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Is there a difference between loving someone and being in love with them?

I sort of think that being in love with someone might imply that there are reciprocal feelings, but I'm not sure. If someone loved someone from afar without them knowing, would this still count as being in love with them?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 11 down vote accepted

There is often a distinction made in prose between "loving" and "in love with". It doesn't always imply reciprocity, but it almost always implies a difference between platonic and romantic love. A person can "love" their sibling, parent, or platonic friend, simply by being closely emotionally attached. The same is true for those with whom you have a romantic relationship. Being "in love with" a person is to be in a state of romantic infatuation with and connection to that person, which would be inappropriate for said siblings, parents, and platonic friends, but just fine for a significant other or spouse.

When differentiating, such as "I love you, but I'm not in love with you", the speaker is stating that he/she is emotionally attached to the other person, but feels no romantic desire.

So, the rule of thumb is: you can love your neighbor and you can love your spouse, but you should be in love with your spouse and not your neighbor.

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1  
+1 Nicely phrased. –  KitFox Jun 30 '11 at 13:55

There is definitely a difference. I love my children, but I'm not "in love" with them.

Being "in love" with someone implies an infatuation usually including strong sexual and/or romantic underpinnings.

Loving someone can be entirely Platonic, i.e. not involving any kind of romantic or sexual interest or desire.

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Mind you @Robu, it's completely normal to say "I'm in love with my job" or many other forms - which basically means "I like it." –  Joe Blow Jun 28 '11 at 19:55
    
Yes, but that is used to suggest, however slightly or humorously or hyperbolically, an abnormal or even unhealthy (by some standards) infatuation. I don't think one would use that to express mere "liking" of a job. –  Robusto Mar 29 at 14:26

To be "in love" is stating that you are romantically loving that person.

To be "loving someone", this is not so, because a Mother could be loving her child, or good friends could love one another, but not in a romantic way, but a "brotherly" way.

So, next time, if you saw two lovebirds, they would be "in love", but if you saw a mum kissing her baby, she would be "loving her baby".

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In love denotes romatic feelings and a mental attachment.

Where loving denotes care but not necessarily romance.

While making love does not require either of the above states.

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It's a hugely complicated issue, not easily settled.

For instance "I love chocolate" or "I love Ferraris" has a totally different meaning to "I love my mistress" or "I love my wife" or "I love my children".

It's true that being "in love" tends to mean basically the romantic variety.

But then again - it's actually very common to say "I'm in love with my car"* or "I'm in love with my job" or "I'm in love with France" or "I'm in love with cooking."

Different languages have different and completely confusing/different words for different types of "love" -- and the confusion is just as great in English.

*as in the famous song.

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Though by saying "I am in love my job" you are anthropomorphizing it, describing it as you would a wife, and still implies really strong feelings. –  IQAndreas Mar 29 at 14:19
    
Hi IQ! I don't see that it (always) means anthropomorphization, no. Statements like "I'm in love with France" are common and have a range of known implications (say - strong patriotism, powerful bonds from shared events, and so on). (Just as you say, it's a very powerful form.) You could just as well say that when you say "in love with <<a human>>" you're transposing a usage from a deep large complicated form like "in love with France". For sure, you COULD be using it ("in love with my car!") in a humorously-anthropomorpic way - but not necessarily, I don't think. –  Joe Blow Mar 30 at 5:45

Being in love with someone means you want to spend the rest of your life with this person and you can't see yourself with anyone else but that person. When you love some one it just means you don't want to see anything happen to them, and that you always want to see that person/family or friend happy.

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