Loving somebody and being in love with somebody. What is the difference?

As common as the word ‘love’ is, the true encounter of the word is rare to find in real life.

We often use to it to describe things, places and people that make us feel good. Like how we love a dessert because of the way it tastes; how we love a place because of its beauty and/or significance to us. When it comes to loving someone, it is not as simple to describe compared to when we are telling somebody about that dessert ‘we love’ or that place…what is it about loving someone that makes it more complicated in its meaning?

The way I could describe it in one simple, straightforward word is DEPTH. How deep is that love to you? When you strip away all of the other outward influences that that love is based on, what would be left over, if anything at all? You could say that another great way to differentiate between different kinds of love is: is the love between two people conditional or unconditional?

What do I mean by conditional love and unconditional love?

Conditional love is simply love that has an ending. It is finite, and is only present under certain circumstances.

Let’s look at high school, for example.

When we first start dating, it is usually in high school. High school is filled with hormones and ‘puppy love’ romances. We date these individuals because there is a gain to it: whether that person helps us pass our time easier, that person might have a certain social group we want to click with or that person is just downright gorgeous and we want carnal knowledge of them, to whatever level they would allow us to go. So, in regard to conditional love there’s always a catch. It is not a do-or-die kind of love, and most importantly, it is very common.

Almost everyone can experience it, and almost everyone has it. It can even be mistaken as 'love'.

When you grow comfortable being around somebody and you don’t see it get any better than that with somebody else, you settle. Most people marry those they have feelings for; whom they care about and feel themselves staying with. It is more like a comfort than anything else. The feeling that you get when you can see yourself with this person because deep down inside, you are too insecure to look for anything better. The thought that there isn’t anything better might cross your mind. Whatever the reason, whether people would admit to it or not, this love is conditional.

What do I mean by that?

If at any time that person stopped and thought there was something better out there for them, then nine times out of ten, there probably is. Why else would they wonder? So, you can say that if somebody had drifting thought patterns in regards to their love, they most likely love who they’re with, but actually being in love with them…that might be a different story.

Next up is ‘family love’ and ‘close friends are like family’ love. The love that we can define as caring for somebody else. Most of us feel that way toward certain family members, like our mothers, our fathers and if luck have it, siblings and close friends. We would do anything for them. We would take care of them when and if they would fall sick, disabled, and essentially incapable of taking care of themselves. That can be categorized either as conditional or unconditional love, depending on how important they are to you.

Let’s move on to the most interesting and rarest of loves.

Yes, it is rare. The rarest. Something most don’t even know about, never experienced, don’t believe it exists, don’t want to believe it exists etc. The love most of us at one point have dreamt about but few get to experience. Either because we just stopped dreaming and hoping for it, or we simply grew up and thought it downright does not exist. This love is known as unconditional love.

Unconditional love or being in love with somebody to the point that it would take you a whole book to summarize everything you love about that person. The love you feel on a soul level. You cannot fight it no matter what you do. It is the love everyone craves but some fear because it is ever-gripping and all-consuming.

Let’s not confuse being in love with somebody with being infatuated with somebody. Infatuation is more of an obsession and can be mentally unhealthy and downright toxic. Infatuation is more over the need to control and own somebody else and it can be detrimental to both parties involved, as well as anybody caught in the middle. This is seen more as a mental disorder since it is a mental instability and obsessive issue.

Being in love is like knowing your hair color. You just do. There’s no question about it and it feels more like a growth pattern than a limitation or obligation. It doesn’t bind you to be something or somebody you aren’t and the process is a self-growing, self-improvement journey to both parties’ involved.

When two people are in love, it is not temporary. It is not based on the honeymoon phase or what each of them can give to the other. It is not based on negative feelings such as possession, jealousy or control.

Unconditional love is a telepathic and almost intuitive connection between both parties in knowing and understanding the other through time and dedication. The relationships thrives on growth and forgiveness and does not feel binding and stuck.

