young couple on beach showing what it is to love someone

Loving someone can be difficult, especially if they don’t necessarily feel the same way back. Like many things in life, love has many layers. For a successful relationship to grow, you and your partner need to somewhat be on the same page.

However, love can also be confusing when it comes to deep friendships. Loving someone is possible without a sexual attraction. You can enjoy someone’s personality and feel grateful to have them in your life, but not feel in love with them. This is actually a lot more common than you might think.

If you don’t know how you feel about someone, here are some good distinctions as to whether or not it’s a feeling of general love, or if you’re in love.

You can’t imagine them dating someone else

If you get upset by the idea of them dating someone else, you’re likely in love with them. Even if they’re happy, you can’t help but think that you should be the one they’re dating. You may want to tell this person how you feel before it’s too late. Even if they reject you, it’s better for you to know sooner rather than later. 

“There’s no magic cure for an unrequited crush,” Dr. Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., said to Cosmopolitan. “But focusing on other relationships or finding a new passion can sometimes help make the healing period a little shorter”. 

You think they’d be the perfect partner if they made one big change

You should never expect to change someone in a relationship. If you look at them and automatically feel as if there’s room for improvement, you’re probably not in love with them.

When you love someone intensely that should mean that you’ve accepted their minor faults and flaws. You’re in love with them for who they are, not who they could be. People should naturally change and grow during any relationship, but you can never force it.

When they have a bad day, so do you

You know you’re in love with someone when you feel their pain. Loving someone at a passionate level means that you can empathize. Seeing them hurt in any way will also affect how you’re feeling.

However, if you just care about them, you may offer your support if needed and continue on with the day. You don’t feel that urge to be a “team” with them and help them further.

You feel a level of intimacy with them

You’re in love with someone if you care about them and also feel the need and desire to get physically close. And even more, you know your feelings are strong and serious if you don’t have the urge to chat with others you may be attracted to.

“Falling in love may correspond with changes in attention, specifically: people in loving, committed relationships show less attention to other viable partners,” says Dr. Theresa E. DiDonato, an associate professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, speaking to Oprah Magazine.

They’re the first to hear your good news

Or, bad news. You want them to be included in your life, and you know their reaction and support will go a long way. If you just casually love someone and care about them as a person, they’ll likely learn about the news later on.

The person you care about, platonically, doesn’t need to know as urgently as someone you have a romantic desire for. Just think about it – if you got a promotion, would you tell your spouse or your work friend first?

Being in love with someone means you can envision spending your life with them

Oftentimes, we can be in love with someone and have it not work out. And, that’s very tough to deal with. The reason being, you already mentally prepared your future with this person. In your head, you’re both working towards similar goals.

When you’re in love, you can easily fantasize about the years ahead. That may include marriage, possibly children, and a life together as partners. Loving someone on a casual level means that you wish them nothing but the best, but don’t see your futures intertwining in such an integral way.

There are a lot of differences between loving someone and being in love with them. However, sometimes it takes time and introspection to tell it apart.

Sometimes, we may think a partnership is leading towards a love connection, but the spark isn’t there. Other times, we may end up falling for someone we’ve just viewed as a friend as the love naturally developed into something more. Hopefully, this can help you uncover what lies at the heart of it for you. 

Karen Belz

Freelance Writer

Karen Belz has written for sites like Bustle, PreviouslyTV, Heavy, and HelloGiggles. She’s also the founder of Best Recap Ever, a site that’s focused on television news and reviews. She’s a fan of sketch comedy shows and most movies that involve Muppets, and has been addicted to Sugar Free Red Bull since 2005.