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What does it mean to be in love? by Penny Cohen, LCSW

Have you ever heard yourself say, “I love him or her but I’m not “in love” anymore?

What does it mean to love someone but not be “in love?”

I like to make the distinction between personal love and authentic unconditional love.

Personal Love:

Personal love is the love we experience when we are involved in a relationship with another person. Loving that person means caring for him or her. Being there for him or her. Doing for him or her. This type of love is usually based on conditions. It’s contingent on getting personal needs met such as companionship, nurturance, approval, appreciation, discipline, to be heard, sex, etc. When these needs aren’t met we often feel insecure, inept or unloved. That’s when we tend to blame, judge or criticize others or ourselves. Self worth and respect begin to diminish and we no longer feel our own love.

What is authentic unconditional love?

Authentic unconditional love, on the other hand, which I classify as the state of “being” in love, comes from a deeper place. It is love that has no conditions attached to it. It is not contingent on what someone can do for us, or how our personal needs can be met, but instead, who we are. It emanates from deep within us. It is our spark of divine truth, void of conditioning and other peoples influences. It is our true essence of divine goodness, understanding and wisdom. When we come from this part of ourselves, we come from love.

Why do we fall out of love?

Falling “out of love” is not because our partners don’t love us. We fall out of love because we withhold love. We put guards around ourselves.

I had a client who had just broken off her engagement to a man in fear of being hurt, as she had been in relationships past. During a visualization exercise I asked her what she looks like when she sees herself with men. She saw herself shielded in a suit of armor. She couldn’t receive or give. When I’ve asked other clients during relaxation how open their heart is some have answered, “It’s not open. It feels like a black hole.” Or, “I feel like I have a steel box around my heart – not letting love in or out”

We tend to close off, often unconsciously as a means of protecting ourselves from getting hurt. However, if we’re closed off we’re already hurting ourselves by keeping ourselves from receiving love. The protection is to keep our hearts open. When we’re open to authentic love the right words come out at the right time and we have the courage to set and keep boundaries, which is the real protection. And when we come from the deeper part of ourselves, it is normally heard by the other person. Furthermore, when we’re open and say and speak from compassion and love whatever we say is heard. When we feel heard we are more open to each other and feel loved. That’s when the energies merge and we feel, “In love.”

Being “In Love”

Being in love is when two souls merge together. There’s an inner connection; a union; a feeling of intimacy. It happens when our hearts are open – open to authentic unconditional love and each other’s energy.


I invite you to go inside and ask yourself, “At this moment how open am I?” You will get an intuitive answer. If you’re not open, practice opening ideally at different times during the day and keep rating your level of openness. The reality is we aren’t open at all times. However, if we make the commitment to stay open, there’s a better chance of experiencing the closeness more often than not.

Staying in touch and in love,


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