I've had different experiences with the opposite sex over the years -friendships, relationships, almost-relationships. Really, I've been there and done that, and I have to say that there are some major differences between being in love and in-like.
To get real with you, first and foremost, I'd define being 'in-like' as a complicated romantic relationship. Being in-like means that there's some sort of mutual attraction and connection between the two of you, but possibly nothing more. The two of you either aren't dating, or are maybe in the beginning stages of your relationship. You hang out, hook-up, but definitely aren't boyfriend and girlfriend. At least, not yet.
If the person you're seeing isn't a total trash bag, being in-like can actually be kind of fun. It's a great time in your life to not take a romantic relationship as the 'be-all-end-all'. Being in-like with someone takes a very 'go with the flow' type of attitude, considering you don't have any unwritten rules or expectations when it comes to how much you communicate, how much you see each other, and what you share about each other's lives. You don't necessarily care that you two don't have any titles. You're enjoying the time that you spend with your S/O and aren't too stressed out about the future.
Being in-like can definitely transition to being in-love if you're with the right person. For many, being in-like or seeing each other casually is the prelude to successful relationships, almost like a probationary period at work. If you're still into each other after 3-months of low-key dates, hook-ups and heart-to-hearts, you can probably expect a boyfriend/girlfriend title in your relative future.
But, in contrast, being in-like can also be hellish if you and your S/O don't want the same thing. He wants something serious, you just want to chill, or vice versa - then all of the sudden you have this big awkward terrible thing between you that was once so stress-free. It's important to communicate what you want upfront instead of waiting for shit to hit the fan. If you find yourself developing feelings for your casual S/O, it is better to speak up and get real about what's going on with you emotionally to save yourself any pain and save them the discomfort.
I have lots of experience with being in-like - but in love? Not so much. When I was 16, I swore I loved my high school sweetheart. We never dated - or even kissed mind you - but were the best of friends. Whenever we hung out we would do sweet, innocent activities like hit up the mall, bake cookies or grab Starbucks so prematurely I'm positive it stunted my growth. When we were together and even when we ended things (dramatically in front of our same, frequented Starbucks) I was convinced I had been in love with him, when really, it was probably a surge of hormones at most.
The idea of being 'in love' is kind of scary to me. When we talk about it - be it in magazine articles, movies and TV shows - being in love is made out to be this all encompassing, mind-altering, ridiculous feeling that wipes away rational sense and fills it with lust, devotion and desire. 'In love' to me almost translates to out of control, feeling less of yourself and more hopelessly tethered to someone else. That may sound cynical, but I guess the type of love I've experienced is a two-way, happy and healthy street.
Without a doubt, I believe in love. I believe in compassion and support, romance and companionship, encouragement, sex appeal, excitement and spontaneity. I just think it's wildly different for everyone and silly for us to believe that every person is going to have the same, out-of-body experience.
I believe it's important to like and love. To experience both. You need to date to see what and who you like, just so you can love better in the future. Honestly, truly, I think whatever you yield out of your relationship is a direct correlation to what you're putting into it. As long as you stay honest and open about what you want, where you're at, and where you want to be - there's no reason why you can't be perfectly content: coupled up, hooking up, or happily single.