What is the Difference Between Loving Someone and Being In Love?

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How can you tell the love you feel is the kind which will last a lifetime and not just some overwhelming infatuation which will fade with time? It seems simple enough but if it were so simple, why is the divorce rate so high in this country?

ANSWER:

This is an excellent question!  

Another definition of infatuation might be falling in love with love, rather than falling in love with a loving person.

When I pastored a church and met with premarital couples, I would share that every man has his image of the perfect Eve.  If not careful, a guy can project that image of the perfect Eve upon the woman he romantically pursues.  I also shared that every woman has her image of the perfect Adam.  If not careful, a gal can project that image of the perfect Adam upon the man to whom she romantically responds.

In other words, each falls in love with his or her own image of love.  In response to the image, the feelings of love ignite. Those feelings flood the soul. Extravagant passion touches every part of a person's being.  We might call this virtual romance and love.  Sadly, much of reality is missing.

Your question evidences your knowledge of this possibility.  You are asking, "How do I proceed maturely in a relationship insuring that my feelings of love stand on reality?  How do I prevent shallow infatuation from controlling and misleading me?  How do I prevent having to say later, 'You are not the person I married'?

For me, the Bible serves as the greatest and most noble guide.  For example, the Bible defines a loving person. Using the Bible's definition of love helps me assess if I am loving a truly loving person, or simply loving an image of my creation.

In doing premarital counseling, I would read aloud the qualities of love from the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Though this chapter does not address marriage since Paul talked about marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, the principles on love can apply.  I would combine this with Ephesians 5:33 that a husband must love and a wife must respect.

I would share with a premarital couple that although no one could love (and respect) perfectly, one could see a healthy practice of love (and respect) coming out of this person's character.  Said another way, one could see red flags.

I would ask:

Does this person demonstrate patience and kindness?  

Does this person envy, boast, and act proudly?  

Is this person rude, self-seeking, easily angered and keeping a record of wrongs?

Does this person refuse to delight in evil?

Does this person rejoice with the truth?  

Does this individual protect, trust, hope and persevere?

Based on these Biblical concepts defining love, I would say, “When the other person rarely shows patience, do you feel unloved and disrespected? If so, see this as a red flag!

When the person evidences a habitually controlling envy, see the red flag.

When the "lover" regularly and easily angers and keeps a record of wrongs, causing you to feel unloved and disrespected, see the red flag.  

When the potential spouse never trusts, see the red flag!

There is an axiom: the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. What this person has been and is, they will be, and we must not lie to ourselves about this.

If you see red flags, slow down or stop. When you are “in love” with these red flags, you are in love with love. You are experiencing infatuation!

One must see these red flags as a wake up call. One must not lie to himself.

At best, more time is mandated to determine the truth.

On the other hand, if no red flags are waving over a reasonable time-period, the love and respect you recognize in the relationship is probably valid given sufficient time has elapsed to make that determination.  Some fall in love at first sight and think after 3 weeks they found their soul mate. That is utterly foolish.

Let me add, if family and friends echo your view, even more reason to believe you are approaching the relationship maturely. On the other hand, when family and friends express their concern and serious reservations, and we know they have our best interests at heart, we would be unwise to rebel against their input.

Many wise assessment tools exist today to help couples learn if they are seeing reality. In my book, Love and Respect, I go in depth on how to spell love and respect, and how to assess love and respect.

Bottom line, you do not want to fall in love with love but with a loving person.  With the right assessment tools, you can know the difference.

-Dr. E

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