April 17, 2023

Falling In Love vs. Being In Love

“I’m in love!” This is a line we know well. In movies, music, from our friends or a line we have likely said. Being in love is one of the most foundational parts of being a human. But where we are in the love process can say a lot about our relationship and our state of mind at the time. Is this falling in love? Or being in love? What is the difference? What separates falling in love from being in love? How do we know which stage we are in? And how does this shape our relationships? 

Falling In Love

In The Five Love Languages, author Gary Chapman describes two parts to love: falling in love and then being in love. Falling in love is seen as the early time in a romantic connection. This is the can’t eat-can’t sleep-can’t stop thinking about them time. It’s called the “honeymoon stage” for a reason. When we are head over heels in love, we are utterly consumed by our beloved. We are on a high - literally. Research studies looked at the brains of young people intensely in love and found that their brains were remarkably similar to the brain of someone on cocaine. Yep, our brains are actually on drugs when we are in love (Romantic love: a mammalian brain system for mate choice - PMC (nih.gov). As wonderful as this feeling can be, our sense of judgment may not be the strongest. If our brains are on a high, we cannot see someone fully. Their flaws, weaknesses, even red flags may be hard to spot during this time. There is a reason this time is temporary. The brain cannot sustain at this pace. What comes up must come down. 

Being In Love

This is when falling in love transitions into being in love. This is when the high has come down. We still feel love and connection but we are more grounded. Instead of being a rollercoaster, it's more like a ferris wheel. The pace is calmer and steadier, but still nice. What also occurs now is the ability to see each other more clearly. All of a sudden the sound of their food chewing makes you nuts? Chances are that was always there, except you had rose colored glasses on. This is also when couples can see a change in their intimacy. Before, while falling in love, sex and connection may have been constant, like you could not get enough of each other. Now, that hunger may have softened. All of this is perfectly normal. Intense passion can only last for so long. 

How Do These Phases Affect Our Relationships? 

As a psychotherapist, I’ve found it can help clients to know and recognize which phase they are in. If we know we are in the falling in love stage, then we know we are in la la land. This offers better insight into our behavior, our sweetheart’s behavior, and why we may be acting a certain way. This can also give some perspective. Because falling in love is so intoxicating, it can be easy to get swept up in the moment and make big decisions. When you have never felt this way before, it can seem like a no brainer to move in together. Yet recognizing that you are on a high and that it will go down can give you some pause. This does not mean all significant decisions made as a couple during this time are ill-advised, it’s just a heads up that your feelings may fluctuate. 

Couples can also benefit from recognizing when the “honeymoon” stage is ending. There is no exact time or measurement for when this will occur. It varies for all of us depending on our relationship and other outside factors (family, work, lifestyles, other stressors). When couples believe they should always feel like they are falling in love, it can set up unrealistic expectations and disappointment. It’s like expecting that you should always be happy. It’s normal to feel a spectrum of emotions, and the same goes for our relationships and love. Being in love can also be a sobering time because there may be challenges or red flags you overlooked. Have compassion with yourself if this happens to you. You are human and this is often what the brain does when it’s in love. It can be hard to resist. This time period is not all doom and gloom. It can be an important time to see each other more fully, assess how you want to be in each other's lives and what your long term plans are. 

Final Thoughts

Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t blame gravity for falling in love.” Falling in love can feel like an unstoppable force. Knowing how our brains and bodies will react can help navigate the process. Recognizing that falling in love will likely turn into being in love can help keep perspective and accept the transition. Enjoy the bliss of falling in love while recognizing it is a temporary time. Embrace being in love and the ability to be with your love, with feet firmly on the ground. 

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