When you are truly in love, nothing and nobody can change your mind about that person. Time doesn’t change your mind. Not even the person you’re in love with can change your mind. You just know that a) you cannot live without that person. You couldn’t if you tried. Not because you are dependent on them financially or physically. It is merely a feeling you get that when you both are separated, it feels as though a large part of your heart is missing and sometimes it can be hard to breathe. And b) you know that person through and through and there is no doubt within you that they feel the same toward you as you do for them. It is a relationship that feels free and liberating rather than based on necessities and moral obligations.

So, how do you know if the relationship you’re in is conditional (“I love you”. “Let’s stay together.”), or unconditional (“You make me want to be a better person.” ‘I want to grow old with you.’)? What would be the signs?

Here are a few signs that the love you are in is conditional:

  1. They don’t always have your best interests at heart.

When you get sick or feel low, they don’t seem to know your cues and easily dismiss it unless you point it out to them.

If there is something you want and you don’t know how to tell them, they will not notice your change in attitude around them.

They will plan things and either make you go, or they will go whether or not you want them to/whether or not you want to.

2.You feel lonely even when they are next to you.

If you feel that you need to go out with friends and see your family because being with your partner does not help ease your loneliness, then there is a good chance that they are not helping in your growth. Rather they’re impeding you to grow to your full potential.

You start trying to have sex with them more often because that is the only sense of intimacy that you feel between you.

Whether you want to have kids or not, you play around with the idea, hoping that it will strengthen your bond with your partner because you share a kid together

3.It is easy for them to dismiss your needs and wants when it is conflicting with their needs and wants.

A clear sign that two people are not in love is if one or both of them feel like they have to constantly sacrifice their time and effort to keep the other one happy in order to avoid arguments and disagreements.

4.You fear more often than you would admit that they might leave you for somebody else.

If you feel as though the other person can find somebody better than you and they might leave you if they could, that can be a sign of your insecurity when it comes to their love.

An example would be if one partner encourages the other to look scruffy and unkempt so they would be less attractive to anybody else.

Another example would be that the person keeps in great shape and eats well because they feel their partner would leave them if they would become less attractive.

Or, let’s say in an extreme case, there is a fear of getting in to some sort of accident and becoming disabled or it distorting them physically or aesthetically in any way, and them fearing their partner would leave them because they are not attractive anymore, or simply because they are a burden.

5.They’re in it because getting out of it would be too financially burdensome.

This is probably the most common and the least admitted. Whether somebody cannot admit to themselves, let alone a partner, it is so common, and a lot of people stick it out in a less than satisfactory relationship because they feel leaving it would not be worth it.

Those were a few examples of what makes a relationship based on conditional love. Let’s talk about what makes a relationship unconditional.

Mind you, not every unconditional love relationship stay together. It can be confusing, however, some relationships that are unconditional are that because both people love each other too much and end up separating because both feel they can grow more when they are a part. Now, being a part from each other might be temporary and they end up growing and resolving their own karmas to then get back together again and live happy, healthy relationships. That can also be a situation pertaining to two people in love. Like the saying goes, ‘sometimes to love someone, you have to let them go,’ and that really has to do with recognizing the other person’s needs above your own and sacrificing yourself and your needs, so they can thrive. That is also an example of unconditional love.

Here are some examples of unconditional love, and that applies to those whom are together and/or separate from each other:

  1. Putting the other’s needs before your own and feeling great about giving that to them.

This was the first one because I wanted to explain further the complicated scenario when it comes to unconditional love.

When two people are in love and confident in their connection to each other, there seems to be faith and generosity in the midst of it all. They never dissipate and it is understood that love can work and thrive when jealousy and possession are absent or at a minimum. The presence of jealousy or possession within a relationship is a reflection on lack of faith and trust between two people and therefore those negative connotations for the need to control one’s partner starts to become more and more prominent, and therefore either a passive issue or something clearly expressed. How it is dealt is another topic, but if that issues gets worse, expressed or not, it can become a relationship downfall.

