Some people use the words “I love you” and “I’m in love with you” interchangeably. (This would always drive me crazy in movies!)
But have you ever stopped to consider the difference?
You may experience them both within the same relationship — in fact, in the best ones, you should. But they are definitely two separate concepts, defined by 6 important differences.
Understanding this can help you make sense of your feelings and navigate your relationships better.
So let’s take a look at what these differences are.
1) You’re super excited and anxious VS calm and content
First of all, when it comes to loving someone and being in love, you’ll feel a noticeable difference in your body.
When you’re in love, your body reacts strongly. Your heart races, your palms sweat, and there’s a magnetic physical attraction that almost literally draws you in to the person.
Every moment feels thrilling, but you might also feel a bit of anxiety and uncertainty.
I can remember the first few weeks of dating my partner super vividly — not that we did anything that interesting, but my feelings were so intense they’re impossible to forget.
On the other hand, loving someone is about a deep emotional connection and comfort. It’s when you truly know the person and accept them for who they are, flaws and all.
The intense excitement and passion might fade, but it’s replaced by a steady, lasting affection. You’re secure and content, and there’s a sense of peace that comes with this love.
For me, this transition came about a year into the relationship. I realized that all those exciting feelings were gone — but I didn’t miss them, because I had something much more valuable instead.
2) You always want to be around them VS you give them their space
The next difference examines how you feel about spending time with them (or not).
When you’re in love, the urge to be around the person constantly can feel overwhelming. You might want to spend every waking moment with them, as if they’re the center of your universe.
This can be thrilling, but if the relationship isn’t healthy, it can also lead to dependency and lack of personal space.
However, when you truly love someone, you understand and respect the importance of individual space. You appreciate them as a unique individual, not just as part of your relationship.
In other words, you don’t feel threatened by their independence and are comfortable allowing them their own time and space.
For example, my partner and I used to spend time together nearly every day at the beginning of our relationship. If we missed a day, it felt like an eternity.
And of course, we continue to spend quality time together on a regular basis even after years of being together. But we also allow ourselves time to do our own hobbies or see other people we love.
3) It happens to you VS it’s something you commit to
You may have heard the saying “the heart wants what it wants” — or some variation of “you don’t choose who you fall in love with.”
Well, that’s certainly true to some extent. Something about someone just sparks feelings of attraction, and this can become an uncontrollable rollercoaster.
The feelings are intense, all-consuming, and it can feel like you’ve lost all control over your emotions. Even if you wish you could get rid of them.
On the other hand, loving someone is a conscious choice. You choose to love someone through their highs and lows, the good times and bad.
This love doesn’t depend on the passionate feelings of the moment but instead stems from a deep-seated commitment. You acknowledge their flaws, yet you decide to love them regardless.
This is not just an emotion, but an active choice, which can make it stronger and more enduring. The choice to keep loving someone, even when times are tough, is what distinguishes real, lasting love from a fleeting infatuation.
4) You’re absorbed in your feelings VS you want to give to them
When you’re in love, much of your focus can be on how that person makes you feel.
The exhilarating rush, the butterflies in your stomach, the thrill when they walk into a room. It’s all about the joy and pleasure you get from being with them, and how amazing they make you feel.
Loving someone, however, often shifts the focus from you to them.
You’re invested in their happiness, even if it doesn’t always directly contribute to your own. You make sacrifices for their well-being and strive to make them feel cherished, valued, and happy.
In short, your actions are motivated by their needs and desires, and you derive joy from seeing them content.
The shift from ‘being in love’ to ‘loving’ means moving from a somewhat self-centered perspective to a more selfless love, where the happiness of your loved one becomes just as important, if not more so, than your own.
5) Your feelings get stronger and weaker VS they are strong and steady
When you’re in love, your feelings can be somewhat volatile. One day you might feel like you’re on top of the world, the next day you might feel a little uncertain or insecure.
As I mentioned already, the first few weeks of dating my partner, my feelings were super intense. And they were all over the place — I would have moments of insecurity and doubt mixed in with the euphoria.
But now, I’m much more confident in my relationship, myself, and my feelings too. This is what love is like: steady and unwavering.
There’s a consistency to your affection that withstands the test of time. Even if you have disagreements or go through difficult times, your underlying love for the person remains constant.
And this makes a massive difference. Because two people who have been dating for a week and have a fight might just never text each other again.
But two people who love each other don’t walk away just because of a conflict. They put in the effort to work things out together, without the fear of being canceled just because of one mistake.
6) You see them as “yours” VS you want what’s best for them
This is probably one of the deepest differences between loving someone and being in love.
It’s the underlying message to many movies where a wise character says “If you love them, let them go.”
Of course, this thinking only comes with time. When you’re just starting to date someone and still in love, you tend to want them for yourself.
And this is where many issues like jealousy and possessiveness stem from. You want to feel loved and special, and your intense feelings make you prioritize your own desires and needs.
I’m a little embarrassed to think back to when I used to be like this with my partner — but I also give myself some slack, as it’s a natural part of being in love.
In contrast, when you love someone, you want what’s best for them, even if it doesn’t always align with what you want.
You care deeply about their happiness and wellbeing, and you’re willing to make sacrifices for their benefit.
For example, my partner fully supports my passion for traveling and exploring the world, even if it means he spends some periods without me because his work doesn’t let him go with me.
This selfless desire for their happiness is a sign of deep, enduring love.
Do you love them, or are you in love?
If you’re in a relationship with someone right now, you might wonder if what you two share is love, or being in love.
And now you know 6 key differences that will help you tell which one is the case.
Usually, it is a question of time. At the beginning, it’s normal to just feel madly in love. It’s not really possible to love someone yet, because that takes time to develop.
It takes working through challenges together and knowing not just their positives but their negatives and choosing them anyways, every single day.
It’s not always a guarantee that being in love will turn into real, lasting love. But if you approach your relationship in the right way, you can set it on the right path.
For me and my partner, this came down to open communication, honesty, and a mutual commitment to growing both as individuals and together.
And this blog is the perfect place to do just that — so feel free to look around, and I hope I can help you create the relationship of your dreams.