Is it Okay to Love Someone But Not Be “In Love”?

Is it Okay to Love Someone But Not Be "In Love'?

My girlfriend of 2 1/2 years just put all our plans on hold, including buying a house together and getting married later this year. She says she loves me but she’s not “in love” with me. What is the difference?


Dear Fernando,

It all depends on how much value you put on labels.

Being”in love” is a pretty cool feeling. But it can also be an illusion.

Being “in love” is the most commonly used phrase to describe the feeling of “chemistry”. People who are “in love” have obsessive thoughts about their partners – huge highs when things are good, deep lows when things are bad. People “in love” say things like, “you just know when it’s right”, and believe that they found their true soulmates.

Being “in love” is a pretty cool feeling. But it can also be an illusion. What people who are “in love” often forget is that the passion that brings them together is often the very thing that drives them apart. This isn’t always the case. Some people, like the ones in Helen Fisher’s brain chemistry studies, stay “in love” for an entire lifetime. And because of those few people, we all think that the only way to find happiness is to hold out for being “in love”.

That’s what it sounds like your girlfriend is doing to you, my friend.

She’s chasing a higher high, a greater feeling, something that you can’t provide for her, no matter how much you try. You can’t blame her, exactly. She wants what she wants. But she quite likely might be throwing away an amazing partner in pursuit of that “in love” feeling. Governor Mark Sanford just did the same thing. Just read the transcripts!

I recently read a thought-provoking book called “The Post-Birthday World” by Lionel Shriver. The novel consists of two parallel stories – one is what happens if the protagonist, Irina, stayed with her solid and steady boyfriend of nine years; the other is what happens if Irina cheated on him and left him for a more passionate affair that turned into a marriage. Without giving away all that much, her passionate marriage doesn’t provide her nearly as much comfort as the safe relationship she left. She just traded in one set of problems for another.

When it comes to love, I might sit here and give advice every day, but there’s not a “right” and “wrong”. All I know is that the majority of people who have been “in love” and “just knew” that they were meant to be have since broken up. That tells me all I need to know about the clarity of passion.

I feel for you, Fernando, but you can’t hold on to your girlfriend. You should probably have a heart-to-heart with her, find out if she thinks she needs to be “in love” to get married, and reevaluate your life. Because if she’s always going to be longing for a more passionate relationship, you’re never going to feel safe.

That’s too bad, because relationships should be safe. Not just for her, but for you as well. If she needs to be “in love”, wish her the best of luck finding it, and go invest your energy in a woman who loves you unconditionally – no matter what label she puts on it.

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  1. 91

    Some very illuminating personal insights here. For what it’s worth, I will share my own experience. The strong ‘electric’ attraction of initially being ‘in love’ with someone can last longer than many people have indicated here. For myself, 8 years in one case, 5 years in another case and 4 years for another one (but I am very picky as to my partner at the start, sometimes travelling 1000s of miles to find ‘the one’). After that, various outcomes can occur, albeit invariably, a common theme is a complete loss of interest in continuing sexual relations with the person (after that period of being ‘in love’ ends).  The subsequent feelings range from ‘complete indifference to the fate of the other person’ to (at the other end of the scale), great love and care for the other person, even to the point of being really happy when she laughs at something (and to the point where I feel very confident that, in some sense, we will be soul mates for ever). That said, once the ‘in love’ period expires, the search for the highs of being ‘in love’ begins again in earnest. So, in a nutshell, there are very different types of love here – and feeling very ‘closely attached’ to someone does not stop you also being ‘in love’ with someone else. In my humble opinion. Mark

  2. 92

    I can respond to the “love” vs. “in love” phenomenom. She is more than likely what is known as either aromantic, demi-romantic or grey-romantic. What does all that mean?


    Aromantic; Having no romantic attraction to another person, means you will never, “fall in love” or “be in love” with someone else. The romantic spectrum, yes, there’s an actual spectrum and an orientation that goes along with this spectrum.

    Demiromantic: Only develops romantic feelings and attractive toward someone as to they have a strong platonic relationship with. However, it doesn’t mean that every strong platonic relationship will this develop, it just means it can develop when such a condition exists.

