It took me a very long time to learn the difference between being in love with someone and actually loving that person. I learned the hard way, the very, very hard way.
Hearts were broken repeatedly over the years, and although I wish the pain could have been avoided, the experiences taught me more than any book or class ever could.
I grew up on fairy tales and love stories that taught me to believe that being in love and loving are the same thing. That couldn't be any further from the truth.
Being in love with someone and loving that person are two different things. Understanding the difference and being able to apply the knowledge to your own relationships is key to building a lasting relationship.
Here are a few differences between being in love and loving that I wish I knew a decade sooner:
When you're in love with someone, you want this person.
Being in love is wanting to own a part of the other person. It's believing this person is so wonderful that you want him or her to be a part of your life, a part of you. When you fall in love with a person, you feel an intense urge to consume that person in any way you can.
Being in love is believing you need someone in order to be happy.
When you love someone, you need this person.
You don't just want -- or rather, don't only want -- you need him or her. You need this person to live a happy and healthy life because your happiness literally depends on it.
You need him or her to be a part of your life in some way or another, not because you want to own a piece of this person, but because you want to give him or her a piece of yourself; loving someone is deeming him or her worthy of owning a part of you.
It isn't about ownership; it's about wanting only the best for that individual -- something that often means letting that love go.
When you're in love with someone, your emotions are always on high.
Your brain is producing the most amazing chemical cocktail, making you feel as if you were floating atop of a cloud. You get high just by being in love with a person -- and it's a sort of high you never want to let go of.
No one wants to come down from such a high. This is where the problem lies: You inevitably do come down.
When you love someone, your emotions settle and then fluctuate.
Loving someone isn't as much about the emotions as it is about the thoughts.
Thinking about someone, wishing the best for that person, doing the best to make him or her happy and, well, caring for that person just as much as -- if not more than -- yourself, that's what love is. The emotions that come with it are just the perks.
Once you have passed the stage of simply being in love with someone to actually loving him or her, you have to learn to let go of the constant high and to ride the less frequent waves as they come. They always come. They just aren't the "in love" emotional state that only falling in love allows for.
When you're in love with someone, you're aiming to reach some goal.
That's what makes falling in love so exciting -- the constant yearning for more.
You want to spend more time with this person, get to know him or her better, be with this person as much as possible. You always want to have more, and want to build a greater, more serious relationship.
When you love someone, you aren't rushing to reach the finish line.
The goal that being in love calls for no longer exists -- but only because it's already been reached. This often scares people because they begin to feel a need to continue making progress.
Unfortunately, everything in the universe is finite. You can't make progress and continue building something greater forever. The only thing you can eventually do is keep reinforcing what you already have.
Being in love is not only understanding that what you have is all you need, but wanting to strengthen that bond indefinitely.
When you're in love with someone, you think you care more about that person more than you actually do.
Falling in love is much, much easier than loving. When you're in love, the chemicals in your brain and body make you feel as if the person is the greatest person in the world.
You believe this person to be the most amazing specimen you have ever encountered. Sadly, this way of thinking usually wears off as soon as the feel-good chemicals wear off. Then you're left lost and confused.
When you love someone, you care about that person more than you think.
Being in love is easily recognizable, as it makes you feel a constant yearning, a constant need. Loving, on the other hand, doesn't give you such constant reminders.
However, life always manages to give us those reminders. Life will often keep people away from us, harm those in our lives and sometimes even take them from us entirely.
When you truly love someone, such moments of separation and loss overwhelm you with emotion. People often forget how much they love a person -- or fail to realize how much they love them -- until life forces them to remember.
When you're in love with someone, you can fall out of love with that someone.
What goes up must come down. In the case of falling in love, what comes down often crawls back up. If you can fall in love with a person then you know you can just as easily fall out of love with him or her.
Being in love -- and romantic love altogether -- is mostly a result of our minds' creation. We make, or allow, ourselves to fall in love by romanticizing the individual as well as the relationship. When you're in love, reality doesn't always line up with your version of it.
When you love someone, you never really stop loving that someone.
Loving a person is something that defines you -- it defines the person you are. Those we love, those we care about most, those who mean the most to us, and who have affected us most in our lives, are those who never really leave us.
They may remove themselves, or be removed, from our lives, but they never leave our minds. Their memory, the thought of them, makes us feel strong emotion. Their presence in our lives has had such an incredible influence on us that, because of them, we are different people.
When you love someone, you can't stop loving that person because it would require you to stop loving a part of you yourself.