Being with someone

The Difference Between Being in Love and Loving Someone, According to Experts

At some point in time, most of us will know the feeling: Your heart flutters when you see your partner walk in the room, and it feels like the time you spend together puts you on top of the world. Being in love is a part of life that many people strive to experience (and it can seem like every character in movies, books, and other stories we enjoy are focused around it in one way or another).

There are many different types of love. Some people feel butterflies when they're infatuated with someone special; happy couples married for years have a deep, profound attachment to each other; and a parent's love for their children is often regarded as the strongest love one can experience. But when it comes to romance, the feelings of love and being in love are separate and depend on the stage of your relationship.

If you're wondering what it means to be in love vs. loving another person, we asked romance and relationship expert Theresa E. DiDonato, Ph.D., marriage therapist Kathy McCoy, Ph.D., and clinical psychologist Randi Gunther, Ph.D. to walk us through the difference between these two emotions.

Meet the Expert

  • Theresa E. DiDonato, Ph.D. is a social psychologist with a focus on romantic relationships and attraction. She is a professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland.
  • Kathy McCoy, Ph.D. is a marriage and family therapist and author of more than a dozen books in the space.
  • Randi Gunther, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor. She is the author of When Love Stumbles: How to Rediscover Love, Trust, and Fulfillment in your Relationship and Relationship Saboteurs: Overcoming the Ten Behaviors that Undermine Love.

The Psychology Behind Love

You may have used the phrases "being in love" and "loving someone" interchangeably, but there are a few differences between them and how we process feelings in relationships.

Determining if you're actually in love with someone can help you decide if you should be exclusive with them, stay in the relationship, or make a commitment that leads to deeper love.

"The spark that defines a love-at-first-sight experience is better described as a strong attraction accompanied by an openness to a future relationship," says DiDonato. "Romantic love is more involved, encompassing emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. It's also not something that generally happens instantly, but rather, it usually tends to emerge over time."

DiDonato suggests considering how researchers define romantic love to see the differences more clearly. She notes that while many scholars see love as an emotional attachment based on the quality of a relationship, others measure love by passion, intimacy, and commitment.

Being in Love vs. Loving Someone

Before knowing which type of love exists in your current relationship, it's helpful to understand the signs of genuinely falling in love (and how to tell when that chemistry is real). If you're trying to interpret the strong emotions you have for your special someone, here's how to determine if you're in love or simply feeling love for them:

Being in Love Is Emotionally Charged

If you’re wondering what it means to be in love, one key distinction has to do with your emotions. Specifically, when you’re in love with someone, you feel a strong, almost inexplicable desire for that person. "The excitement and wonder of early love, of mutual discovery, of delighting in fantasies, and anticipating sharing so much in the years ahead is a memorable phase in a couple’s life together," says McCoy. In fact, being "in love" often means yearning for someone: You think about them constantly, and you crave spending time with them when you're apart.

The excitement and wonder of early love, of mutual discovery, of delighting in fantasies, and anticipating sharing so much in the years ahead is a memorable phase in a couple’s life together.

Loving Someone Isn’t Based on a Whirlwind of Emotions

Mature love grows out of a developing attachment. Whether the person you love is a partner, friend, parent, or child, your strong feelings stem from a deep-rooted attachment rather than heightened passion or infatuation. "After the fantasies and illusions begin to fall away, it’s possible that what comes into focus is something much better: a realistic, sustainable love," McCoy says.

Being in Love Can Fade Over Time

When you’re in love, deep feelings can be fleeting. Intense adoration can become indifferent as time passes, and your partner's novelty can wear off. Being in love with someone today isn't a guarantee that you'll feel the same way forever: "As phases tend to do, [early love] passes as jobs, bills, children, conflicts, aging parents, and other realities of long-term love begin to push those fantasies aside," McCoy says. "It’s hard to harbor glamorous illusions close-up over time."

Loving Someone Is More Permanent

Loving someone is long-lasting. Even if the person you love aggravates or disappoints you (or your relationship becomes distant), you'll continue to care about them on some level. It's part of the reason that you can still love your ex long after a breakup—loving another person is deeply ingrained. "Growing to love the real person and accepting who they are, with both strengths and weaknesses, can make a wonderful difference in your relationship," McCoy says. "[It helps] it to become a lasting source of comfort, emotional safety, and a wonderfully sustainable joy. When you see each other realistically and come to know each other well, you’re less likely to disappoint each other."

