Background: A friend just sent me an email asking me my thoughts on the difference between "loving someone" and "being in love". I had more thoughts on the subject than I had realized, as related below.
I don't know that there is really that much of a distinction between the two. It depends upon how one defines "love" and that's not easy. Consider, for example, how one might define jealousy:
- Anger that others are messing with your property.
- Fear that someone might steal your partner away.
- Fear that your partner might be having a better time with someone else.
- Fear that you'll look stupid if someone else is with your partner.
All of the above are reasons/definitions for jealousy. It's not fair to lump them all under one term, but we do this despite the fact that those are significantly different emotions.
I think "love" is the same way. We've tried to pack so much meaning into one word that it has become, in some respects, meaningless. So "loving someone" and "being in love with someone" can be an unfair equivocation on the word "love". Often, we hear people say "I love her, I'm just not in love with her any more". What the hell is that? Someone at some point used the preposition "in" to make it clear that we're talking about a different "type" of love. That means, in my book, a different definition. The two uses of the word "love" in that sentence are pure and simple equivocation. Either I love someone or I don't. If I'm not "in love" with someone any more, it could simply mean that I am fond of that person, but I don't see a relationship as viable.
In short, I see it as saying "I don't desire a relationship with this person any more." That has *nothing* to do with whether or not I love that person. I might love them, I might not love them. I can think of one woman that I loved who I realized I absolutely did not want a relationship with. I can also think of women that, paradoxically, I didn't love but did want a relationship with. Those are separate things and trying to overload the meaning of the word "love" does love an injustice.