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What is the difference between "falling in love" and "love"?

In order to achieve what we call love, one has to go through different stages first. The first phase is attraction. At this stage, one does not yet truly know the other person, so the natural attraction that is felt is, while important, a preliminary and perhaps temporary phenomenon. These feelings for the other person correspond to what could simply be called the “wrapping on the outside of the package” or the “book cover” (versus the contents contained within), meaning the physical appearance of the other person. This sort of attraction is an impulse, and is not necessarily voluntary. Frequently this stage distracts our attention from other considerations and/or makes us become nervous if that person directs his/her attention towards us or speaks to us.

The next stage may be called the “falling in love” or infatuation phase. This is different than the initial attraction phase because it is no longer a matter of simple impulse along, but is also characterized by a level of genuine affection for the other person. “Falling in love” is a sentiment. At this stage, one knows the other person a little more and his/her external, physical appearance is not the only thing that one finds appealing. However, one still tends to idealize the other person at this stage, only seeing the good things in the other person. This is an exciting time. One feels great with the other person. But this is not yet true love.

Love is a bit farther down the line. It encompasses physical attraction and romance, with all its beautiful feelings and sensations. But love is not principally based on or comprised of these things. True love is achieved when the initial romantic friendship becomes a solid commitment; it is characterized by the desire to share things, the ability to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. Love makes one want to be with the other person in hardship and happiness.

If you are attracted to another person because he/she is handsome or beautiful, and after getting to know the person you start to fall in love, it could mean that you are on the path of achieving true love. You may start dating that person, although it is important not to lose contact with your friends; you can still continue to do things with them as you have done before. You will undoubtedly think of the other person often and this will make you want to express your love for that person. You will express love not only through verbal expressions such as “I love you” or “I don’t want to lose you”, but also through nonverbal gestures, such as kisses and caresses, which express feelings that are guided by mutual respect. If the love you have continues to grow, the need for a greater commitment will also increase. The time will have come to confirm, seal, and consolidate this love within marriage.

In this phase, subsequent to commitment, the couple now confides and gives themselves to each other totally and exclusively, with both wishing that this committed relationship will continue forever. Their gestures of love amount to their complete physical and spiritual union; the best place for both the daily expression of tenderness as well as sexual relationships is within marriage. The objective is to achieve a lifelong commitment through mutual self-giving, which enables us to overcome the inherent difficulties that arise when living together. This means that certain things will be needed: a good dose of patience, a sense of humor, and the willingness to forgive as well as to ask for forgiveness. These are characteristics of a mature, healthy relationship based on love. This is a dynamic reality that transcends the couple; their love includes others such as their children, their families’ relatives, society, etc.

It is very important that you do not interpret any “initial attraction” you might have, even if it is strong, as meaning that you have found the love of your life. This is why you must be prudent and cautious when dealing with your feelings and impulses, so that you will really be able to offer your sexuality once you are sure you have found someone who will share his/her life with you. It is wise to avoid dating someone soley because there is physical attraction. Be patient and this will protect you from many mistakes and heartache. In addition, never believe that a date is necessarily “the love of your life”. You will need time to figure this out. Look at it this way: if he or she is the love of your life, this person will continue to be the love of your life over time; but if this person is not your true love, that will become evident over time as well. Remember that taking things slowly is beneficial to everyone. It helps people make fewer mistakes and avoid pain, but it also strengthens us and leads us where we want to go.