Growing to love the real person and accepting who they are, with both strengths and weaknesses, can make a wonderful difference in your relationship.

Being in Love Can Be Easily Shaken

When you’re in love with someone, your connection may not be strong enough to make it through challenges unfazed. For example, you may be head over heels for your partner, but as soon as real problems arise, you start to feel distant from them or question their ability to outlast hard times. When you feel a deeper love for your long-term partner, the passion can continue to burn through life's challenges without flickering or fading away. In the beginning, you can be in love but not know each other well enough to overcome obstacles together. "As you relax into the relationship and accept each other realistically, there is a greater chance that those times when you aren’t so witty, when you’re a little cranky, or when you disagree will not be deal-breakers," McCoy says. "When you’re in love, you tend to be on your best behavior and expect your loved one to do the same."

Loving Someone Can Survive Life’s Ups and Downs

When you love someone, your relationship is strong enough to overcome life’s challenges. This is because your bond with one another is so inherent that problems can actually bring you closer together. "In relationships that harbor the potential of true love, people almost immediately feel the desire to confess and share everything about themselves, whether negative or positive," says Gunther. "They feel immediately courageous, wanting to know and be known, no matter what the outcome." After all, love is based on the trust, respect, and honesty that develop over time.

​Being in Love Opens the Door to Long-Term Love 

When you're in love with your partner, you can develop a deeper sense of love over time as you both commit to the relationship—and many couples still feel the flutters of being in love after years together. So if you're still in the early phases, the future can hold a long-lasting bond if you weather the challenges of life in a healthy way.

Being in love with someone actually sets the stage for building long-lasting love. Each partner makes appropriate sacrifices to meet the other's needs, and they'll enjoy aspects of each other that bring out the best versions of themselves. When partners enjoy spending time together, they're more motivated to grow together, take risks, and make each other's lives better. "Letting go of old fantasies makes room for wonderful surprises," McCoy says. "When you stop trying to change a spouse—or yourself—to fit each other’s fantasies and simply love each other, encouraging the other to grow in ways very much their own, wonderful surprises may be in store."

While passion is important, mutual respect and compassion between partners create an emotional foundation between them. So, if you think you've found "the one," your relationship might just transform into an exciting, life-long commitment.

5 Signs Your Relationship Is Strong Enough to Get Engaged

The 10 Best Quotes about being with someone


10 of the best book quotes about being with someone

“My purpose, my whole life, had been to love him and be with him, to make him happy.”

W. Bruce Cameron


A Dog's Purpose


The Dog

Ethan Montgomery







being with someone


“When we feel deeply drawn to someone, we cathect them; that is, we invest feelings or emotion in them. That process of investment wherein a loved one becomes important to us is called ‘cathexis’.

Bell Hooks





being with someone

true feelings




“It is silly, isn’t it, that I would dream of someone else offering to me the acceptance and affirmation I was withholding from myself. This was a moment when the maxim “You can never love anybody if you are unable to love yourself” made clear sense. And I add, “Do not expect to receive the love from someone else you do not give yourself.”

Bell Hooks







being with someone

being silly

love yourself

give yourself


“I love you. I want to be with you. We’ll find a way to make it work.”

Nicholas Sparks


The Longest Ride


Luke Collins

Sophia Danko



being with someone

making it work


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Dr. Seuss







being with someone




cares a lot


“I hope you find someone who knows how to love you when you are sad.

Nikita Gill







being with someone


“Always be honest about the way someone makes you feel about yourself.”

Nikita Gill







being with someone

be yourself


“I hate the moments between meeting someone and leaving someone”

R. H. Sin


Whiskey Words and a Shovel




being with someone

meeting people


“When he texts you, he’s thinking about you. When he calls you, he misses you. When he shows up, he wants you. When he suddenly stops doing all of the above for you, he’s doing it for someone else.”

Amari Soul


Reflections of a Man






being with someone


“Best of all I like being with my mom.”

Jacqueline Wilson


The Story of Tracy Beaker


Tracy Beaker



being with someone


mother-daughter relationship


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Stop wanting to be someone | SPILNO

When you watch all those TV shows where contestants compete in songwriting, you often see another contestant looking at the camera and saying, "I always dreamed of being the singer of ". They never say that they have always dreamed of singing .

