can a man fall in love without realising?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Lone Wolf

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 15, 2018
Messages
209
Reaction score
14
Location
Australia
In my WIP the hero falls in love with the heroine but he’s in denial even to himself or simply not self-aware. He can explain his feelings to himself as lust, friendship, and feeling protective of someone in his care – though he’s not one to sit an analyse his feelings anyway.

The hero and heroine have a friends-with-benefits type relationship. Even though she is in love with him, neither wants marriage, commitment or anything conventional. They agree that it's just sex and neither will fall in love with the other - except they do.

But I have come to doubt the believability of him being in such denial or so unaware of the symptoms of love. Falling in love is such a powerful feeling how could you not know it?
I actually know a man who, when asked if he loves the woman he is with, said he doesn't know what love is anymore. My reaction was that if he was in love he'd know it wouldn't he? So is the premise for my story nonsense?
 

Lakey

professional dilettante
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 20, 2017
Messages
1,495
Reaction score
794
Location
New England
I think there has to be a strong reason why he would deny it to himself. If it’s just because, I don’t know, it’s not cool to be in love, or fear of commitment, or something like that, it might not ring true that he would deny it for very long. But if there’s a social taboo, or a gigantic barrier to their being together (which in the friends-with benefits scenario it sounds like there isn’t), or some other REALLY STRONG psychological barrier, it might provide some basis for the denial.

For instance: in my novel-in-progress, a woman falls in love with another woman, and is deeply in denial about it for quite a few chapters; but it’s 1951, she’s married, she’s not really familiar with lesbianism except as a vague distasteful thing practiced by mentally disturbed and mannish women, and so on. It’s not something she would ever imagine of herself (or of the girl she’s in love with, for that matter). So there are good reasons for her to remain blind - willfully or otherwise - to the nature of her feelings, which she rationalizes away as the excitement of having a new friend, or as a sort of maternal affection. Until she doesn’t. ;)

:e2coffee:
 

Bacchus

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2016
Messages
614
Reaction score
145
Love is the writer's friend because it doesn't exist.

There; I said it. There is no such thing as "love". There are many and complex emotions that, as writers, we can hide under the banner, but love is not a definable thing like "hot" or "cold".

The banner can be used to cover the protective warmth we feel for a new-born baby, the excitement of a third date, our spouse of forty years as we make up after yet another argument, grief for a departed parent, or a cookie. It's a stupid word really, so use it to your own ends and show us the story.
 

RaggedEdge

paying my dues
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 20, 2013
Messages
1,284
Reaction score
214
I actually know a man who, when asked if he loves the woman he is with, said he doesn't know what love is anymore. My reaction was that if he was in love he'd know it wouldn't he? So is the premise for my story nonsense?

The observation in the above quote sheds some light on this. To me, what the man you know revealed in that statement is that he may have a lot of feelings about his partner(s) but what he's unable to do is make a committed choice to love - or to love someone exclusively. Falling in love is more than a feeling. At some point it becomes a choice, and that can be damn scary because all choices come with limitations, possible regrets, etc. But it's only by going through that process of reconciling yourself to that choice that a committed relationship (and HEA) becomes possible.

Perhaps your character needs to show enough aversion to making choices or making commitments in other areas of his life or toward a previous love interest (backstory) in order for his denial to be believable.

FWIW, I see this denial in plenty of romance novels, but I agree that you need to show good reason, as Lakey says. I would say 'fear of commitment' can work, although beware it's pretty much a cliche of its own and must be done well.
 

morngnstar

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 9, 2014
Messages
2,271
Reaction score
295
I can't say that as a man, this has ever actually happened to me, but I find it a believable and enjoyable trope.

Though, I will say there was a particular moment when I first realized I loved my wife (and it wasn't at first sight), which might mean I must have loved her for some time before that without realizing it.
 

ConnorTheAuthor

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 29, 2011
Messages
64
Reaction score
5
Location
Wales
That’s a curious assertion to make with such certainty.

I do think Bacchus summed it up brilliantly afterwards though - love is a construct we don't understand, and people make the point that it does exist all the time with exactly the same kind of certainty. If it does exist, we can't conclusively define it and I think what makes it so fantastic to write about.

It's easy to be in denial about love when we don't know what love is. Before my current partner I believed love was all hot passion and sex, whereas now I view it as a much more domestic, sit in and watch films and walk the dog type thing. I found it easy to deny I was in love with him for a very long time, as it didn't suit my definition of love. Perhaps if your character experiences this in reverse?
 

Elenitsa

A seadog looking for crewmates
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 20, 2011
Messages
578
Reaction score
47
Location
Bucharest, Romania
Website
caribbeandawn1720.jcink.net
In a story of mine, too, a man very preoccupied by his work (and with some romantic experience years ago, followed by a deception) doesn't recognize he is in love, for a while, too. He says it's friendship and nothing more, because the way he feels for this girl is different than how he fell in love 12 years ago with the other one.

