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Defining Key Differences Between Like vs. Love

Gabrielle Applebury
Young couple touching noses in bed

Liking someone and being in love with someone have some critical differences. Knowing what stage you are in can help you distinguish the nature of your relationship.

What it Feels Like to Like Someone

When you like someone, you may feel a strong attraction, get nervous and excited to be around them, and feel a surge of pleasure when an interaction with them goes well. When you like someone, the reward circuit of your brain is highly active, as are your sex hormones.

Look Your Best

You may feel pressure to always look your best before an interaction with someone you like. This can mean prepping, primping, and getting a new outfit before a planned interaction with them. You may not feel comfortable yet letting them see what you look like on a day-to-day basis, or on a day where you feel a bit off in terms of appearance. This is a completely normal stage of the attraction process.

You May Put Your Best Foot Forward

At the beginning stages of a relationship and during the flirting stage, both interested parties may show the other certain strategic sides of themselves that they feel are desirable. Both individuals may feel the urge to hide traits they deem as flawed, or undesirable attributes. This tendency can make each partner feel as if they are putting their best selves forward. Doing so can also serve as a form of protection as being fully vulnerable with someone who you are not committed to yet, or don't know super well can put you at risk.

Man on a date with lit candles, string lights and champagne

You May Feel a Strong Sexual Attraction

Chances are if you like someone, you find them sexually attractive and feel driven to be sexually intimate with them. During this time you may experience similar reactions to feeling stressed such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and dry mouth. These reactions can fuel your nerves around this person. You may also fantasize about what it's like to be in a relationship with them or be sexually involved with them.

You Feel Infatuated

During the beginning stages of a relationship, or in the get to know you stage, you may experience obsessive thoughts regarding this person. This is a totally normal reaction to the surge of dopamine you may be experiencing. Dopamine contributes to the immense amount of pleasure you may feel just simply thinking about this other person. The more you think about them, the more habitual your thought process can become, forming solidified pathways in the brain, which then become intricately linked to dopamine. In other words, this pleasure surge is tied to your thoughts about this person. This pattern can last anywhere from a few months to a couple years depending on your unique experience and can impact your judgment as your brain is flooded with this feel good neurotransmitter. In this stage, you may miss some red flags.

Girl with red hair and freckles

What it Feels Like to Love Someone

When you love someone, you may shift from feeling nervous-excited to more comfortable and safe. In healthy, loving relationships, you both know each other, trust each other, and can be your authentic selves with one another.

The Pressure to Look Perfect Diminishes

In the beginning, appearances may have been one of the driving forces that brought you together, but at this point, you may have seen each other at your worst appearance wise. You may have helped each other through bouts of illnesses, through intense emotional moments, and through embarrassing situations. When you're in love with a person, you know what they look like on their best and worst days and to you they still look attractive.

You Can Be Your True Self

When you're in love, you show each other all of yourself and both accept and love every part of each other. You can share shameful moments, hidden secrets, and embarrassing stories with each other, knowing all the while that you won't be judged or emotionally exploited by your partner. One of the most powerful aspects of love is seeing each other for who you really are and being accepting and kind to even the darkest aspects of each other's personality.

Couple on road trip standing next to van kissing

You Feel a Sexual Connection

At the beginning of a relationship, you may have felt a carnal, sexual attraction. While you may still have this drive, you now may feel a deeper, loving connection when you engage sexually. This isn't just about appearances, it's more about connecting on a deeper level with each other and pleasing one another.

You Accept All of Them

Through the ups and downs of life, you may see sides of each other that are less than desirable. When in love, you support each other and encourage the good in one another. You accept every part of your partner and encourage each other to grow individually and relationally. You feel a deep satisfaction in seeing your partner's true joy and encourage them to find their passions.

Understanding the Difference Between Like and Love

Liking and loving someone can feel amazing, but they can be very different experiences. Knowing what the differences are can help you better understand where you are in your current relationship.

Defining Key Differences Between Like vs. Love