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Love But Not In Love: How To Deal With A Mismatch Of Feelings

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

You’ve been dating someone for a while, things are going well, and then they drop a bombshell on you: they love you but they’re not in love with you. Or it’s the reverse; you come to the startling realization that while you love your partner, you’re not in love with them. Whichever side of the equation you fall on, ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ is never easy. In this article, we look at the difference between being in love and loving someone and offer you some tips on what to do when you love someone but are not in love with them.

What is the difference between love and being in love?

While Hollywood and romance novels may have convinced us that loving someone and being in love with them are the same, that’s not the case. Neither is better or worse than the other; they’re just different and you will probably experience both at different stages in your relationship.

Being in love is a whirlwind; loving someone is calm and steady

Studies have shown that when we’re in love, our brain not only produces more happiness-inducing chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin, it also produces more of the stress-inducing hormone cortisol – this is what’s behind those flushed cheeks, sweaty palms, and inability to think about anything else. No wonder being in love can feel like such a wild ride! As the relationship progresses, however, production of these hormones level off, which means that while your feelings for the person are still strong, your body doesn’t react the same physically.1

Being in love can be sexually charged; loving someone is about all kinds of intimacy

For most people, being in love means finding it really hard to keep your hands off each other. In the beginning stages of a relationship, sex can be a way to physically connect with each other as well as a way to build intimacy, not to mention it’s just plain fun. However, when you’re in lovesex might still be important, but what’s more important is the intimacy itself – especially outside the bedroom. When you love someone but are not in love, you wind up focusing on non-sexual intimacy and compatibility rather than what’s happening between the sheets.

Being in love is fragile; loving someone is more robust

While being in love can feel great when things are going well, problems in the rest of your life can often be the death knell for any romantic relationships, since they take time and energy away from deepening the connection. Facing challenges together, however, can deepen the love you feel for someone, or they feel for you. Rather than being a distraction, when you love someone but are not in love with them, your bond can actually be a source of strength and courage as you navigate difficult situations.

Being in love can be temporary; loving someone is more permanent

Hard as it is to hear, being in love – like a lot of things – doesn’t last forever. The term ‘honeymoon phase’ exists for a reason – the deep emotions of the initial stages of your relationship just aren’t sustainable in the long run. When you love someone, on the other hand, you see the whole person, not the rose-tinted version of them you see when you’re in love – which means your affection is likely to last long after the glasses fall off. 

What do you do when your partner loves you but is not in love with you?

You might be wondering, ‘what does it mean when someone loves you but is not in love with you?’ and the answer is, it depends. It doesn’t necessarily spell the end of your relationship; it’s possible to be happy together even without being in love. Some ways to deal when your partner says they love you but are not in love:

  • Take the time and space you need to process this revelation. No matter how long you’ve been together, the idea that they love you but are not in love with you is a hard one.
  • Ask them what prompted the revelation. Are there problems in the relationships that you haven’t noticed? Where do they see your relationship going from here?
  • Practice self-care and seek professional help if necessary.
  •  If they want to save the relationship, work with them to do so. Carve out space for dates, make a point of making little romantic gestures, tell them you love them.
  • If they want to break up, let them go gracefully.

What do you do when you love someone but are not in love with them?

You might be asking yourself, ‘Is it okay to love but not be in love with someone?’ and the answer is yes. You can’t control your emotions, only your actions.

  • Carefully examine your feelings. You might be wondering, ‘Is it normal not to feel in love?’ and the answer is, it depends. Feeling taken for granted by your partner, being too busy for each other, getting caught up in being parents… all of these things can contribute to a situation where there’s love but you’re not in love.
  • Decide what you want, whether it’s to continue the relationship or break up. Either way, you need to tell your partner; it’s not fair to keep them in the dark.
  • Regardless of how you feel, you owe it to your partner to tell them gently and respectfully. Give them space to process your revelation.
  • If you want to save the relationship, talk with your partner about how you can do so. Some ideas include working on communication, spending time with each other, or even counseling.

How do you know if someone loves you?

Unfortunately, while your feelings may be obvious to you, it’s not always easy to figure out how someone feels about you, even if you’ve been dating for a while.  Look for these signs for clues to discover if someone really loves you.

Love but not in love: relationships change, and we need to change with them

Sometimes love lasts; sometimes it doesn’t. The important thing is that you and your partner are both on the same page about what kind of relationship you want, especially if it’s love but you’re not in love. If you aren’t, that’s what eharmony is for. At eharmony, you’ll find millions of eligible singles looking for the same thing you are: real love with someone who shares their values. Sign up for eharmony and take your first step towards real love today.

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