It's one of the great questions in life, and from Plato to Kanyé, the world's philosophers have tried their best to come up with a consistent response to the question. None have come close. What's the issue?
Do I love my best friend, or am I 'In Love' with them?
It has catastrophic implications on the scope of your life, and so many have tried but so few have found any form of a satisfying answer? Why? Is it because love is one of those things like trying to hold wind? Yes - because it's impossible and multivalent. No-one knows what the true essence of love is, particularly because it varies so much from person to person. Platonic, romantic, purely physical, filial, towards pets - the list goes on. You can see how it's hard to know the difference. Trying to communicate and unravel one's own emotions is difficult at the best of times, let alone when the stakes are high and people's lives are involved in the equation. The decision you make is a huge one, so here are a few hints to distinguish between loving someone and being In Love. Good luck!
You Love them, but aren't In Love:
You can't go a day without talking to them
Maybe this is a slightly confusing first option - surely you all think that not being able to live without your partner is the first sign of love? Well, nope. If you love your friends as friends, then you have a compulsion to talk to them every day, to get updates on their lives and ask how their day went, and keep things going. By contrast, if you are in a committed relationship with this person, you don't feel the pressure to do anything like that, unless it's been communicated. It isn't a performance, your relationship. You are both so comfortable with each other and so secure in your relationship that - firstly - if there were any issues or feelings of abandonment, you would communicate and resolve them - and second, you don't have to try too hard to make things work. It does always work. That's one way of knowing that you love someone more like a friend - if you fear that your relationship might not survive being long-distance or with time apart for yourself. This is something that every relationship needs, no matter whether you love someone or are In Love.
Another trick to test is what they're listed as on your phone - again, it sounds counterintuitive, but there's a really subtle reason why it matters. I believe that there is an initial hypothesis that shows that the amount of emojis or hearts next to their contact increases with your affection for them...
UP TO A POINT
Once you cross a certain threshold or understanding or love for them, you have no need to give them a silly nickname or phone contact, maybe a fun profile picture and that's it. It might sound un-fun, but trust me, that's where the true intimacy lies because your relationship is not just all online or on your phone. It's not an insta-relationship, and you don't log your relationship markers on Facebook - that's for friendship anniversaries, not serious relationships. That's how you know you're In Love because they're probably also your emergency contact - because they know you that well and you don't feel insecure about even telling them about your medical history.
If they're the first you think about when you wake up, that's another sign that your best friend of ten years might actually be something more. I love my friends, but it's different with that special someone. That's just a tier above, who you call first when anything happens. Good or bad. While we're at it, that's another marker of being In Love - you naturally want to tell them all about your day, and you are enraptured about theirs. It's not a chore, communicating, you could just genuinely spend all day with them and not run out of things to talk about.
That's magic, really - hold on to it
And finally, the most noticeable tell for everyone around you is that if you're In Love, you can't stop talking about them, and they will always come first when they need you. Barring emergencies, and of course, being mindful of those people who get consumed by their relationship and can't seem to resurface to the outside world, this is just an unassailable truth of being in Love. They become part of your life that you can't do without and that you implicitly associate with the future.
Life becomes a way to make them feel better and help them in their daily lives. Fixing their light in their apartment? Done. Rejigging the broadband and cooking a nice meal on Friday nights? Done and done. It's all about the give and take, just make sure that they love you as much as you love them - ditto with the 'In Love' category too!
So there you go, if they make your heart glow when they compliment you and you want to wake up with them every morning and make them coffee in bed, that's probably an indicator that you're in it for the long haul.
Go and tell them, you wholesome suckers!