What’s the Difference Between I Love You and I’m in Love With You?
When asked to remind his wife how much he loved her, Al Bundy from the television show Married With Children would say, “I love beer, I love bowling—I don’t wanna cheapen the meaning of the word.” Some people argue over the semantics behind “love” and “in love”, but in a poetic sense they have two very different meanings.
The difference between “I love you” and “I’m in love with you” can be described by the Greek words filios and eros. Filios is the love of a family member or close friend, while eros is a erotic love reserved for romantic partners. A couple may tell each other they love each other, but whether or not they are truly in love, depends on a number of factors.
Love (Infatuation) vs. Being in Love
Your Best. When in love, the relationship should bring out the best in both, you and your partner. Love, by itself may feel giddy and happy, but if you evaluate yourselves honestly, you might find you are trying to be something you’re not, just to keep them around.
Happiness. “A cardinal rule for Happiness is not to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less,” says Dr. George E. Vaillant, a researcher that has been studying love and happiness for decades. When in love, our happiness is drawn from making our partner happy, contrary to love, which often seeks to find happiness for ourselves.
Joy. “The secret to life is finding joy, not happiness,” says Dr. Vaillant. “Happiness is drive reduction—Joy is connection.” Vaillant would argue that only when love is no longer about its reward, will we understand what it means to be “in love”. True love is identified specifically by our connection with other people.
Forgiveness. It is more likely to forgive a cheating partner when we are in love with them, but you’d really have to wonder which side of the phrase they happen to be on!
Future. When in love, we can see a future with our partner in it. We may put aside our own dreams to watch the dreams of our partner come alive. Love in itself, does not necessarily see a future, as it is most concerned with the feeling of here and now.
Selfless. When in love, we see our partner with compassion, wondering what we can do to make their life better. Everything we do for them is grounded by a drive to understand them better. Love, itself, may treat our partner to something nice, but it is grounded by the expectation of receiving something in return.
Compassion. Being in love is compassionate, but compassion does not always describe love. Real love is connected, selective, and enduring.
Vulnerability. Love is dangerous, whereas, being in love, equals allowing our vulnerability to bring us closer to our partner.
Fear. When in love, we savor time with our partner, understanding that loss is all part of the risk. Love by itself is afraid of becoming too close, as it knows heartbreak and sadness can be the result of these types of relationships.
Attachment. When in love, we may become attached to a relationship, but love is more of an addiction. An addiction may cry out, Why me, during an argument, whereas an attachment will ask, How can I make this better?
Pairing. Pairing up as a couple in love, is about sharing intimacies with one another. Love is the comfort of having someone in your arms, the convenience of a built-in date. Saying the words, I love you, might make you feel like you’re a part of something special, but until you can say, I’m in love with you, will you understand its full meaning.
Planning. When in love, we plan our weekends around our partner. Love, on the other hand, concentrates on our own plans, waiting to see how our partner will fit into them.
I love you vs I’m in love with you? You say Pot(ay)to, I say Pot(ah)to, but when it comes to romantic love, five words is usually better than three!
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