I think there is a deep meaning buried here. If they really cared about singing, they'd be there day and night singing their fucking songs. We would form bands, perform in clubs, record albums, videos for YouTube, moving our asses to be constantly in front of the audience. nine0007

But no. Instead, they hang out on this kind of TV show for a second of glory, hoping for "maybe lucky."

They are waiting for someone to make them great artists who lead lives of the rich and famous. They don't want to do something . They want to be someone who does something.

This can be seen in many areas of the lives of a huge number of people. No one wants to start companies, but everyone wants to be founders. Nobody wants create art, but everyone wants to be an artist. No one wants to spend a day in front of the monitor, creating program code, but everyone dreams of being a programmer.

Life is what you do every day

True to your dreams, you live your life every day getting out of bed and doing your job. It can be drawing, writing music, some kind of business. You can work on stage, in the office, or even in your own bedroom. But anyway, it's always work .

It has nothing to do with what you call yourself or what lifestyle you lead. It is about what you dedicate your life to, day after day, achieving results. That's what really matters, because that's what gets you somewhere.

If your head is filled with what kind of lifestyle to lead, trying to fill it with the necessary attributes, you are obviously busy with the wrong things. You will never be able to create anything worthwhile, because creating something is not even a thought in your head. nine0007

The trick is that if you want to be someone, instead of doing something , then in the end you will be nothing.

You will never feel that you have reached the end

I am sure that there is no person in the world who would feel that he becomes something. Or someone. No one can at some point say, "Oh, I feel like I'm an entrepreneur now," or "I'm an artist." Because such a feeling is basically unattainable. nine0007

You will always be looking for some thing that will lead you to something or some event that will allow you to stop and be finally satisfied with yourself. This will never happen. If you chase after the feeling of being someone , you will never find it. What you should focus on is doing , which can help you feel satisfied.

But there is no end point where you can just stop and just sit at home. What about those contestant singers? They don't believe in it. They believe that they can find happiness if they win this competition. Get a contract. Record a single. They are wrong. nine0007

Your work must be done well

If you do work just to be or become someone, instead of focusing on the action itself and doing work for the sake of doing, it's very sad. You will not put in enough effort and the quality of your work will be very low.

The work itself is important. Take this expression seriously. Work is not something that annoys you to the point of exhaustion, while you make excuses that you need it in order to feel like someone. There is nothing in work that can give meaning to your lifestyle. It is meaning in itself. nine0007

You must paint good pictures, make beautiful sentences. Create good things. If you don't, if you're only busy feeding your ego, people will see it. The world will see it.

Nobody takes you seriously if you don't do anything

When you tell someone that you are someone, that you are "someone", people want some kind of proof. No one will perceive me as a writer unless I spend hours and hours every day blogging, writing a book, and interacting with my readers. nine0007

It's your job that makes people stop and pay attention to you. Not your biography or your stories about yourself. If you want to be taken seriously, all you really need is respect. And you can't just go and get respect. People won't just line up to express it to you.

You must earn it. Earn by doing things that matter to others by putting in the effort every single day. This is the only way to get what you want. nine0007

Learn and develop

If you have already reached the point of calling yourself a business founder or an artist, then in this way you put an end to your own development and use of opportunities to learn new things.

If instead you focus on the work you are doing and spend your life doing the best job you can, then you have a chance to make discoveries. This way you get a chance to experience your own eureka. nine0007

The work I do is writing. And entrepreneurship. And marketing. And design. And conversations. However, is it me? I prefer to think of myself primarily as a student. I am here to study. Yes, and all of us.

You should get out of the shell

If you want to become somebody, you will waste your time trying to achieve the unattainable. You will not find happiness in the future, but will only face a series of bitter disappointments.

If you are going to really do something, then you are on the way to real satisfaction. When you don't think about who to be and what lifestyle to lead, you have great opportunities to do what you truly love. nine0007

You are able to get off the ground and set the world around you in motion. I love talking about two musical bands Fugazi and Black Flag. They are very important to me as they are creative and enterprising. They never expected a miracle. They themselves arranged their own concerts, paid for the recording of albums themselves and are constantly working. They are busy doing, not being somebody. And this is a good way.

