DISCLAIMER: All that I mention represent my views mixed with basic scientific theories floating around.
To 'Love', and to be 'In Love'
I believe these two to be different. One does not necessarily love those they are in love with, and one is not necessarily in love with those they love. Sound confusing? Allow me to elaborate.
To make this as clear as possible, let's take "romantic feelings" out of the equation.
Would you say you love your parents? Or that you are in love with them? Maybe both expressions work for you?
The way I see it, one (generally) loves their family, yet is not in love of them.
To be in love with someone is the sort of feeling you have towards a crush, that almost irrational slight obsession and redirection of your thoughts in their general direction. Perhaps your heart will beat faster, perhaps you will become slightly euphoric, perhaps you'll get embarrassed; all just by being near the person in question.
What I've just described most certainly does not apply towards your parents (unless you're into some really weird nukige). But you still love them, right? You act kind towards them, you are affectionate with them, you take their presence for granted and would sacrifice immensely for their sake.
Mayhap, this even applies to your friends? Friendship love. You see it all the time in manga, girls loving each other, but not being in love with each other. You care for your friends much like they care for you.
Finally, for all you older folk out there, if you're a parent: would you say you love your children, or that you are in love with them? Because if it's the latter, that would make you the worst kind of scum in the eyes of society.
Only when it comes to romance do these two things get interwoven together. Love is a complicated mess, which I will now attempt to arbitrarily classify in a way that makes sense to me.
All the previously mentioned situations represent love, yet they are different from falling "in love".
As you know, or should know, humans are animals, they are living beings whose purpose is to live. All animals, all plants and all living beings have that very same objective, and they evolve and adapt in order to make sure their species continues to live. One important thing about being a living being is our instinctual desire to reproduce. If we didn't reproduce, the species would go extinct - Giant Pandas are the resident experts on the topic.
In order to compel the race to reproduce, our body releases various hormones impelling us to do various things. Falling "in love" is one of these.
You'll find that often, the person you develop romantic feelings for, is not one that is particularly close to you. This is what I believe being "in love" is. When you develop feelings for a person, which serves as the selfish catalyst that leads to romance.
Having fallen in love, we humans do a bunch of silly things involving spending time with our pleasurable partner, which makes us happy (due to the hormones), and containing our sexual desires, which are also stimulated by the hormones. Probably not the most romantic way of looking at it, but "falling in love" is a mere boost towards romantic love, but I do not think it is romantic love itself. On the contrary, trying to resist this "in love" feeling is, quite literally, against our instincts. Thankfully, human beings are, for the most part, able to resist their instincts given that their conditions are favourable. If everyone ended up marrying their first love, society would be rather different than what it is right now.
Now then, I keep mentioning "romantic love", as if it weren't influenced by hormones. Really, you can say that just about anything is influenced by hormones and this is no exception. The usual situation will be for one to develop a romantic relationship with the one they fell in love with. In turn, this "in love" boost will eventually die down leaving you only with a person that you are intimate with, that you share your flaws with, that you care for... and your sexual partner. Sex is yet another source of rather pleasurable hormones, and one important for long-lasting relationships. After all, a proper relationship requires sacrifices, and most of us selfish humans wouldn't be all that interested in maintaining a relationship for little reward.
This is, of course, another of our instinct's plans. If a couple doesn't stay together and does not reproduce, then the whole "falling in love" business will end up having been useless.
All this said, let us surmise:
Because of our innate need to reproduce, we fall in love. Falling in love gives us a boost and creates an easy path that will lead to loving someone. Eventually, this boost dies down - at this point, a good couple would love each other as is (or else, divorce. Good lord, today's society...), with the help of sex. The pleasure sex provides creates hormones that increase our affection for our partner and that generally makes us interested in sex, connecting directly to our species' main goal: Children.
The way we look at it today, everybody wants to be with those they're in love with, and lose interest when the magic of "falling in love" dies down. I, however, firmly believe that people are able to love even those they are not in love with... provided the circumstances aren't dead set against you. The main example I wanted to tie this uncultured rant to is this relationship I saw in Ao Haru Ride...
I'll elucidate you right off the bat: I didn't like Ao Haru Ride as a story. This does not, however, mean that it was bad. In fact, it gave me enough food for thought to write this whole pointless blog post because of it.
In Ao Haru Ride, because both our protagonists fail to act on their feelings in a timely manner because "emotions", they, despite loving each other, end up entering a relationship with someone else. Spoilers ahead.
Futaba is our main protagonist, and she clearly falls in love with Kou in the first few chapters. This Kou fellow is the main love interest, who is also in love with Futaba, but who, due to circumstances and "emotions", rejects her advances. Seeing this, another boy, called Touma, felt bad for Futaba, and this kickstarted his feelings, leading him to fall in love with her. Eventually, Futaba, seeing Touma's dedication and depictions of love, enters a relationship with him and tries to love him back.
Given this scene, Kou, jealous, surpasses his "circumstances" and "emotions" and tries to win Futaba back. Futaba, on the other hand, doesn't want this. She is not aware of Kou's feelings and really wants to love Touma back - something I consider a most earnest and great wish. However, because that's just the way things are, Futaba is unable to love Touma whilst in love with someone else, and she wouldn't stop being in love so long as Kou didn't stop - and he had no intention of stopping.
Therefore, Futaba breaks up with Touma and gets together with Kou. Happy end.
This entire turn of events depresses me. I dislike when a main character enters a relationship which just wont last. Totally not the kind of stuff I read manga for. I really hate how she spent most of the manga dating someone who is not the main love interest and the one she'll end up with.
Yet, it does bring something to the table I really admired, and those were Futaba's attempts at loving Touma back, even when she wasn't in love with him. People these days always seem to think that they should marry someone they're in love with and whatnot - when I'm a fervent believer that anyone is able to romantically love even those they aren't in love with. Still, even still, we're wired in such a way that we're rather likely to fall in love with those we attempt to love, anyway, so it's almost a moot point.
I believe that what Futaba tried to achieve is one of the most idealistic, selfless and admirable forms of love - though that's precisely why it doesn't happen often. It is, after all, much more convenient to just love those you are in love with
This is why historical romances interest me so. They're about loving the husband or wife that was arranged for you by your family and not by your hormones (who choose based on what amounts to a whim).
But then again... what the hell do I know about love?