I Love You but I'm Not in Love With You: A Simple Scientific Explanation of Love

Updated on May 15, 2020
Dr Billy Kidd profile image

Dr. Billy Kidd researched romantic relationships for 15 years. He held focus groups in various cities across the nation.

“It’s not a dead relationship,” Sam insisted, staring across the family room at his wife, Ashley.

The words came slowly to Ashley’s turned-down lips. “Sam, it’s the video games. It’s not reading to Brenda. It’s not being here for me. Your head is so far removed from us at times, well … I love you but I’m not in love with you.”

Deep furrows crossed Sam’s brow. “What do you mean?”

Ashley let out a sigh. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

Like Ashley, almost everyone has problems explaining their sense of emotional anxiety. And when there is no resolution to a couple’s communication problems, they fall out of love. Often people blame their lovers for it all and say something like, “You’re from another planet. How could you get it?” But, truthfully, that misses the point.

The issue isn’t that men and women cannot communicate. They run the Fortune 500 companies together, and that requires a vast network of coordinated communication. The real issue is a lack of understanding of how 5 different feelings blend together to create the way we love our partners.


So the real communication problem isn’t about you or your partner, either. It is that there isn’t a common language for love. People don’t even agree on what the word love means.

For instance, if you look at the example above, you’ll see that Ashley used the word love to mean two different things at the same time. Then, Sam took those ideas to mean something different than what Ashley was trying to say. But neither one of them was to blame. They hadn’t been on the same page when they talked about their relationship for quite a while. That was because no one had ever showed them how to effectively communicate their feelings. Yet, after I showed them the Love Code—which defines the new language of love—things changed for the better.

The Love Code states that people have 5 different feelings that work together to create all the ways they respond to their partners. Individuals can respond to their partners, or potential lovers, with any, all, or none of these feelings of love. The Love Code is based on new scientific discoveries, rather than urban myths. So it can be used to clarify any communication problem. It also helps to clarify why certain relationships wear you out, are boring, and why people cheat.

The five feelings of love rise up from deep inside us and blend together in different ways at different times. This explains why you can feel many different types of love for different people but not always have a way to put those feelings into words. When you understand the Love Code, you will always be able to explain how you feel. You will also know what to ask your partner if you are confused about what he or she is saying or feeling.

The Five Major Feelings of Love That Make Up the Love Code:

1. We all know the first major feeling of love: the in-love feeling. But few of us understand how it works. That is because being in love has two different stages: It starts with crazy love and then moves into reward love.

Crazy love is where you think about someone obsessively night and day. You might think about your sweetheart so much that it seems like he or she is “the One.” That’s great. But scientists recently discovered that crazy love always passes. That’s why you don’t think obsessively about your lover day and night forever unless you have a dysfunctional love style.

Instead, when the relationship matures, what holds you together is reward love. That is where you sometimes feel a sense of reward just to be with your partner. That is the second stage of an in-love relationship. When a person in a serious relationship doesn’t feel reward love, that individual ends up where Ashley was at: feeling that she was not in love with Sam anymore.

2. We all know the second feeling of love: the sexual feeling. But few of us understand how to explain what we’re really feeling. The Love Code clarifies the two major aspects of sexual feelings: a) physical arousal and b) emotional arousal.

Vigorous exercise raises men’s and women’s physical appetite for sex. So does cuddling, too. Exploring the world and discovering new things increases men’s and women’s emotional appetite for sex. Physical and emotional arousal, combined with partner personality and compatibility, creates all the different ways people experience sexual intercourse.

When Ashley no longer felt rewarded to be around Sam, she lost her ability to get emotionally aroused about having sex with him. So the question for her wasn’t between love or lust, but rather, it was loss of interest. Or put another way, their relationship had changed.

3. We have an expression for that captures the third major feeling of love: being "friends and lovers, too". When partners feel like friends, they don’t hold grudges or keep score. They don’t attack each other’s character.

That’s because friendship changes the tone of a romantic relationship. Partners feel like equals, and that changes how they handle relationship conflict. This eliminates the competition and the winner-take-all arguments that are so common in dysfunctional relationships. It also sets the stage for your relationship to evolve as the two of you change with the changing times. With Ashley and Sam, they were getting pretty close to losing their friendship connection.

4. Most people have an unconscious desire to find fulfillment through the fourth feeling of love: feeling like family. But so often they are too confused to make it work OK for them. When they get together with their partners, it doesn’t provide them with a feeling of security. Rather, being close often generates an intense feeling of anxiety.

That is unfortunate because a positive family feeling is what creates the ties that bind people together. It gives people emotional support when their hopes and dreams run up against a roadblock. That’s when partners come together to soothe each other’s anxieties. But when there is a lack of emotional support, relationships fall apart. When Ashley felt that Sam no longer gave her any emotional support, she set up an appointment for them to see me, the couples therapist.

5. Most people understand the fifth feeling of love: the feeling of wanting to help your partner. Unfortunately, too many individuals help their partners in order to attempt to get control over their relationships. When their partners sense this, they do less and expect more. As a result, the helper will slave away until he or she ends up resenting his or her partner. Despite this, the individual will keep slaving away because he or she has a codependent personality.

On the other hand, partners with functional love styles try to help each other to achieve their life goals. They don’t feel like martyrs because they have a mutual helping relationship. That is why they can accomplish twice as much as couples who don’t have one.

In our example, above, Ashley still cared about Sam’s future and wanted to help him, but her in-love feeling of reward had died, and she was thinking about leaving the relationship.

