When you care deeply for someone, it can feel just as fierce, passionate, and consuming as being in love, but it’s ultimately different. If you’re holding out for magic and butterflies in your love life, it’s important to be able to recognize the differences. If you’ve ever broken up with someone you initially thought was The One, you’ll definitely be able to relate to this list. Here are eight subtle but important differences between loving someone and being in love with them.
Loving someone is a choice. You can choose to love someone. You can decide you will see their best qualities, appreciate them for who they are, and be a supportive partner to them. You can also choose to stop caring about someone, to walk away and forget about them. Being in love is not a choice. It’s something that can happen without your intention or consent, and it’s not something you can walk away from. If you leave, you’ll take the feeling of being in love with you.
Being in love can make you possessive and leaves no room to breathe. When you’re smitten with someone, that intense passion for your partner can make you feel possessive and jealous, unable to let them out of your sight or deal with them talking to other people. When you love someone, you realize that they don’t belong to you and you wouldn’t want them to. They’re their own person and they’re okay. They choose to be with you and that’s enough.
Being in love is more urgent and chaotic rather than calm and relaxed. When you fall for someone, can be so all-encompassing that you don’t know which way is up or down and how to handle the situation. It can make your heart race, your stomach feel sick, your concentration basically nonexistent. However, devotion is much calmer. You feel like you can breathe deep because you’re settled in the relationship and there’s nothing to worry about.
Love means feeling secure enough to not need your partner’s attention 24/7. The initial states of a relationship when you’re just falling can make you desperate to be the only thing your partner focuses on. You can become desperate for their attention and it can drive you crazy when you don’t have it. However, when you experience love, you also experience the security to know that not having their undivided attention doesn’t take away from how much they care about you.
Being in love will have you wanting to jump each other’s bones 24/7. This is a big one. When you first fall in love with someone, you probably want to be in bed with them 24/7 and that’s great. However, as things calm down and you start to settle into your relationship together, there will be times when action in the bedroom falls by the wayside. The big thing here is that when you truly care for someone, you recognize how important that connection is and make intimacy a priority even when you’re not necessarily desperate to get laid.
Love means seeing them as their unique self, not comparing them to your exes. Those early stages of a relationship when things are fresh and intense can be the breeding grounds for comparison. Your emotions are so heightened that you can’t help but compare your new partner to previous ones. Does it feel the same? Do they treat you the same way? Do they love you as much? This thought pattern will drive you crazy. However, when you learn to be devoted to them, you’ll also appreciate them for who they are and realize they’re nothing like the people you’ve been with before.
Being in love often means wanting to mold your partner instead of accepting their imperfections. Yes, you’ve fallen for this person, but there are still things about them that you wish were slightly different. They’re not major changes, just little ones you’re sure you can convince them to make, right? That’s not good. However, when you truly have a fondness for someone, that’s much better. It means accepting them just as they are and caring for them anyway.
Love means being willing to pull your weight, not expecting them to make all the effort. When you first get with someone and they’re trying to win you over (and it’s working), it makes sense that you expect them to go the extra mile to woo you. However, if you plan to have long success as a couple, you’ll need to become more of an equal partnership and be willing to do your bit to make them feel wanted, appreciated, and loved as well.
Being in love means wanting to be attached at the hip every second of the day. It’s not normal or healthy to spend 24/7 with one another. Even if you hope to be together for the rest of your lives, there will be periods during that life that take you away from each other and that’s okay. If you love them, you should be okay not only with doing your own thing but doing it for a while. There’s no better feeling than realizing how much you miss someone anyway, right?
Love is more steady and less changeable than the infatuation roller coaster. As you’ve probably noticed, those more intense emotions can leave you wondering which way is up and feeling completely out of control. You’re terrified that their feelings for you will change, or maybe that your feelings for them will fade away. Love is less scary because it’s much more sturdy.
Being in love means making their dreams your own. Of course you want the person you love to do well, but are you actually prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to make that happen? When you’re infatuated, you put each other’s needs first (or at least near the top of the list) because your happiness is linked to theirs. Maybe he chips in a little extra for rent while you get through graduate school, or maybe you take extra morning walk shifts with the dog because he loves to sleep in. When you make each other’s needs a priority, you accomplish more than when everyone’s fending for themselves.
Loving someone can last forever. Being enamored with someone can literally end at any moment. They can do something annoying, you get in a bad fight, or you’re kind of in a funk, then BAM. You’re just not into him anymore. Love isn’t that fickle. It stays through the fights, the lulls, and the full-blown existential crisis. When the honeymoon phase is over and life gets a little more routine, only the relationship where you actually love each other will be a happy one. You don’t need constant excitement because your feelings are real without it.
Being in love with someone means needing them around. When you’re captivated by someone, you always want them to be around. You crave them. You want them to be with you more than anything. When you truly care for them, you want them to have a happy balanced life, which means sometimes spending time away from you. You want them to have time out with the guys, alone time, or time to pursue some hobbies without you. Being happy doesn’t equal being together all the time.
Loving is a steady stream of emotions. Being lovesick can be the greatest high, but it also comes with low lows. In comparison, that deep-seated tenderness is a steadier stream of happiness, but it’s more overall happiness in the long run. The roller coaster of infatuation someone can never last, and bad lows can be devastating. The intensity of the highs and lows is why so many people mistake being in love with a deeper attachment, but the real deal will never make you feel like you are crashing and burning.
Being in love is about how they make you feel rather than how you make them feel. A common answer people give when asked why they’re crazy about someone is, “Because of how they make me feel.” That’s a valid answer, but if it’s all about how you feel, then you probably don’t actually adore them as much as you think. Being smitten with someone means you’re only concerned with how they make you feel loved, special, or appreciated. In contrast, truly being attached to someone means you worry about how to make him feel loved as well because that’s equally as important to you.
Loving someone mostly feels effortless. You’ll hear people say, “It shouldn’t be this hard.” And they’re right, it shouldn’t. Fighting and scrabbling to stay connected and keep the spark alive isn’t a good sign. You may be infatuated with this person, but it will inevitably turn into a situation where you feel like you’re just forcing it. I’m not saying that a relationship with someone you care for deeply will always be easy, just that the feeling will be there without any effort. Some days will be difficult. Some days will seem to take everything you have. But at the end of the hard days or the hard months, you will always feel that you adore each other. That feeling will never be work.
While these two emotions share a lot of similarities, they’re also very different, as you can see. It’s not that one is better than the other, but rather that these are two unique experiences that can coexist simultaneously or be felt separately from one another. If you’re someone who looks for the rush of those intense first few months of a relationship, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, for those who are looking for something more long-term and long-lasting, it’s all about getting past the honeymoon stage and into the nitty-gritty of love.
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