“What is the difference between ‘love’ and ‘in love’?” is a frequently asked question. The answer is different for each individual and based on:
- Their emotional, mental and physical makeup
- Their upbringing and background
- Their current beliefs and values
My current answer is that being ‘in love’ is all about intensity; the highs are dizzying, the lows debilitating. Being ‘in love’ may be non-sexual or sexual. ‘Love’ is much more stable and comfortable; it generates a secure, constant, warm, fuzzy feeling. It is possible to ‘love’ without being ‘in love’ and vice versa.
The presence of ‘love’ can be a powerful moderator of the dizzying highs and debilitating lows of being ‘in love’. Conversely the absence of ‘love’ may result in unrealistic expectations of and/or unfair allegations against those that we are ‘in love’ with. Hopefully the following examples demonstrate this.
Our first experience of being ‘in love’ is non-sexual and with our parents. Even as adults parental admonishments and praise carry a great deal of weight with us and result in feelings of incredible intensity. Our next experiences of being ‘in love’ in a non-sexual way are with other members of our immediate and extended family. Then, as we grow older, we may establish intense friendships where we fall ‘in love’ non-sexually with our best friends.
Without the strong bonds of ‘love’ that we normally develop for our family we could end up getting carried away with the dizzying highs of being ‘in love’ with them or crushed by the debilitating lows. In the case of best friends, where ‘love’ is absent we may find ourselves experiencing the debilitating lows of tolerating bad behaviour in order to get the occasional dizzying high. ‘Love’ being present in friendships helps in preventing this type of situation occurring. Interestingly, in many cases, breaking up with a non-sexual best friend may be infinitely more painful than breaking up with a sexual partner.
As we sexually mature we discover the sexual version of falling ‘in love’. Most of the feelings we experience are similar to the non-sexual version but of course, now, in addition to the affection, kisses and cuddles we enjoy with our family and friends there is an extra physical dimension. Again the presence of ‘love’ can act as a powerful moderator to the dizzying highs and debilitating lows that now have this additional, incredibly intense dimension…‘making love’. This of course raises the issue of no-strings-attached, but none-the-less passionate sex that is virtually free of emotions that include ‘love’ or ‘in love’…however that is a topic for another day. The absence of love where the sexual version of ‘in love’ is present can lead to unrealistic expectations as a result of the dizzying highs. For example a consequence of an almost telepathic state and enhanced recollection achieved during dizzying highs means an unrealistic ongoing expectation of mind reading and photographic memory – personally I have learned to talk more, ask questions and make use of electronic reminders! This absence of ‘love’ is one of the most common reasons for the “I love you but I’m not in love with you anymore” breakup conversation. Variations on this include:
- “My feelings for you have changed”
- “We feel like brother and sister”
- “You don’t make me feel like a woman anymore”
- “I no longer feel sexually attracted to you”
This breakup conversation arises because the debilitating lows are happening too often and/or have become too much. As there is no ‘love’ to help foster an open, honest and frank discussion as to why there are too many debilitating lows, the end of the relationship usually eventuates. If this does happen, as one or both parties generally end up getting badly hurt due to improper relationship termination, sadly any meaningful communication ceases for a significant period – sometimes forever.
- ‘in love’ = dizzying highs, debilitating lows
- ‘love’= secure, constant, warm, fuzzy
Stay strong and serene.