Psychologist Elena Stankovskaya: Why do we need close relationships

How to quarrel for good and how to approach for good? How to build a relationship with a loved one? Why do we need close relationships at all? Let's discuss the topic with Elena Stankovskaya, Candidate of Psychological Sciences, Associate Professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics.

Intimacy is essential for a happy life

You have a lecture entitled "Why do we need intimacy." The word "why" is redundant here. Well, what does it mean - why? Isn't it clear? nine0004

Elena Stankovskaya: In principle, of course, it's understandable. Close relationships are essential for a happy life. To maintain peace in the family. To jointly resolve domestic issues. For raising children. Yes, even for the status. And one of the main reasons why modern people enter into these relationships is the desire for unity, the desire to be emotionally significant for each other. It's hard to be yourself without a close relationship with someone. It is known, after all, that babies do not develop unless they are looked at, touched, or talked to. nine0007

In your opinion, are close relationships between someone and whom?

Elena Stankovskaya: In lectures, I reveal this in different ways. There are close romantic relationships. There are close relationships in a broader sense. It is friendship, mutual affection. This is the desire to share the pain, anxieties, experiences of another person. This is the fear of separation. Intimacy is also interpreted by psychologists as a joint willingness to take risks: to be vulnerable, to show oneself and withstand conflicts. But unlike love, intimacy is always mutual. nine0007

Someone develops or does not develop a close relationship with someone. How can a psychologist help here? Is his role exaggerated?

Elena Stankovskaya: If people want to find close relationships and are ready to work with a psychologist for this, then a lot can be achieved here. Firstly, people sometimes do not really understand what kind of relationship they want. And then it is useful to talk to them about it.

People sometimes do not really understand what kind of relationship they want. And then it is useful to talk to them about it

Secondly, there are barriers: psychically built expectations from relationships and ways of interaction that once helped to adapt to the environment, but now interfere with building happy relationships. Most often, a person is not aware of these methods, but falls into their traps. For example, the anxiety that a loved one will soon disappear somewhere will disappear from your life, which forces you to "cling" to contact. Or a deep conviction that nothing good will come of the relationship, and it is better to avoid them. In this case, there is little chance that attachment will arise between you. This important concept is attachment. It was proposed by the English psychologist John Bowlby. He described attachment as "a stable psychological bond between people". Children, Bowlby explained, have a need not only for their parents to feed them, but also for mom and dad to be a safe "base" from which to explore the world. Children need these relationships so that their curiosity, their research interest can be realized. Bowlby and his students identified different types of attachment. For example, secure attachment. It is most favorable for building close relationships. This feeling that a loved one most of the time will satisfy most of your needs. Later, researchers showed that the mechanism of attachment plays a key role in building close relationships in adults. nine0007

Attachment can be insecure

What is dangerous attachment? The cordial attachment of two people to each other looks idyllic from the outside, but in reality it can be selfish, demanding, on the verge of emotional terror. And then this attachment becomes burdensome for both parties, doesn't it?

Elena Stankovskaya: This is one of the variants of what is an insecure attachment. Most often, this is an anxious type of attachment. It's when I feel like I can't survive without the other, and so I let him abuse me. There are also mutually destructive relationships where partners cause a lot of pain to each other, experiment with each other's boundaries, and destroy intimacy. This suggests that a secure attachment has not been formed. But if it is, then close relationships are always good. They relieve many psychological problems. In addition, there is an "avoidant" type of attachment, when people avoid relationships, live alone. And they try not to allow the other to be significant to them. While some feel good, others develop symptoms of anxiety and depression. Even if you are an "avoidant" person, you actually need attachment. You need a relationship, you need someone to talk to about how you don't need a relationship. nine0007

Close relationships are always risky

Can close relationships be dangerous? I don't mean here what is called "promiscuous connections".

Elena Stankovskaya: Close relationships are always risky. They are fraught with the pain of loss. Because if we enter intimacy, then the other person becomes a part of our life, and losing him means losing part of ourselves. Therefore, they say that intimacy is built on mutual trust and willingness to take the risk of rejection, misunderstanding, betrayal and loss. nine0007

In lectures, you say that an emotional response is needed in close relationships. Which one? It can be both positive and negative. Or are both important?