    Greyromantic: This is a blanket term that describe many other parts to the romantic spectrum outside and away from aromantic but not alloromantic (normal romantic people, where your romantic orientation lines up with your sexual orientation, yes, both orientations are separate).

    The reason why I can talk about this is because I’m aromantic and have seen people confuse, “in love / romance / limerance” with actual love. Being in love, romance, isn’t actually love, as much as people want to call it that.

    A good example to ask yourself.

    1. What is dating for?

    To find the right one to settle down with and possibly start a family.

    2. What is romance for?

    It just happens with people whom are grey-romantic or allo-romantic but never happens for aromantics. It’s for initimate bonding for a short period of time, it never lasts. Perhaps it has something to do with the survival of the species but I can’t be certain at this time.

    3. What is love?

    Basically, it’s deep understanding, acceptance of self and others. Through gestures of fondness; hugs, cuddles / snuggles, etc.

    Is being aromantic normal? Sure! Everyone on this planet is different from each other, some people will identify different than a large group, “Allo-romantic and allo-sexuals” (what you guys n’ gals call normal, even though there is no such thing).

    I look at this stuff from a clinical sense; internal medicine, psychology, sociological and psychiatry. There is no expert on whether a said relationship is right or wrong, if never being in love is wrong either. Because it’s not wrong, it’s just different, however, being different scares the Hell out of people.

    Just so you know, I identify as an aromantic hetero-demisexual man with wide heteroaesthetic attraction.

    What in the Hell is that?

    1. I don’t fall in love and never will but I do have empathy, therefore I’m not a Cluster B personality type with associated disorder. Which means I’m not suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) or Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD); sub diagnosis are sociopath and psychopath. I’m not in the autistic spectrum, therefore I’m not suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome either. Believe me, I’ve been labeled all kind of bullshit over the years by armchair medical doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists, none of them actually have any schooling to back their assertations up, however, I do. Another quote from people is if you’re not romantic, you’re a slut. Humorous enough; the people who say that are themselves, slutty. Aromantic doesn’t mean slutty / promiscuous, this is just social programming, the guilting mechanism kicking in because people fear what they don’t understand.

    2. Heterodemisexual; I don’t have sexual attractions to women unless I have a deep and profound platonic (friendship) relationship with them. More specifically, I don’t get it every time with a really good lady friend, it’s only happened 3 times in my life and I’m 42 years old. Yes, I’m single and proud of that fact. Sexuality comes in two forms; mental / emotional and physical. While I may have sexual attraction, if it develops from a lady friend, it doesn’t mean I want to physically act or want to actually have sex. Many people haven’t fully articulated their sexuality as of yet to really understand what they are.

    3. Wide heteroasthetic attraction; This is another orientation outside of sexual and romantic. It means; I’m attracted to many different physical features and body types. People confuse this with sexuality but they are different. It’s essentially, the measure on what I consider beautiful and pleasing to my eye. As I don’t follow the social programming of humanity.

    Here’s something to read, it applies to people that are aromantic and/or asexual, too. Not all asexuals are aromantics, just as not all aromantics are asexual. However, it is possible to be aromantic and asexual at the same time.


    If a lady asks me if I want to grab some coffee, lunch, dinner, to me, that’s just that, a friendly gesture. It’s not a romantic date, perhaps it is to her but I wouldn’t know one way or the other, unless she actually said so. If it was based on the latter, I would kindly decline her invitation, because of my previous experiences of this kind of situation always ended badly for me.

  3. 93
    Wahtevah Beech

    The primary, or root cause here is this:

    Women do not mean what they say. She is trickle truthing him because she is cheating.

    If you idiots could understand: If you start a relationship with good intentions, you NEED to end it the same way.  Golden rule applies. Start practicing it, or I foresee a good deal of domestic violence by men in the future.

    You love to toss around the word abuse. Well, lying and cheating is abuse. Not meaning what you say is manipulative. It’s gaslighting. But it’s ok for women to do it, right?

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