I've said it once, and I'll say it again. It takes time to fall in love with someone. I'm as much of a sucker for the idea of love at first sight as any other '90s girl raised on Disney Channel Original Movies, but the dating writer in me knows the difference between love and lust. You can certainly be intensely attracted to someone right off the bat, but truly loving them, warts and all, can only come with time. So, if you think your partner is in love with you but doesn't love you fully, maybe it's just too soon.
There are some potential signs that might indicate your partner is falling for you, even if they aren't completely attached yet. I spoke with two relationship experts about being "in love" versus really loving someone — and their insights are fascinating. Just remember that these five signs that your partner is in love with you but doesn't love you fully aren't necessarily red flags. They only mean that your relationship still has the potential to develop and your feelings have time to intensify.
"Love is a multifaceted emotional state that can grow over time based on our personal growth, experiences with each other, and perspective on our world," says Jen Elmquist, MA, LMFT, relationship specialist and co-host of Evine After Dark. "The process of supporting one another long-term, through ups and downs, often expands and secures our bonds of love."
"We often use the phrase 'in love' when we are talking about the initial emotional reaction of high desirability that comes in the early phase of a relationship," says Elmquist. "Loving someone becomes evident when our actions in a relationship supersede our emotions, meaning, even if I don't feel 'in love' I will choose you, what is best for you, and what is best for us."
If you feel like your significant other makes rash decisions based on how they feel about you, they're likely in love with you, rather than at the point of loving you completely. They still want to be spontaneous and romantic, even if it isn't always the best laid plan.
Elmquist's book, Relationship Reset, explores four "attitudes" that need to be present for a great relationship to develop. "Those are alignment, reciprocity, trust, and love," she says. "Love is supremely important for couples, but it needs to be supported by having each other's backs, healthy give and take, and shared values to grow and survive long-term."
In order to build trust, you and your S.O. need to practice compromise. If you haven't been able to prove to each other that you're trustworthy, because you haven't faced a major conflict, you may still be at the "in love" stage of your relationship — and that's OK.
"Love means I deeply care. I deeply respect. I have a desire to protect. I see the depth and value and truth of who that person is and I value that. There is a calm, a knowing, a strength," says Kailen Rosenberg, master certified love, life and relationship coach.
"'In love' means they get your juices going, your hormones stirring, your neurotransmitters moving and shaking. There is a feeling of attachment that can come with a mild possessiveness, almost a territorial vibe. When you are in love, jealousy can erupt. You are doting and giving a lot of extra attention. They might seemingly be on your mind more often. It feels fresh, new, exciting and vulnerable."
Rosenberg describes true, authentic love as having more of a mature vibe. "'In love' is your teenage [and] college years," she says. "Love is [when] you have graduated to ... Ph.D. level."
Growing to love somebody more over time comes with self-awareness, according to Rosenberg. True love is not about yourself, however. It is what you have for the other person. "Real love has genuine care and concern for the person you love. When you really love someone you wouldn't forget what is important to them," she says.
"The feeling of being 'in love' with someone is actually more self-focused. Truly loving, is about losing all the toxic, swirly stuff around being in love and getting to that deeper level. People want that so badly and they think that they will never get there. But the good news is they can," says Rosenberg.
The subtle differences between being in love and loving someone can get confusing. "Many people think being in love is healthier, deeper, and more meaningful than loving," says Rosenberg. In reality, though, "love at its fullest is the most pure. It does not need that higher energetic level of the feeling of being 'in love' to be most profound and deep."
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