2.There is no sacrifice. There is merely a system of teamwork and helping each other out.

What does that mean? It merely means that both people respect the other’s efforts. There is encouragement and expressed gratitude in whatever it was the other had to do for both of them to thrive together.

Now, this can be a little confusing. You can say one sacrifices their time at work to support their family. Yeah, that is a good connotation using this word. However, when somebody loves the other conditionally, they would criticize the other passively or directly; to them or to others of their sacrifice, or they would merely say “I sacrifice my free time for my significant other/family…”

What do you think a person who loves somebody unconditionally would say in regards to their sacrifice while working/making money?

They would say something like this: “I sacrifice my time going to work and making money instead of spending that time with you.”

See the difference?

The first, conditional love example, indicates that the sacrifice is self-sacrifice. A sacrifice of one’s free time and efforts. The second, unconditional example, highlights that the only thing they are sacrificing is their time away from their loved one.

Now, if that didn’t get you in the heart, I don’t know what would.

3.Unconditional love is hard because each person wants to improve for their partner, NOT because their partner forces them to.

This is very important!

If you are in a relationship and you feel that your partner either undervalues you or doesn’t appreciate you, then that is one of the biggest issues. It causes all kinds of insecurities. It becomes a one-sided game of control. If one makes the other one feel worthless, it is toxic and not something anybody should tolerate.

In a healthy, unconditional love setting, growth can also be painful. Harsh words can be said and feelings can hurt. However, the difference is it is not ongoing. It usually based on a reaction to something the other person might have intentionally said or done to hurt their feelings, making them lash back. It is not a situation where one just simply wants to undervalue the other in order to feel more powerful or important. In a healthy relationship like this, it is talked about and dealt with. Both parties want to be open and honest in order to grow in their partnership.

4. Attraction and sexual relationships changes and grows.

When you are in a long-term relationship, for example, both people will change over time. They will change physically, mentally, spiritually even if it's just a little. Both will have to be on the same page in their growth. That is what makes love thrive: always being open and up to change with somebody else while in that relationship.

Sex is not an exception. Whether you admit it or not, it is a very important part of intimacy between two people and if the intimacy suffers, unfortunately the relationship will suffer too. So, if both people are not compatible sexually, nor do they want to be, then it will show and things will start to become stagnant.

One of those things is physical attraction. In order to be intimate, both people need to be attracted to each other. If something is off, then that needs to be communicated in order to stay on the same page.

Sex and intimacy should be healthy and comfortable for both. It should not be a game of control or authority. Both should be equal contributors and both should feel comfortable speaking up on what they need and desire in that intimacy.

5. Communicating and overcoming even in the hardest of times makes these relationships stronger, feel freer and less binding.

Yeah, I get it, some things are uncomfortable to talk about. Let’s face it, it has to be said and understood. But when you are dealing with a connection based on unconditional love, there is a certain unique quality to the communication. You both will get angry, walk away from each other but end up coming back with a love stronger than before. There is even a magic to it, and it almost seems like those hard moments of arguments and disagreements make the connection in love and intimacy stronger, more intense.

It is a struggle but both of you understand that the arguments are also a part of the necessary growth. It is part of releasing old hurts, resentments and unsaid feelings. It is still amazing to see how much more people sharing an unconditional love with each thrive more and more and get stronger no matter what conflicts or challenges arise.

There are no suppressed emotions after a while. Everything is said and it is overcome. No matter what, they trust each other with the most intimate of worries and it is dealt with in constructive manner.

The main thing is, when you love somebody, and the love you share with that person is always growing and thriving, then you will notice how much happier you are compared to if the love was conditional filled with restrictions and distrust.

All in all, follow your heart and always be gentle with yourself. Be aware: The way you talk and treat yourself is how you talk and treat others.

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