Love vs. In Love

2 Jun

Readers, please weigh in.  I’ve heard more than one man pooh-pooh the idea of differentiating between loving someone and being “in love” with that person.  (Apparently, the idea of being “in love” with someone is a female thing, ergo entirely nebulous and more or less imaginary, whereas a man just simply loves.)

For my part, I’m not sure which side I come down on in this argument.  “In love” often seems synonymous with infatuation.  “Real” love, the kind of ongoing, day-to-day love that keeps a relationship alive for a lifetime, has little to do with the waves of emotional rollercoastering of infatuation.  Then again, we’ve all seen elderly couples who still look at each other with a touch of infatuation, so….?  Complicating the matter is the breadth of meanings of love in the English language.  (“I like my Sketchers, but I love my Prada backpack….”)

What say you?  Is there a difference between loving and being “in love”?  Can a person really be “in love”?

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11 Responses to “Love vs. In Love”

  1. Rebekah June 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    To me being “in love” and “love” are definitely two different things. I love lots of people: family members, close friends, my dog :)… But being “in love” is love accompanied by the desire to express oneself sexually with a mate; I think the sexual element is what separates it out from regular love.

    As far as old people go, perhaps they still want to express themselves sexually but are too tired or physically unable, but would be doing so if they were younger. And I would think that just because a spark diminishes at certain points in a relationship in life, doesn’t mean you are no longer in love. The openness to sex with that mate is still there, but maybe not taking place as often.

    But I don’t know, really. After I look back at what I typed and my thoughts, I guess I’m not thoroughly convinced of the distinction either.

  2. Aunt Haley June 4, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    Ha! I think you’re just as confused as I am…but maybe it has more to do with the different ways men and women approach relationships.

  3. Will S. June 4, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    “In love” really is indeed all about infatuation, the emotional high two young people get from being together. And yes, if the relationship lasts, esp. if married, it evolves into something deeper with time.

    It isn’t exclusively a female thing, of course not; the problem, though, is that romance novels (i.e. emotional porn for females) create the expectation in young women that they and their men should always be in this state, and they buy into that more than men do. (That is as unrealistic as porn’s presentation of the feminine ideal – always flawless skin, no wrinkles or blemishes, bodily perfection, and always, always available for intimacy.)

  4. Aunt Haley June 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    So…you’re siding with “there’s only loving someone,” not “being in love with someone”? I.e., it would make no sense to you if you were dating a girl who, when breaking up with you, said to you, “I love you but I’m not IN love with you.”

  5. Will S. June 5, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Oh, I’d get what she’s subconsciously trying to say, which really would be “I still feel some vague feelings of attachment and fondness for you, but I don’t feel the great emotional high and excitement that I used to feel, which I believe I ought to always feel as equally keenly as when the relationship began, and now I’ve found someone else who has excited me that way again, and so I’m leaving you for him; or maybe I haven’t yet met someone else, but I’m hoping to and would rather wait for him, free of being tied to you, because now my fondness for you is outweighed by the thought of having to endure another minute with you, as I’m not only not feeling that emotional high anymore, but I’m actually feeling repulsed at your company, whether mildly or greatly, enough that it outweighs any residual feelings of attraction.”

    That’s what a girl MEANS, whether or not she realizes it, when she says that B.S. line about “I love you but I’m not IN love with you.”; the type of girl who utters that simply lacks enough self-awareness to know what she really means.

  6. sdaedalus June 6, 2010 at 12:59 am #

    I have got the line of “I love you but I’m not IN love with you (anymore)” from men too (I might add, entirely unprompted and not in response to any questioning on my part).

    Maybe I’m a cynic, but heard from men, unprompted, it usually means that
    (i) they’ve found someone else; and
    (ii) the odds of them being there for you even as a friend in the future are about the same as those of being hit by a flying pig on the way to work.

    I think it’s the writing on the wall. I don’t know if it’s the same when women use it.

  7. Will S. June 6, 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    I can imagine some men will say that B.S. line, too, but that’s what it is, B.S. I’d never say it.

    For my part, I don’t really want to be friends after a break-up; I’d prefer to break up on good terms, then be civil and polite if I meet her in the future, like adults should be able to do. Nothing good comes out of maintaining a close, real friendship, after having dated. (That said, good can continue to come out of having dated someone even if you’re not friends afterwards; in a rare time I played matchmaker, I encouraged a friend of mine to ask out a girl I had dated – I figured they’d make a good couple, knowing both of them as well as I did, and I was right; they’re now married, have one kid and another on the way…)

  8. Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life June 10, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    When women say it to men it means she is already having sex with someone else, but doesn’t mind you paying her bills still.

    Okay that was mean…. but grain of truth in there lol.

  9. Aunt Haley June 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    A lot of times that’s probably very close to the truth. One of my brother’s friends went through a divorce a couple of years ago. His wife had apparently met another man, but my brother’s friend was in denial even after the wife left him. She let him keep paying her bills, though! I was disgusted that he would pay for her to live in her own apartment but not live with him as his wife. (Fortunately, since then he has remarried to a girl who is much less attractive but probably better-suited to him.)

  10. Ilíon August 8, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    ‘Love’ is an act of the will … and the actions which follow up on and live out that act.

    To speak of being/falling ‘in love’ is the decision to pretend that one’s infatuation or sexual attraction is is the whole of love. And so, of course, as surely as one “fell in love,” one will “fall out of love.”

    Oddly enough, I had been vaguely considering to write something about this very topic/distinction.

  11. Jennifer August 19, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    The difference is, being in love means sexual attraction and intimacy at a level that you share with NO ONE else. People have seriously said this doesn’t exist for men?? Are they JOKING?

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