Great question, Ashton.
I'll answer your question with the film Pretty Woman.
Richard is working on another business deal in Hollywood and expecting his SO to be at his side. She tells him over the phone he loves winning deals more than he loves her — the story of his life.
Vivian is new to sex working. Richard stops his car for directions, and she climbs in. They end up in his hotel room, and the next day he offers her a week’s contract to escort with him for $3000 without any romantic ties.
Soon into their agreement, they develop romantic feelings for each other and begin to fall in love. We know this by the way they interact and speak intimately with one another, and one evening after making love, when Richard snoozes, Vivian says, I love you.
But each of them refuses to love one another in a way that conveys commitment, and for differing reasons.
Until they solve these issues, regardless of how they feel, they will never love each other as lovers do.
After the week is up, it is time for Vivian to leave. They talk of being together, something Richard wants, but Vivian refuses as he cannot accept Vivian's needs in love – a fairy tale of idealised love.
Soon after, Richard realises he can satisfy Vivian's needs and chases after her in the way a romantic prince would. Then he makes the commitment of a lover, and she does the same.
With Pretty Woman in mind: I can share with you the components of love.
Richard and Vivian felt love as they fell in love, but feeling love is not enough!
To be in love is to take up a posture which includes:
You see these components in the film close to the end.
When Richard hands the diamond/ruby necklace to the hotel for return, the manager says:
It must be difficult to let go of something so beautiful.
In this short scene, there is insightful depth:
Three important points:
As for the second part of your question: What distinguishes liking someone from loving someone besides the level of intensity?
When you like someone, you do not commit to them in the same way you do with love, as described above.
The problem we have in English is like and love have become interchangeable:
I love McDonald's burgers
For most people, these three comments are not expressions of love, but merely figures of speech. Love and like are not, therefore, defined by the intensity of emotion, but by the presence of value, commitment and attachment as described above.
For example, would someone consider McDonald's hamburgers more valuable than all the wealth in the world, be committed to being there for them wherever and whenever, and be zealously attached to them as they are a loved friend, brother, mother or lover. Methinks not. And yet, there are many people who 'love' McDonald's burgers.
Some of the confusion has to do with the intensity of one’s feelings, but here you speak of something other than love.
Returning to Pretty Woman, when Vivian says, I love you to Richard as he snoozes, her feelings at that time were intense, and remained so for the rest of the film, even when she left him after refusing to be with him.
Her comment (I love you) highlight a difference between feeling love and the commitment of love.
I'll explain differently:
I lived with a girlfriend and felt love for her and told her I loved her, meaning at that time I value you immensely, I am committed to being there for you wherever and whenever, and I zealously hold on to you because you are my girlfriend. Things were not working out, and we split up. For a long time, I continued to feel intense love for her (painfully so), but I could not say I love you because I could no longer commit myself to her and she was no longer my girlfriend - she was someone else's. Over 18 months the immense value I had bestowed upon her waned as my feelings waned.
One's intensity of feelings, therefore, inform you to commitment, attach and bestow value upon your beloved, but if you cannot accept your beloved, or your life together, that intensity does not matter as you simply cannot be with them and ultimately do these three things. Or maybe I should say should not matter, as in truth for many lovers it does matter.
Why do I say this?
Many lovers will not leave their beloved because their feelings are so intense, even when their relationship is desperately unhealthy.
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