Also, in the current story I am writing, for a while the two characters who start feeling something for each other don't recognize it as more than friendship. But they will, at a certain moment...
 

morngnstar

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 9, 2014
Messages
2,271
Reaction score
295
I like the ideas people are coming up with to motivate his obliviousness. Anything you can do to make your backstory more compelling, do it. But count me in among the people who even enjoy this trope in its basic formulaic incarnation.
 

lilyWhite

Love and Excitement
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 13, 2012
Messages
5,357
Reaction score
762
Location
under a pile of mistletoe
I don't think it's entirely unreasonable.

I have a fantasy-romance story where the main character is initially conflicted about the love interest's apparent affection for her, and her feelings on the LI progress from "do I like-like her?" to "I guess I do like-like her" and finally "I love her" over the course of the story. The LI being a butterfly-lady from another dimension is part of the reason why she doesn't consider it "love" at first; for your story, the friends-with-benefits relationship could certainly be that barrier between them and the realization.

And sometimes love is a powerful feeling, but sometimes it's a creepy-up kind of love. :greenie
 

Roxxsmom

Beastly Fido
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Messages
20,289
Reaction score
4,257
Location
Where faults collide
Website
doggedlywriting.blogspot.com
My reaction was that if he was in love he'd know it wouldn't he? So is the premise for my story nonsense?

Being in denial (or simply oblivious at first) about one's feelings of love is certainly a popular trope in romances. I don't know how common it actually is, but given the wide range of human emotional states and experiences, it's hard to believe it doesn't happen sometimes. There are even songs about the phenomenon, like this one. I have trouble believing most readers would think it nonsense if you set it up well and plausibly. There are always a few who will have pet peeves about a trope or concept, but you're not writing for them.
 
Last edited:

Loverofwords

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 11, 2015
Messages
704
Reaction score
143
I'm a twenty-year-old man now, but about six years ago (wow, it doesn't feel that long ago), I fell in love with someone else without realizing it. I'm not sure exactly when I fell in love with him, but I realized it when I had to go a week without seeing him and missed him in a way that was so different/unique than I'd ever missed anyone else. And when I realized, I denied it immediately because I refused to believe I wasn't totally straight, and it took a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was into dudes as well as girls.

And I can totally understand how you might think it wasn't really "falling in love" because I was only fourteen, but the feelings were very real to me. I've never felt that intensely for anyone since.

So, yes, we can fall in love without knowing.
 
Last edited:

Lone Wolf

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 15, 2018
Messages
209
Reaction score
14
Location
Australia
I think there has to be a strong reason why he would deny it to himself. If it’s just because, I don’t know, it’s not cool to be in love, or fear of commitment, or something like that, it might not ring true that he would deny it for very long. But if there’s a social taboo, or a gigantic barrier to their being together (which in the friends-with benefits scenario it sounds like there isn’t), or some other REALLY STRONG psychological barrier, it might provide some basis for the denial. /QUOTE]

Thanks Lakey. Come to think of it, while they are together, he never actually says to anyone or thinks to the reader, "I'm not in love". I don't think he actually even considers it much as he doesn't see they can have much of a future together. It's only later when he wants her back that he says he's been in love with her for a long time but didn't realise.
 

Lone Wolf

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 15, 2018
Messages
209
Reaction score
14
Location
Australia
Love is the writer's friend because it doesn't exist.

There; I said it. There is no such thing as "love". There are many and complex emotions that, as writers, we can hide under the banner, but love is not a definable thing like "hot" or "cold".

The banner can be used to cover the protective warmth we feel for a new-born baby, the excitement of a third date, our spouse of forty years as we make up after yet another argument, grief for a departed parent, or a cookie. It's a stupid word really, so use it to your own ends and show us the story.

Seems to me an odd way of looking at it. I agree that love can mean many things and there are different kinds of love. It doesn't add up that, that means it doesn't exist.
My question is about the experience/feeling of falling in love
 

Lone Wolf

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 15, 2018
Messages
209
Reaction score
14
Location
Australia
Thanks everyone! Perhaps I do need to somehow mention in the story his previous experiences of infatuation fading and expecting this to be the same
 

Marian Perera

starting over
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
14,170
Reaction score
4,050
Location
Heaven is a place on earth called Toronto.
Website
www.marianperera.com
Seems to me an odd way of looking at it. I agree that love can mean many things and there are different kinds of love. It doesn't add up that, that means it doesn't exist.

Whether or not it exists, I doubt there are any romance or women's fiction novels where the take-home message is "love doesn't exist".

That's something I find very appealing about these genres. They are not cynical about love.
 

cool pop

It's Cool, Miss Pop if You're Nasty
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 20, 2009
Messages
660
Reaction score
126
Location
Texas
You can have deep feelings for someone and not realize it until they leave or until something forces you to confront your feelings, etc. It's common in dating and friendships. You might be casually dating someone and think you don't love them but then when they are no longer there, you realize you're definitely in love. You might have a friend who you thought all those years was just a friend to you but actually, you're in love with them. Too bad you realize it when the person is walking down the aisle to marry someone else. Love is a slow build (at least true love is), so your feelings can be developing and you not realize how serious it is.