Do you feel like Ashley and Sam and can't explain what you're really feeling about your partner? Well, don’t worry. You can navigate through any relationship roadblock by becoming aware of how each of your five feelings of love respond to your partner. You can do that by noticing when and if you:

  • Feel rewarded when you spend time with your partner (the in-love feeling)
  • Find that you get physically and emotionally aroused during sex (the sexual feelings)
  • Feel like you want to be good friends with your partner (feeling like friends)
  • Feel like your partner is a member of your family (feeling like family)
  • Feel that you want to help your partner (feeling like helping)

When you see these types of responses in yourself and in others, you will understand your options in every relationship. Then you will feel more secure about the choices you make, and that will put you on the path that leads to a low-stress relationship.

Bust Thru Relationship Roadblocks

When Sam and Ashley came to my office, I questioned both of them about how they responded to each other with each of the five different feelings of love. I asked them to listen to each other’s responses without interrupting. Then, I asked the other partner to repeat, in his or her own words, what he or she thought their partner had said. Sam acted surprised that Ashley didn’t feel rewarded to be with him anymore. Before they left, I gave Sam a copy of the first draft of my book, Low-Stress Romance, that explained the five feelings of love.

When they came to see me the following week, Sam looked morose. When I asked him what was going on, Sam said: “I got the picture, now, from the book and-” He hesitated and took a deep breath. Finally, he said, “Ashley cares about my future, but when the in-love feeling died, we couldn’t move to the next stage of love-”

Sam gasped as his eyes welled with tears. Then he said, “I haven’t told Ashley, yet, but I’ve booked a two-week vacation for our daughter and me in Hawaii—where she’s been begging us to take her for the last two years. And I made arrangements with her school to send the homework by email.” A flood of tears raced down Sam's cheeks as he pleaded to Ashley, saying, “Will you accompany our daughter and me to Hawaii. You’ve got a couple of weeks to figure it out. It’s OK to say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘No.’ But I promised myself that I’m not going to blow my relationship with my daughter. So I beg you, please don’t say Brenda can’t go.”

Ashley sat back and gazed blankly across the room. Sam silently stared at the floor. Shutting my eyes, I meditated. Finally, Ashley said, “Doctor?” When I looked her way, she stood, saying, “We’ll see you when we get back from Hawaii.”

© 2011 Dr Billy Kidd


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    • Dr Billy Kidd profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Billy Kidd 

      7 weeks ago from Sydney, Australia


      Thank you for the comment.

      You are right. Yet some people in the in-love phase believe this is it and they have found "the One."

    • profile image


      7 weeks ago

      I dont understand why this phrase has to have a negative connotation. In love part just means the initial honeyomoon phase which ends imevitable and develops into Love, and what is wrong with that? No one feels butterflies for 30 years and so on.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Billy Kidd 

      2 months ago from Sydney, Australia

      Hmph, yes, when partners do not become friends the party is over.

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      Good riddance. Sometimes breaking up is for the best for them. Yuck it up, lovebirds.

    • profile image


      5 months ago

      My husband and I have been married for 29 years and he just revealed in couples therapy that he loves me but as he reflects, hasn't been in love with me for about 20 years. Is there a way for him to fall back in love with me? I've lived a codependent life and suffocated him unintentionally.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Billy Kidd 

      14 months ago from Sydney, Australia

      Santosh, hallo!

      The person who says "I love you but I'm not in-love with you" is saying :You are not The One.

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      Can u say the meaning of I love you but iam not in love with you

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Billy Kidd 

      2 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Matty, yes it is wonderful when a couple work through their relationship roadblocks. I wrote this post hoping people would get a scientific insight into how romantic relationships work. So they could have some new ideas when it came to the difficulties of having a satisfying relationship.

      Thanks for reading the article.

    • Matty Fernandez profile image

      Matty Navarro 

      2 years ago from New Jersey

      Great hub! I am glad they were able to begin working on their relationship. Too often people wait too long to get help. It breaks my heart to see this, especially when there are children involved. There is no easy way out. But again, good thing they were willing to work it out.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Billy Kidd 

      4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Great comment, dashingscorpio.

      When I wrote this I was thinking of two people already in a relationship. And the relationship, for one person, lost it's romantic nature.

      I agree that for people who are dating, or not fully involved, the thing is different. It just means you're not the One.

      Thanks for explaining this.

    • dashingscorpio profile image


      4 years ago from Chicago

      Very interesting article!

      Generally what I tell people is if someone says:

      "I love you but I'm not (in love) with you."

      It means they don't consider you to be "the one"!

      In other words they're keeping their options to find someone who they do feel is someone they want to spend the rest of their life with.

      As you noted there are multiple ways people define the word "love" and sadly oftentimes we (assume) that our definition is a "universal" definition.

      An entertainer who yells "I love you!" at an audience from the stage has no "emotional investment" in any one person in the crowd. Essentially he/she is saying I (appreciate) you for supporting me.

      Sometimes when people are "comfortable" with one another, get along nicely, and genuinely care about the welfare of this person they may use the word (love) to describe the depth of their caring BUT there is no passionate feeling causing them to feel as though they've found their "soul-mate".

      Essentially they're just saying you are "special" in their life.

      Communication is the GPS for relationships. It lets you know if you're on the same page, growing together, or growing apart.

      As uncomfortable as it is to have someone define what they mean when they tell you they love you it's far better than to assume you both feel the same way about one another only later to find out you're not "the one".


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