Elena Stankovskaya: A careful emotional response is important. Because intimacy is an exchange of emotions. And when we trust another person with our tastes, fears, desires, dreams, thoughts, discoveries, we want empathy. And it hurts us if the answer is indifference. There are modern neurobiological studies that show that the lack of a safe emotional response is tantamount to physical pain. "It hurts me when they don't hear me" - this phrase should be taken literally. Ideally, we need a fair response, correlated with our ability to accept this response. It should not be a "carrot", but it should not be a "stick". What is a fair response? It is a response that corresponds to the inner truth of the other person. How to present this truth - what is called emotional literacy, the ability to express it so that the other person can more easily understand and accept it. One of the modern researchers of intimacy says: take tenderness out of intimacy and you get cruelty. And in this sense, we need tenderness, we need mercy towards another. Although a fair negative response is also useful. It shows how we should not be treated, often - that relationships are important to us. nine0007

Conflict gives a chance to transform relationships

Quarrels, conflicts between loved ones destroy relationships or only strengthen them?

Elena Stankovskaya: Both. There are quarrels that strengthen relationships. Because in conflict, we finally tell each other the truth, declare our needs, present our desires. And in this sense, the conflict gives a chance for the transformation of relations. But this chance is not always realized. My colleague Vadim Petrovsky calls this "non-negotiability in relations." In this case, conflicts are dead ends, they lead nowhere. There are many perspectives in psychology on why and how we fight. For example, there are conflicts that occur as an attempt to keep the relationship close and secure. The conflict is a cry that I want more affection from you, I want more energy in our relationship. But there are conflicts that are completely destructive. If we attack another, if we use power, if we go to conflict in order to suppress someone's will, then such an attempt is obviously fruitless. Sometimes we clash because our parents did it and we learned the same. And this is where a psychologist is needed. He can help a person see this repetition and stop it. nine0007

Is it really necessary to sort things out? If relationships are constantly in need of clarification, then why are they needed?

Elena Stankovskaya: There is no universal recipe here. Some things sometimes need to be clarified, spoken out, not accumulated in oneself. Because we are all different. It seems to us that the other person is arranged in the same way as we are, but he is arranged differently. One and the same event, one and the same abandoned phrase can be perceived differently. And here there is a reliable tool - the word. Simply put, you need one person to explain to another what is happening to him. Although it happens that words are powerless. I usually separate the two levels of problems in pairs. There are communication problems. This is where words help. We sit down, have a conversation and find some solution. But most of the problems are on a different level. This is when you need to find a new way to live together. You can't do this in one sitting. This is something that is not solved at the level of words. Therefore, as a result, both will have to change their behavior and learn to respect the differences between them. We cannot solve such problems by talking. We can designate them, give them significance, but in fact we need to change a lot in ourselves in order for these problems to disappear. But of course, a good relationship also requires some basic level of mutual understanding. There are things that should be understood without words. nine0007

A close relationship is a relationship where most of the time you can be yourself

"To love another, first love yourself" - this recommendation, due to its paradox, looks wise, full of deep meaning. But it is easier and faster for most people to complete only the "initial" part of this program. How do you feel about such recommendations? They claim to be universal.

Elena Stankovskaya: I adhere to the point of view that we learn to love ourselves through the love of other people for us and through love for other people. There are people who are convinced of their insignificance. It seems to them that others are more interesting, brighter, humanly larger. It is useful for such people to increase self-esteem. Allowing them to "love themselves" as they love others will help them understand that they are no worse than others, that they also deserve respect and self-respect. And there are people who put themselves above others, for whom others do not exist as equal individuals. In this case, in order to build close relationships, a person needs to say to himself: "Love another as you love yourself." Actually, this is not even a recommendation from a psychologist, this is a biblical commandment. nine0007

It is not customary to criticize colleagues in public, but if you do not name names... What recommendations and advice from psychologists do you consider charlatan?

Elena Stankovskaya: Any by means of which the psychologist manipulates the client. Any where there is a simplification - for example, "there are three types of women and five types of men." It also seems to me that any advice where a person is invited to lose his individuality and adapt to certain behavioral standards seems to be charlatanism. Close relationships in my understanding are those relationships where most of the time you can be yourself. nine0007

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Photo: Alexander Korolkov

Elena Stankovskaya - Candidate of Sciences in Psychology, Associate Professor at the Higher School of Economics. He teaches at the master's program "Counseling Psychology. Personology". In 2007 she graduated with a degree in clinical psychology from Moscow State University.

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