When her partner proposed to her, Jenna excitedly responded, “I am beyond thrilled. You make me feel on top of the world and I am so grateful. This isn’t just love, this is me being in love with you.” You might be wondering what Jenna meant when she said she was in love and that what she feels was not just love. What is love vs in love?
Well, we’ve got you covered. With insights from counseling psychologist and certified life-skills trainer Deepak Kashyap (Masters in Psychology of Education), who specializes in a range of mental health issues, including LGBTQ and closeted counseling, we decode the difference between being in love and loving someone.
What Is Love? The Psychology Behind It
Ask a poet and they would write you a poem about the meaning of love. Ask a mathematician and they will probably come up with an equation to explain the feeling. But what is the psychology behind love and how do you know when you love someone?
Deepak says, “It is challenging to define love but, as a psychologist, all I can say is that love is not a single feeling but a cluster of feelings, in which there is an understanding of what a person is and the expectation of who you want to be with that person.”
When you love someone deeply, it’s not all emotional, the chemical balance in your body is also affected. Take, for instance, the role of oxytocin in love. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus. In 2012, researchers reported that people in the first stages of romantic attachment had higher levels of oxytocin, compared with non-attached single individuals, suggesting that it helps one bond with other humans.
Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a double board-certified psychiatrist in his book, The Brain in Love: 12 Lessons to Enhance Your Love Life, says that love is a motivational drive that is a part of the brain’s reward system.
The psychology behind love can be summed up as:
- Love is an action, it’s more of a verb than a noun
- Love is a strong physiological response
- It makes us alert, excited, and want to bond
Now that we are aware of what the psychology behind love is, let’s dig into the differences between loving someone and being in love with someone.
Love Vs In Love – 6 Main Differences
What does being in love mean? How to explain being in love? What’s the difference between love and in love? Deepak says, “There’s one major difference. Being in love means heightened commitment. When you say you are in love with someone, it means you are willing to commit to this person a lot more.”
The love vs in love conundrum boils down to the difference in the intensity of feelings. While we tend to use both these terms interchangeably, there is a marked difference between loving someone and being in love with them. Let’s explore these differences in depth for greater clarity about our feelings:
Related Reading: Love Vs Attachment: Is It Real Love? Understanding The Difference
1. Love can get stale, being in love is passionate
While discussing love vs in love, let’s look at Jenna’s case. Jenna met her partner around 6 months back and they hit it off instantly. They felt energized, excited, and thrilled to be with each other and their dynamic was characterized by a lot of passion. If you’re wondering how to explain being in love, this is typically what it means.
This passion can act as a catalyst for long-term bonding or a long-term relationship and attachment. However, the excitement can’t last forever and that’s where love comes in. Being in love eventually paves the way to a deeper more composed form of love that Jenna would explore as time passes by. This is the difference between love and in love.
2. Love vs in love: You can love anything, but you can be in love only romantically
What does in love mean? Well, being in love with someone usually suggests that there is a romantic and intensely emotional attraction. There’s something indescribable about the way you crave intimacy with the person you are in love with. While love can be platonic.
Deepak says, “There’s an intense desire to be with them and not apart from them.” Jenna wants to be close to her partner all the time and they occupy her thoughts all through the day. Loving someone isn’t this intense or necessarily romantic in nature. This is one important difference between being in love vs loving someone.
3. Love keeps you grounded, being in love triggers an emotional high
The intensity of the feelings associated with being in love is like a roller coaster. You are up in the clouds, ecstatic and unstoppable. But when the chemical high subsides, the energy passes right along with it. Love is what holds and cradles you when you fall.
So how do you know when you love someone? Love runs deeper than that high, it’s steady and consistent. When you love someone, you care about their emotional state and well-being. Your love grounds you when the high of being in love ebbs.
Related Reading: Loving Someone Vs Being In Love – 15 Honest Differences
4. Being in love is possessive, while love focuses only on growth
What does being in love mean, you ask? Let’s again go back to Jenna to assess love vs in love differences. She wants to announce her love for her partner to the whole wide world. When you are in love, you want to tell everyone that your significant other is yours, almost like claiming that person for yourself.
When there is just love, you tend to simply focus on building something new and substantial with that person without any possessiveness. This is what usually happens in the later stages of love or later stages of a relationship.
5. Being in love is a powerful feeling however loving someone is a choice
Jenna didn’t choose to fall in love with her fiance. It just happened and it swept her off her feet. She felt the attraction and all the magic that it brought with it. The energy and the excitement, a rip-roaring feeling. It’s all about the feels. However, love is a bit different. You can love someone only if you choose to love them. There’s no sweeping off the feet involved. It’s a step you take and a choice you make and keep making it, one day at a time.
6. Love can provide space while being in love can make you clingy
Being in love vs loving someone – how is it different? Well, the feeling of being in love can often make you want to cling to your partner. It is like the honeymoon phase of a relationship. You always want to be around them and want to spend as much time together as you can.
On the other hand, love gives you the power to give the person some space without it affecting your relationship. You want to still spend time with them but, at the same time, you are secure enough to not feel the need to invade their space.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a place where you say, “I love him but I’m not in love with him” or “I love her but I’m not attracted to her, know that you can love someone and not be in love with them. When the element of passion, desire, and physical attraction is missing, but you enjoy spending time with your partner, then it’s just love. You’re not in love with them.
- Love is not a single feeling but a cluster of feelings
- Love keeps you grounded when the emotional high of being in love fades
- Passion is the hallmark of being in love while stability and consistency are the hallmarks of love
When you first heard Jenna say that she is in love and that what she feels is not just love, you might not have quite understood what she meant but we hope you do now.
After having talked about the differences between them both, it needs to be said that no one kind of love is superior. There’s room for all kinds and different types of love in this world and the most important thing is that your love should bring joy to you. Love vs in love is so contrasting, isn’t it?