Dear 100 Hour Board,
How do you know if you love someone? How do you know if you're in love with someone? What does each of these look like for you?
Dear Mrs. Someday,
It turns out a lot of writers agree with me on what it means to love someone; that is, when I love someone, I want them to be happy, and I'll act in a way that brings that about.
As far as being in love, I have no idea. I don't know if I've ever been in love, and if I have, it ended with getting burned pretty badly.
When I'm in love with someone, then my first instinct is to make them happy, and I'll do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal. When I love someone, I want them to be happy, but it doesn't feel like my responsibility to make sure they are. I still want to help them in any way I can, but it's not a fundamental, driving force in my life.
Loving someone and being in love with someone both consist of caring for the individual. You want to make them happy, you want to serve them, you want to make life easier for them, you want to spend time with them, you want to talk with them honestly. For example, I love my roommate. We spent all day together because she needed help on a class project and I wanted to do everything I could to help her out. For most aspects, loving someone and being in love with someone are the exact same.
However, being in love with someone requires something more: the desire to become one—to join your lives together and forever commit to the other. While I wouldn't mind having my roommate around for the rest of my life (though admittedly I would prefer just being friends, not roommates, for that long), I don't have a desire to have us be committed to only each other. Find someone you want to spend all of eternity with, someone you'd gladly give yourself to and know they'd give themselves back, and you'll find yourself in love.
-guppy of doom
It sounds like we writers are kind of in agreement on what love is. Not to assume that I've just had so many life experiences as a wise old twentysomething but I think I have been in love a few times before (and have loved in general quite a lot). And when thinking about why I felt love for those people, I think about how happy I was to be around them and how strongly I cared about them. Just being around them made me feel so lucky that our lives crossed paths. Also how, even though I can be a tad clingy in romantic relationships, how I wanted their happiness more than my own. My needs didn't matter anymore. What mattered was doing the thing that would be best for them. And that's what differentiates love from infatuation, I think: love is wanting someone's well-being whereas infatuation is just wanting someone.
Love, platonic or romantic, is not just a feeling. It's an action. Love isn't just a switch that turns on and off. It's a choice to care about and support them even when that initial honeymoon phase (or whatever the platonic equivalent is) ends. Love's a commitment and something that, even if it's hard or you falter sometimes, you choose.
Also, it seems to me that Jesus Christ is the greatest example of love that there is or ever will be. A good way to define love for yourself might be through reading the New Testament and prayer.
I've had one relationship where it made sense to say I was falling in love. Unfortunately, that's over now, but I learned a lot.
To me, being in love is caring about that person more than yourself. It's about feeling complete with them because they're a piece of you now. They're not just your best friend, but the person you respect and care about most. There's a spiritual closeness that leads to experiences you simply can't have in any other way. And with all that is the promise that it will all keep growing and growing.
Every time I think I know what love is, I later find it's more than that. Ask me again in a few years and my answer will be very different.
In addition to what the other writers have said about loving someone meaning that you want them to be happy, I think it also implies constancy.
I am not always happy around people I love, or even (unfortunately) striving my best to make the people I love happy. For example, as Alta and I were growing up, we never stopped loving each other, but we certainly fought a lot at times (for readers who may not be aware, Alta is my older sister). I know my parents are very much in love with each other, but they also have disagreements. To put it simply, from my experience, it is clear that we don't always enjoy being around the people we love.
Due to being imperfect human beings, regardless of love being a factor or not, we are going to end up behaving imperfectly in any type of relationship we have, whether it be as classmates, coworkers, siblings, spouses, etc. We will occasionally be selfish, inconsiderate, or unkind. And others will display the same negative traits as well. Thus to love another person I think is to accept them along with their imperfections, and is choosing to stick with them through whatever situation may arise because you genuinely care about them. Sure, you might find the person annoying sometimes, or you might be the annoying one, but you're there for each other anyways (note that I'm not implying that people should stay in abusive relationships because that's loving the other person; if you are in an abusive relationship, you can still love the other person, but you need to maintain enough distance--or even sever contact completely--in order to take care of yourself).
This implies that love is more than just an emotion that randomly grasps us. It is a choice that is consciously made, and takes effort to maintain.
I also want to say that true love is not dependent on another person's actions; it's not like a contract where the other person needs to uphold their end of the "deal" in order to continue being loved by us.
As far as what draws the distinction between loving another person, and being in love with that person, I'm not really sure. I know it has to do with romantically loving them, but as I've never experienced being in love, I can't say for certain what it's characterized by.
Dear Ms. going on Mrs.,
To me, loving someone is desiring the happiness of someone else and serving them. When they're happy, that makes you happy, and you do what you can to help them be happy. As you can see, my definition of love applies to many situations: family members, friends, ward members, neighbors, and even total strangers.
How is being in love different from loving someone? I would say that being in love is loving them and... liking them a lot? Sorry to go with the obvious here, but it's totally valid. I also find it interesting that we feel like we need to make the distinction of "being in love". It's really good to ask ourselves the question if we're in love with someone, especially if we're getting into a serious relationship with this person, but I think asking ourselves "do I really like this person?" can be quite helpful and much easier to answer.
I really like some lines from the Taylor Swift song "Stay Stay Stay." They go like this: "I just like hangin' out with you, all the time. All those times that you didn't leave it's been occurring to me I'd like to hang out with you, for my whole life". I don't know if I could tell you whether or not I've "been in love", but I could pretty easily identify how much I like/liked someone and whether or not I served them and wanted them to be happy. I think love is like a spectrum. It goes from barely liking someone all the way up through loving them with all your heart, mind, body, and spirit. Just because you might not be sure if you're "in love with someone" doesn't mean that you're not headed down that path. To know where you're at and where you're heading you might want to ask yourself some questions like "Do I want them to be happy?", "Do I serve them?", "Do I really like them?", "Is my love for them growing?", "Do they feel the same way, and do they treat me the same way?". This won't tell you everything but it can give you a good of where things are and where they're heading. Hope this helps! Good luck!
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
-The Good Book