilities.
But sometimes people who want to feel that sort of love wax nostalgic about those earlier times. They might try to relive those times. Sometimes that’s a good thing, such as if you take time out from your busy week to plan a romantic date that reminds you why you fell in love with this person and even that you still are in love.
Sometimes people want the passion but aren’t sure how to achieve it, so they do things that invoke a passionate response from their partner, even if this response is otherwise negative.
You might know someone who is always in a tumultuous relationship. Other relationships seem boring in comparison to this person, who picks bad partners and might thrive on the drama, even if they don’t realize it. Many of us go through similar periods when we’re young. As we grow up, we realize that those relationships were volatile and unhealthy (Read: 6 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship) and never would have survived even if it broke our hearts when they ended.
LOVE AND PASSION
Starting a fight is one example of behavior that provokes a passionate response. While it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you’re in love, it does elicit a response that your partner cares about something. That’s not a healthy way to feel in love, and it would surprise no one if causing fights led to the demise of the relationship. That’s ultimately the opposite of what you’d want.
If you want to feel in love, take time to slow down and have an actual conversation with your partner, recreate your first date or watch your wedding video if you have one. It’s easy to feel in love at the beginning of a relationship when the chemical cocktail in your brain (discover what chemicals are active when you’re in love) makes you feel giddy and forces you to look on the positive side. It takes a little more effort to achieve that once you’ve been together for a few years – or decades.
Learn how to make a relationship last with this advice for real couples.
YOU’VE LOST THAT LOVING FEELING
A little effort might refresh those feelings of being in love, but what do you do when that’s not the case? The idea that love vs being in love isn’t a good enough reason to stay in a relationship is one that we commonly hear. “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” is literally the phrase we hear on TV shows and in movies.
It could be that despite trying (or because of lack of effort), one or both people in a couple no longer feel in love with their partners. It could be that they were never in love with each other in the first place (click here to read signs your husband doesn’t love you and maybe never did). Maybe they simply chose someone who was convenient, acceptable or forced on them. People don’t always get married for reasons based on being in love.
Related: Why People Still Get Married
For people who still care about each other but aren’t in love and want to end the relationship, splitting up might seem like an easy process. They may still be actively involved in each other’s lives. Friends and family members might wonder why they’re even breaking up when they get along so well.
You can fall back in love, however! Advice about falling back in love here.
While there might be something to those thoughts, only you can decide how you want to feel when you’re in a relationship and what you’re willing to do to get that.
Sometimes you even have to let someone go because you love them (discover the 7 steps to letting someone you love go). If you recognize that being with you is hurting someone, you might do the brave and painful thing of letting that person go so they can experience happiness without you. Many of us have been in that difficult position, too. It’s not that you don’t love someone that causes you to say “Goodbye” but that you do love them.
The truth is, most people understand the difference between love and being in love. The difficult part comes when you settle into a relationship routine and the passion wanes.