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

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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?

Fernando

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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Comments:

  1. 81
    Daphne

    This is a very interesting subject and one that has played a huge part in my personal Life. In my opinion, the difference between loving someone and actually being in love is actually simpler than most would rather admit. When you love someone, it would crush you if anything happened to them. In addition, you can love someone and want to spend your entire life with them, build a family together, accomplish goals together, grow old and even pass on. When it comes to actually being in love, it really comes down to their being fireworks!, a spark in your relationship that is incredibly intoxicating and something you can’t get enough of. IMO, Being in love is a feeling I have had – when the very sight of someone causes me to have butterflies. When I go out on a date, I never want the night to end. I yearn for their touch and when I don’t get it I’m deeply effected. More examples of being in love with a person is as follows : you can’t stand to be without the person, You want to make sure you leave that person satisfied – mentally, physically, compassionately, sexually and even spiritually ( many woman have changed their religious beliefs solely on their love – or being madly in love with their mate )… other examples of being in love are: if a person you merely love buys you a 5 karat diamond ring – you feel terrific but it’s more about the actual gift rather than who actually gave it to you.. In my own experience, when in love, a person can stop at the store to pick up something as small as a card or a piece of chocolate and I’d be blown away – because I am so in love with them. Being in love requires passion, compassion, a mutual respect for one another, lust, sex, a desire to always have that person in your presence and a certain feeling you get moments before going on a ride at an amusement park…. Being in love is Fantastic but often fades with time. Loving a person is beautiful and states that you have deep feelings for that person that do not involve the thrills and non-stop excitement that comes with being madly in love with someone. In my life, I have had boyfriends I was in love with – to only find out that the stage inevitably ends and you’re left asking yourself, do I even know this person,,, and I have also have had experiences where I love someone ( my own husband as we speak ), I Love him with all my heart, I respect him and look forward to living our lives together – however, I’m not IN LOVE with him – I once was;however, to be IN LOVE your entire relationship is somewhat unrealistic IMO

  2. 82
    christine

    I am in that situation at the moment, i am 58 and my male friend is 56, we do not live together. After 11 years of going out he went to cambodia, Yes he got mesmarized by the femails over there. He came back and said that i was like a sister to him. We did not have sex for the last 4 years, but as he is a drinker i put that down to that. Yes we had sparks for a year or two then it just got comfertable. NOw he said that we are friends. I am hurt but deep down i knew it was over years ago but i was just kiding myself to think it would work out. I am trying to be strong but he is now phoning me every day whanting for me not to be mad with him.I am not answering the phone or tex. YES IT HURTS. being in love or just love as a friend is difrent

  3. 83
    gay dating

    Love love and love is a universal for all human being. Its not only human but also for all animals. I want to say with you “But it can also be an  illusion“. Thanks for your post.

  4. 84
    BostonRobin

    All this speculation, and to what end? If this girl has made her decision, YOU DON’T WANT HER (credit to Evan for pounding that wisdom into my head). If she wants to leave you now, when everything is awesome, when you’re at your best, imagine life with her if things went bad? She’s not wife material if she will bail on you now. I’m sorry, but she’s doing you a favor.

    We all have to go into relationships hoping that the other person has the same ideas about love and commitment, but really only time will tell. This letter sounds a bit unclear about her ideas though, like maybe she wants to live together a bit longer just to be sure? You might still be able to work this out, but this kind of talk just sounds suspicious to me. Maybe she just doesn’t have good internal filters and is sharing feelings she should just process quietly.

  5. 85
    Darwin

    Fernando should cut his losses. Do not invest anymore time, money, effort, or emotion. Break things off. If she wants to come back, think carefully and make her wait.  