Denial is different from not realizing you're in love though. Denial is knowing you are in love but not wanting to admit it. You try to ignore your feelings for whatever reason. Not knowing is, you honestly don't understand how much someone really means to you until maybe it's too late.

IMO, to be realistic in a book, the man would have to have a very compelling reason to be in denial of his feelings because it's not feasible to me that a grown man would simply deny his feelings for someone. It has to be a reason that seems plausible because most men admit their feelings when they want a woman. When a man wants a woman he lets her and everyone know loud and clear. LOL!

I don't think the concept is rubbish, just give him a compelling reason to why he is in denial.
 
Last edited:

LesFewer

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 1, 2018
Messages
87
Reaction score
4
Maybe paternal love. If it's romantic love we have a built in meter that tells us if we're attracted to someone.
 

indianroads

Wherever I go, there I am.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 4, 2017
Messages
2,372
Reaction score
226
Location
Colorado
Website
indianroads.net
[...]
I actually know a man who, when asked if he loves the woman he is with, said he doesn't know what love is anymore. My reaction was that if he was in love he'd know it wouldn't he? So is the premise for my story nonsense?

I've heard other men say this - heck, I've said it myself - and there's always a story behind it.
The man may have made an emotional commitment to someone, but then was betrayed or hurt in some way. He still has those feelings (love) but hates himself because of it. So he asks - is this love? - if so, it sucks.
 

MAS

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 28, 2011
Messages
234
Reaction score
23
I think Loretta Chase pulled it off magnificently in Mr. Impossible.
 

Chris P

Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 4, 2009
Messages
19,317
Reaction score
2,915
Location
Vienna, VA
This blog post sums up the 8 classical types of love identified by the Greeks. I'm sure the moderns will have endless subcategories and various revisions of this, but for the most part I think it captures it.

As others said, being unaware of the attachment or denying it would take a convincing reason. Or, more interesting to me, is if the man is confused by trying to make a romantic relationship outof non-romantic love. To use the Greeks again, the literary world is full of stories about the danger of confusing mania or ludus with eros, but what about the others? Perhaps your character is experiencing one of those and he's miastking it for another?
 

ChloeRose

Taking the long view.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 27, 2018
Messages
2,152
Reaction score
120
Location
Pennsylvania
But I have come to doubt the believability of him being in such denial or so unaware of the symptoms of love. Falling in love is such a powerful feeling how could you not know it? I actually know a man who, when asked if he loves the woman he is with, said he doesn't know what love is anymore. My reaction was that if he was in love he'd know it wouldn't he? So is the premise for my story nonsense?

It is quite possible to be in love and not realize it.....or at least not acknowledge it for a long period of time. Especially if there are definitive reasons that being in love would create too many risks, ask us to make to many changes, or seem just not to 'make sense'. When it comes to complexities and matters of the heart it would be a difficult task to create a situation that wouldn't be at all possible or likely. If you can imagine it that is qualification enough for love-related plausibility.
 
Last edited:

JustWriteMike

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 16, 2018
Messages
62
Reaction score
8
Location
Germany
Your hero may tell himself that all the fire and passion he feels is a matter of lust. Just can’t keep his hands off of her. She’s too enticing. But it is, he will tell you, not an obligation of the heart. He could walk away from her in an instant if he had to. Really .. he could. Because he’s rational about these things. Keeps his feelings compartmentalized.

People live like this. We live deceiving ourselves all the time. Hell, half of us here probably believe we’re gonna be wealthy and famous writers one day. :tongue

The truth only comes when we’re hit over the head with it and forced to confront reality. So I can buy your premise quite easily and, done well, think it would be a fun read.
 

Lone Wolf

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 15, 2018
Messages
209
Reaction score
14
Location
Australia
Your hero may tell himself that all the fire and passion he feels is a matter of lust. Just can’t keep his hands off of her. She’s too enticing. But it is, he will tell you, not an obligation of the heart. He could walk away from her in an instant if he had to. Really .. he could. Because he’s rational about these things. Keeps his feelings compartmentalized.
People live like this. We live deceiving ourselves all the time. Hell, half of us here probably believe we’re gonna be wealthy and famous writers one day. :tongue
LOL!
yes, this is what I was thinking - his lust for her is so strong, he has no idea what he'd feel without it, so he'd be loathe to think he's in love, or worse - tell her it's love, if one day the lust fizzles and there's no deep feeling left. And who's to say at what point it goes from infatuation to love anyway?

This plot point has been particularly troubling to me lately as my life imitates my 'art' - I'm in a relationship with a man that says "I don't know what love is anymore." I get that it's can be hard to identify or quantify the feelings you have for a partner long after the romance has gone, or for an ex you still care about, but I feel if he was in love with me, he'd surely know it and would have no reason to deny it. So now I find myself doubting the premise of my story - although the situations are slightly different.
 

A large christmas tree with lights outdoors in the snow, with a snowman, houses, and children