Love means different things to different people. Take, for instance, the extremes: jealously could be a sign of love for some, while complete subservience could indicate love for others. But romantic love and non-romantic love have clear differences that will be explored.
Romantic love occurs between intimate partners and is associated with sexual attraction. It is often intense and overpowering. When people speak of “falling in love,” they are referring to the romantic type of love that usually occurs in the beginning stages of a new relationship.
Non-romantic love is usually less consuming and more rational than romantic love. A person does not “fall” into non-romantic love; he or she actively cultivates it over a period of time. However, though one does not experience the intoxicating feelings associated with “falling” for someone, time spent with loved ones, obstacles overcome together and the dependability of the relationship can be appreciated calmly. The “high” produced during romantic love may seem more intense than the emotions of non-romantic love, but non-romantic love is able to endure when romantic love has burned out.
Sexuality is such a big part of our society – “sex sells” – and sometimes “romantic love” is actually sexual attraction without insight. But, with time, the novelty of the person will wear off and one will be forced to look past appearances and bodily sensations. Non-romantic love becomes the only way to determine whether or not the strong emotions present during the romantic phase can bear their own weakening into a less thrilling but more sustainable alternative. And if they can’t, then a closer examination of feelings associated with “love” may be helpful.
Romantic love is exciting, dangerous, compulsive and new. Non-romantic love is more contemplative, calm, sustainable and reliable. Sometimes lust or sexual attraction can be mistaken for romantic love and thus lead to a sudden crash after an emotional high. Thus, the only way to make sure that romantic love is in fact love is to see if it stands the test of time, which non-romantic love does.
Beyond sexual excitement and emotional intoxication, there must be a leveling out that produces quiet contentment that no longer demands that the other remain new. Instead, both parties allow time to make them more familiar to each other. The roller-coaster ride is over; the thrill is gone. The superficiality of experiencing something new has worn away to expose non-romantic love, which is the acceptance of another person for who he or she is rather than the idealization of a sexual image created in the mind.