  6. 86
    Virginia

    Love is a word that few have very little understanding of. I was married 31 years to my husband before he passed on. I can tell you this, true love comes with time. Going through trials, tribulations, committments, devotion, honoring, charishing and giving your all to a marriage. Being in love is a fantasy, a myth. it is a sparkle you want instantly, and you will only get that sparkle after years of true committment. Choose your choice (spouse) and love your choice. There in is true happiness, being devoted to one another totally and completely and none else, though hell and high water, through the good times and the bad. Learning to become one flesh. When you truly love, your spouse is your LIFE. When you lose your love like I did, it would be like cutting both your arms off. Love is a something you can not replace. Like arms. Your spouse iin true love becomes a part of you and when they die it is losing a part of you. True love takes a long time to grow and it takes committment, devotion and the will to make it so.

  7. 87
    Paul

    Fernando,

    I totally empathize with your situation. After 8 years together, lots of fun together and an over the top engagement, my girl just laid down the same “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” cliche. I answered back that I’m not “in love” with her either, but love her very profoundly. When I asked when she started to feel that way, she pinpointed after 1 and a half years into our relationship. I was dumbfounded by finding that out. And she told me 6 and a half years later??? Just last year she said yes to my marriage proposal, accepting the ring I was offering her, she proudly showed it off to all her friends, etc… We were a couple that never argued, very compatible, highly looked upon by others who thought we had such a rare thing going for us. I realized none of us are immune from this type of situation. I was never controlling, let her be who she was, dedicated my life to her as my #1 priority, and gave her all the love that a man could possible give a partner. I’ve been staunchly loyal, took on most of the daily home responsibilities (so she would never feel overwhelmed), and always took care of her during long difficult times (surgeries, etc). I do not regret anything I’ve ever done. But this still happened to me.

    I’m still quite a bit hurt by this situation… My heart is still freshly open wounded. But I acted as I always did. I let her do what she wanted to do. I would never force her to be with me and drive me insane on an emotional roller coaster ride. As much as I still love her deeply, she free to pursue her “rockstar” and go chase her illusive life-long passion… Whatever that may be or mean.

    I personally think she confused “lust” with “true love.” It’s unfortunate that she is willing to throw away an amazing 8-year long partnership… Best I’ve ever had.

    Hold your head up high, my friend. Some things we cannot control (what ticks in some people’s heads). You seem like a great catch with a good heart… Ladies out there will be lucky to have a great guy like you newly available for them. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you the very best of luck, Fernando!

  8. 88
    rosie

    I left my marriage of 23 years because I wanted a better life. I felt our love had slipped away early on and that I deserved more. And there were problems…..a lot of them….but on the outside we appeared to be living the idyllic life. If I could go back in time, I’d have a sit down with myself and look deeply and honestly inside and ask: What do you want? Because whatever it is you can find all of it while remaining in your marriage. The intoxication of passion and mind-altering chemistry is no match for deep love and intimacy and belonging.

  9. 89
    karisma

    i think what your girlfriend actually meant was that she still cares for you, and somehow you have already become a part of her that she could not just leave you like that..but she is no longer excited about you, the passion has died down…she maybe exploring her options right now, looking for the excitement she once felt with you..the excitement of a new relationship…she could not give you up completely because she might be needing a fallback when things with other men dint work out after all..or maybe she is still weighing what’s really impotant to her, the safety and security with you or the excitement she’d feel with someone new.

  10. 90
    Ana

    Well im engaged but not in love nor do I love him. Not even sure if I can stand sex with him. My heart is elsewhere and elsewhere’s heart is with me and his marriage is also the same. Life can suck. But it beats being alone and this someone wants to marry and take care of me when the other one cannot, you sometimes have to take it.

  11. 91
    Mark

    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

  12. 92
    Lex

    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.

     

    https://www.wattpad.com/71760739-what-not-to-say-to-asexual-aromantic-people-for

    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.

  13. 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?

  14. 94
    pirate anny

    I just got told by someone they love me but are not IN love with me. im getting too old for this crap. I told him good luck find miss perfect. im DONE.

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