“I Love You” Versus “I’m in Love with You”

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!

What’s ahead for your love life? Talk to a love psychic and find out today!

6 thoughts on ““I Love You” Versus “I’m in Love with You”

  1. Reed x 5105Reed x 5105

    I believe that the need to make this distinction is often times driven by other factors. If someone consistently asks you, “Are you in love with me?” what they may really be wanting is reassurance.

    Callers often ask me, “Is he (or she) in love with me?” when what they really want to know is if their lover is going to make the commitment to a long term relationship. There are also times when the question means “Is s/he feeling the same way I feel?” I’ve seen very few cases in which the semantics are actually the real issue.

    If you are the one asking this question, be careful. Make sure that you aren’t placing an unrealistic expectation on your loved one. At the root of this question there may be the implication that you need your significant other to experience the relationship in the exact same way in which you experience it – and that isn’t fair to your partner and it’s a sure way to damage the relationship.

    Reed x5105

  2. Kathy

    This article helped take me out of my current “head space” for a moment to evaluate further my feelings and thoughts toward a new flame. Obviously, I need to look deeper at my motives for my actions and reactions. I see that many of them may be self-driven without having thought of them that way. Thanks.

  3. Patti Bruman

    I totally agree with Chris. I think too many people have a grandiose idea of what “in love” is, when a lot of what they are feeling is actually more like infatuation and lust. I think this is the reason for the high divorce rate. When that feeling disappears…and it will, people are off looking for “the one” so they can feel that again. Very misguided.
    To compare “love” to that of infatuation seems a little off base as well, especially when it was mentioned that “love” was something you felt for family members.

  4. Chris Wong Sick Hong


    *tilts head sideways*

    It sounds a lot like you’re trying to say that familial/friendship love is the same as infatuation, whereas erotic love is selfless. That’s a bit odd on its own; how many people consider themselves infatuated with their parents, their best friends? There can be a lot of selfishness in close relationships, but that’s usually selfishness justified by rationalizations masquerading as love.

    That the feeling of being “in love,” as I believe it’s understood by most, is deeper and more spiritual than the drive reduction you mentioned also runs against the grain I’ve found. The neurochemical basis of that feeling (http://www.youramazingbrain.org/lovesex/sciencelove.htm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_basis_for_love, http://www.mcmanweb.com/love_lust.html, among others) suggests that being “in love” creates an extremely strong drive, and the romantic actions people take is a form of the drive reduction. People who are in love act a lot like people with OCD, and their behavior is a way to complete the overpowering drives. Orgasm/sexual arousal then stimulates the release of oxytocin, which is responsible for a long-term feeling of bonding. Oxytocin is also the neurochemical which creates such a strong bond between mother and child.

    Also, that passionate flame is often considered one of the fleeting manifestations of desire. It burns bright and often burns out quickly. Like any strong desire, fantasies and wishful thinking often surround it, with the concomitant consequences.

    This article doesn’t make all that much sense to me.

  5. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Hi Eric,

    interesting ( as always ) …..nice article…..food for thought to be sure ……but in the end, actions will speak louder than the words, no matter how they are phrased .

    Blessed Be )O(
    Gina Rose ext.9500

  6. abigailx9570

    This is a magnificient article !!!! We know the difference right from the get go that I love you but I’m not in love with you is an excuse when we all know deep inside which one it is……Bravo

    Many Blessings



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