The difference between love and in love comes down to attraction — romantic, sexual, or both.
When you’re both craving physical intimacy with each other, the feeling is indescribable. Words can’t do it justice.
But not everyone feels that. Not everyone can. So, it’s essential to understand what love is apart from the romance and passion.
If you’re like most people, you want it all (and no judgment here).
But love without attraction isn’t the same as “settling.” And being “in love” is a difficult high to maintain.
Better to focus on love. But what does that look like?
- In Love vs. Love: 9 Core Differences
- 1. Being “in love” means you’re attracted to the other; loving them doesn’t require that.
- 2. You’re “in love” with an idealized version of the other; love is about the real person.
- 3. To be “in love” is to ride an emotional high; love puts you on solid ground.
- 4. Being “in love” is about ownership; loving leads to growth
- 5. Being in love is wanting someone; loving them is wanting what’s best for them.
- 6. Romance burns quickly and erratically; love grows slowly and takes a firmer hold.
- 7. Being in love makes you dependent; loving them sets you both free.
- 8. It’s hard (if not impossible) to be “in love” from a distance.
- 9. Being in love is a strong feeling; loving someone is a choice.
- Can you love someone without being in love?
In Love vs. Love: 9 Core Differences
What is the difference between love and in love in a relationship?
Actually, they differ in more than one way. Here are the nine core differences between the two:
1. Being “in love” means you’re attracted to the other; loving them doesn’t require that.
When you’re “in love,” you feel attracted to the other person — sexually or romantically. You look at them, and you want to get closer. And with that attraction goes your focus. You find it hard to think of anything else. You’re distracted every time they walk into the room.
Your attraction to them does things to you — physically, mentally, and emotionally.
By contrast, loving someone doesn’t require either romantic or sexual attraction. You can love someone without being attracted to them. More on that later.
2. You’re “in love” with an idealized version of the other; love is about the real person.
Being in love blinds you to the other’s faults, even those that worry the people who care about you. If anyone warns you about the object of your infatuation, you’re quick to defend them.
But when you love someone, you see the whole person — faults and all. You might also feel an attraction, but you no longer blind yourself to their weaknesses. Nor do you try to hide your true self from them.
Love has enough room for the whole person.
3. To be “in love” is to ride an emotional high; love puts you on solid ground.
While you’re “in love,” you’re on an emotional roller-coaster. When it’s all good, you’re up in the clouds, ecstatic and invincible. But when the chemical high has passed, the feeling of being in love can pass right along with it.
Love goes deeper than attraction can. When you love someone, you care more about their emotional state and well-being. Your love grounds you both and clears the fog.
4. Being “in love” is about ownership; loving leads to growth
Couples who are in love feel use language like “mine,” “hers,” or “his” to indicate ownership.
- “He’s all mine.”
- “That’s my girl.”
- “I’m all yours.”
If anything threatens that ownership, one partner is likely to feel jealous or possessive.
When you love someone, though, you don’t need to refer to them as “mine” or to identify yourself as “his,” “hers,” or “theirs.” You care more about strengthening the relationship and growing together.
Granted, if someone encroaches on that relationship and threatens your bond, you’re not going to take it lightly. But you don’t act as though you own the one you’re with.
5. Being in love is wanting someone; loving them is wanting what’s best for them.
When you’re “in love,” you want the other person with a self-centered urgency. You enjoy the wanting, especially when they want you right back. You want to include them in every part of your life. You want their company, their attention, their smile.
It feels as though you’ve never in your life wanted anyone as much. It’s all-consuming.
On the other hand, when you love someone, you want the absolute best for them, even if they don’t love you back.
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6. Romance burns quickly and erratically; love grows slowly and takes a firmer hold.
When you’re “in love,” the passion flares up quickly and burns erratically. You’re on a roller-coaster with high peaks, deep valleys, and gut-twisting turns.
Love, on the other hand, grows and deepens slowly and evenly. It doesn’t depend on emotional highs or everything “feeling good” between you. Even when you’re at odds, you wouldn’t say the love is gone — just that it’s more challenging.
Because love is something you’re doing — not something that’s happening to you.
7. Being in love makes you dependent; loving them sets you both free.
Being in love makes you feel dependent on the person you’re in love with. Your emotional well-being hinges on how they behave toward you.
Every harsh word or dismissive glance cuts you, but you feel powerless to change that.
Love grounds you and helps the other to feel grounded, too. They see that your love is constant and not shaken by conflict, and it makes them feel safer and freer to be themselves. Love sets you both free.
8. It’s hard (if not impossible) to be “in love” from a distance.
Being in love makes you feel as though you can’t be apart from someone. When you’re together, the passion flares, and you can both enjoy it in a way you can’t when you’re far apart. The feeling of being in love thrives on human contact.
Without that, speaking each other’s love language can help remind you both why you’re attracted to each other. But it’s harder to stay in love when you can’t be together.
That loving feeling ebbs and flows, anyway. And while absence can make the heart grow fonder, the longer you’re apart, the more the ebbs outnumber the flows.
On the other hand, loving each other makes you both stronger. You’re able to be apart without your love diminishing. Love doesn’t depend on human contact.
9. Being in love is a strong feeling; loving someone is a choice.
You don’t choose to fall in love with someone. It happens, and you’re swept up by it. You feel the attraction, you want it to be mutual, and you enjoy all the magic that goes with it.
Being in love is all about the feels. Naturally, everyone prefers the good feelings. But those who “love being in love” wouldn’t give it up to avoid the bad ones. “Better to have loved and lost, etc.”
Love is different. You can only love someone if you choose to love them. There’s no falling involved. It’s a step you take and keep taking, one day at a time.
Can you love someone without being in love?
Now you know the difference between loving someone and being in love, is it possible to love someone to the depths of your being without being in love with them?
Yes. It is.
For one thing, some people are incapable of feeling romantic or sexual attraction for anyone, regardless of the other’s charms. But that doesn’t make them incapable of loving someone and being ready to die for them.
Those who cannot feel romantic attraction identify as aromantic. Those who cannot feel sexual attraction identify as asexual. And yes, it’s possible to be both (“Aro-ace”).
They aren’t unicorns or freaks. They just love differently.
They may not fall in love with someone, but they can undoubtedly love them with real and life-altering devotion.
For another thing, some couples are two people who love each other but aren’t romantically or sexually attracted. And if they’re both good with that, no one has any reason — or any right — to feel sorry for them.
Being in love often leads to love.
Now that you know the differences between love and being in love, it needs to be said that the latter isn’t something to avoid or to “get over with” as soon as possible.
Couples who love each other and remember their intense attraction to each other no doubt want everyone they care about to have those feelings.
Couples who love each other but who don’t feel attraction for each other and who can’t “fall in love” also treasure the loving relationship they have.
There’s room in this world for all kinds of loving relationships. May yours bring you joy.