The Difference Between Being ‘In Love’ and ‘True Love’

Why Rosy Glasses Always Wear Off

Did you know that falling in love produces a biological state that is highly similar to being on cocaine? If you were in love, then you surely remember that special time.

Difference between being in love and true love

Back then it was impossible not to notice how beautiful she was. You fell in love with how smart he was, how everything she said was interesting, and you even loved the way he teased you. But, as it always does, this intense beautiful period passed. Does that mean we’re doomed after the in-love phase is over?

Just a few weeks before, you could not imagine he’d ever do something wrong, but suddenly you start noticing things. Things that used to attract you (he is so relaxed) start to bother you now (he is so lazy). His jokes aren’t so funny after all, her cooking is awful, you can’t stand the way he leaves his clothes on the floor, and the sound of her laugh really gets on your nerves.

What happened?

The in-love phase of your relationship was approaching its inevitable end. The time has come to move from the in-love stage to the next one—true love. But there is one step in between that proves to be the most challenging for most couples. Approximately half of them manage to overcome it, leaving so many who don’t.

Stage One: High on 100% Legal Drugs

It’s a scientifically proven fact that, when we are in love, our brains produce drugs that would be illegal on the street, or need a medical prescription.

To make us fall in love, our brains produce drugs like phenylethylamine (PEA, which is also present in chocolate), oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin in massive quantities. We are being fed by your 100% legal, private narcotics, produced by our own brain.

The first moments of being in love are indeed passionate, intense, without limitations and, in their own way, irrational. They are beautiful and unique. During that special time, we are flushed with ecstatic emotions and feelings that prevail over anything else, including common sense. It’s a time when a newly found mate can’t seem to do or say anything wrong.

So, if you are in the early stages of falling in love right now, and you feel a little crazy, don’t worry! You kind of are. You are under the influence of hormones that are making you feel, all at once, euphoric, endangered, and exhausted.

The problem is that many couples believe that their in-love feelings are supposed to last forever. If they don’t, they figure they obviously haven’t found the right partner yet.

What a mistake!

The irrational state of being in love doesn’t last.

After all, how would this world look if it was full of people walking around, high on cocaine? Mother Nature made the effect of the rosy glasses wear off within a few weeks and months, very rarely more.

This doesn’t sound particularly romantic, right? Then again, neither are the misconceptions that happen as a result of such expectations.

Stage Two: Let’s Change ‘em!

This is when reality sets in.

It feels like you had too many martinis the night before, and now you’ve awakened to the regret, grasping for water and ibuprofen to numb the ache of your decision.

You start seeing things differently. Little things start to bother you, like stinky breath in the morning, toilet seats left up, stuff strewn on the counter, and forgetting to pay bills.

You start noticing things in your partner that you hadn’t before. Actually, your eyes probably did see all of them, but your mind didn’t. But if it did, you most likely found an appropriate explanation that fit your idealized picture of your mate.

When this “aha” moment starts to kick in, you have two choices.

Either you stick to the picture of your idealized partner you hold in your head (from when you were in love), and start changing them to fit to it, or you choose to love the man or woman in front of you as they are. You choose to celebrate their strengths, and learn to love their weaknesses just as much. In other words, you enjoy each other as you are, and go on from there, doing beautiful things in your life together.

Too many people choose the first. They focus on trying to fit their partner into the picture of the perfect partner in their head. Of course, many things will not quite fit. Some of them never will, so they’ll start hating those parts of their partner.

With time, the things that do not fit into the picture will take on more and more importance, while the majority of the good things in their relationship will start getting overlooked.

Sometimes it seems that after a few years, there won’t be anything a spouse does or says that the other one will not perceive as negative, even if it was done or said with all the best intentions.

On the receiving end, it’s like your partner is on a mission to prove they are right and you are wrong. In a way you are wrong, because you don’t fit the idealized model, of which you are probably not even aware.

Before, nothing you did could be bad, and now it seems like everything you do is perceived as such. Specific events are being generalized and overblown in their meaning, typically projected onto your whole personality. You are getting criticized for who you are.

And your spouse is really getting on your nerves, too. It’s not important who started it, because it’s a vicious cycle; it feeds itself with the behavior of you both, albeit in different areas of your life together.

Sadly, this vicious cycle, with time, only spins faster and faster. Many couples just accept it. They think this is what happens to all couples after a while. Secretly though, they feel miserable for not being accepted for who they are and loved unconditionally.

Others seek resolution in divorce, unaware that often divorce is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

After they divorce, they discover that the same pattern repeats with the next partner. They fall in love again and they are back at stage one. In reality, nothing has changed, only the person is different. Some issues may have a different twist, but at its core, the same issues resurface—usually much sooner than the previous time.

Stage Three: Let’s Please ‘em!

Then there are couples who manage to enter into the third stage of their relationship. We call it true love. They start accepting their mate as he or she really is, with all their strengths and weaknesses.

This is when you are no longer your main focus, but your spouse is. When you truly care how your spouse feels. When you love your partner just the way they are, and not the way your idealized image is telling you they should be.

It’s a state where you enjoy being around each other so much that any particular disagreement is not another blow to your relationship, but just another opportunity to grow together. By solving your issues, you’ll feel even more connected.

It’s when the good feelings and the joy of being around each other start to become more important than anything else. Then it starts to be fun, relaxing, and fulfilling to be around someone who is genuinely interested in what is happening to you, and how you are feeling; who genuinely wants to know what you need, and who enjoys helping you get it, for their own pleasure.

Reread those last four words. For their own pleasure. Not because he expects to get a favor back, but because he loves you and would do it even though you may never return the favor.

This is what true love is all about.


  • The first stage of a relationship is romantic love. It’s when you want the other person.
  • The second stage is the power struggle when you want the other person to satisfy you.
  • The third stage is true love, and it’s when you want what is best for the other person. To experience true love means loving your partner’s strengths and weaknesses, and accepting them as they are.

QUESTION: So, what do you think? Which of the above-mentioned three stages are you in right now? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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2 thoughts on “The Difference Between Being ‘In Love’ and ‘True Love’

  1. These stages of love are so true. Marriage is work. Every single day you have to choose to love your mate after so many yeas together.

    • Hi Michele! So true. Also, no one tells you that. Or at least, this was so in my case. When I was young, my father didn’t sit me down to tell me “Listen, son…. there are three stages of love you need to know about.” My mom didn’t tell me to expect that rosy glasses will eventually wear off (and that this is normal). To be honest, I almost split ways with my wife after one year of dating. Because of the stage two.