Friendship is also a type of love, although this emotional bond is not like the one that is at the base of couple relationships, traditionally associated with romantic love, which we normally consider the form of “love” by default.
However, the field of emotions is almost always complex and difficult to foresee. Having a realistic understanding of our own feelings is an art, and achieving it is the exception, not the rule. That is why some people hesitate to differentiate between love and friendship . We will talk about this in the following lines.
Differentiating love from friendship: how do I know what I feel?
The first thing to understand when it comes to distinguishing between affection for friendship and romantic love is that both experiences are mediated by the way our culture has influenced our way of being, thinking and feeling.
That means, among other things, that what you feel does not emerge from your body coded in categories clearly separated from each other, as we might expect if emotions were like the elements of a periodic table. Part of what we feel consists of how we interpret it, so that concerns and beliefs about what we are experiencing affect, in practice, that emotion .
Part of the difficulty of distinguishing between love and friendship is, then, knowing how to distinguish between what that person makes us feel and what the experience of knowing that we are developing an affective bond whose nature we have yet to understand. The expectations generated by the fact of feeling something for someone play a role in how we want to relate to them and in how that person reacts in case of interacting with them.
That said, let’s look at some tips on what to do to distinguish between love and friendship.
1. Is there chemistry in intimacy?
Intimacy is a key aspect of love relationships . However, it should not be confused with sexual connection. Asexual people are not by definition deprived of the experience of love, but it is true that they do not feel a very intense sexual connection towards anyone in particular.
This chemistry in the intimacy typical of love, then, in most cases also affects the sexual, but it is not limited to this and is present in many other forms of physical relationship: hugs, kisses, caresses, mutual care … Normally, if what there is is friendship, most of these experiences are not seen as necessary, although there are always exceptions.
2. Is there a willingness to compromise?
In love relationships, the people involved tend to want to establish a minimum of commitment. Therefore, if a certain time passes without the other person trying to contact them, for example, disappointment and sadness appear .
This commitment is not equivalent to what has traditionally been considered “fidelity” based on a monogamous model, but has to do with the broader meaning of the word: making sacrifices and agreements to keep the bond alive and to make it have its place in the future, rather than leaving everything to improvisation or sporadic meetings.
A person who sees an unjustified imposition on this idea of basing their relationship with the other on a certain degree of commitment is probably feeling friendship, not conventional love.
3. Make sure pity doesn’t play a role
There are relationships that begin because one of the members feels a mixture of love and compassion for a person he or she considers to be helpless and alone. This experience, although based on compassion, creates obvious problems. On the one hand, it perpetuates the idea that a person is alone unless he or she has a partner with whom he or she has a romantic love bond, something that is clearly wrong, and on the other hand, makes it easier for the other person to generate wrong expectations .
Therefore, another necessary but not sufficient condition to distinguish between friendship and love is to ensure that time and activities shared with that person are not based on pity. For example, we can do little experiments based on imagination, such as imagining that that person starts dating someone else with whom there is clearly a connection of requited love. How does that make us feel? If the answer has something to do with relief, it is most likely friendship .
4. Analyze the intensity of the emotion
Usually, friendships are seen as something flexible, which can stop being on stage for a while and then reappear. However, in the case of love the emotion is usually so intense that the idea of interrupting the relationship even temporarily is experienced in a dramatic and clearly painful way, and feeling a strong mourning for this loss.
The emotions felt through love are too intense for us to be comfortable with the experience of not knowing if that person will still be there for us tomorrow.
This “rigidity” in the way we assess whether or not our expectations are being met is another key that can help us distinguish between friendship and love.