Wednesday, June 5, 2013

LOVE FAQs: Do You 'Love', or Are You 'In Love'?

What is the difference between 'loving' someone, and being 'in-love' with someone?

People often say to me, when their relationship isn't working, "Well, I love him, but I'm not in love with him.  Do you know what I mean?"  I do know what they mean.  That they're not as happy with their partner as they think they should be, maybe as they used to be.  They may want to fix it, or they may be convincing themselves that it's time to move on. 

When talking about relationships I do differentiate between loving someone and being in love with them.  And you can have one without the other. Being in love is a more stable, and usually more lasting love.  It includes trust, intimacy, vulnerability, and takes time to develop.  It is less conditional on the day to day interactions of the individuals with each other. I think this is as close to "unconditional love" as adults can be with each other.  And it takes time to develop.   It typically includes the "other" kind of love.

The "other" kind of love is a strong feeling of desire, and compassion that is more 'in the moment'.  Still a very strong feeling, but more susceptible to interference by other emotions such as anger, fear, and jealousy.  It is influenced more by the daily interactions with your partner.   As the Persuaders' song suggests, there is a "thin line" between THIS kind of love, and hate.

Why is this distinction relevant?  Because we fall in love all the time.  And the feeling of love is so strong that it can cause us to tolerate bad relationships longer than we should, or not work as hard on the relationship as we should.  As a result, if the relationship fails we think love (and it's close relative, happiness) can't work for us.  Not realizing that perhaps you didn't invest as much time developing the "love" as you should have, in order to reap the reward that you've dreamt about from love, Eternal Bliss. 

Yes, I do believe that couples can feel eternal bliss in their relationship.  It requires work before you commit, and continuous effort throughout the relationship.  It takes time.  So, "love at first sight" can still happen, and be great fun.  That "love" can lead you right into being "in-love", but don't have the expectation that automatically you can trust, be vulnerable and live in eternal bliss without tolerating some bumps in the road.  Don't let it make you miss the "red flags" that should steer you away from emotional danger. 

Good communication is still a very important skill for a couple to develop and practice in order to maintain a healthy and happy, loving relationship.  Don't you deserve that?  

[see other Love FAQs in my blog posting of 2/7/2013]