love is love

How to know if you’re in love: scientists weigh in

Portrait of young man falling in love at first sight

How do you know if you’re in falling love? Most people will say “you’ll just know”. But that answer just doesn’t cut it for some people. And that’s understandable, especially for those who have never been in love. After all, how do you know when you don’t know what you’re supposed to know?

Here, you’ll find some of the most common (and scientifically proven) signs that you’re falling head over heels in love. 

RELATED: Stunning new photography book showcases men in love between 1850 and 1950

7 Clear Signs That You’re Falling In Love

Can’t stop smiling whenever you think about your new beau? Do you feel safe around them? Warm and tingly? Do you get emotional when talking about them? If all of these are familiar to you, then perhaps you are falling in love. But to be certain, make sure to look out for the following signs:

1. You Experience Physical Symptoms Alongside Your Feelings

Yes, you can, in fact, become lovesick. While falling in love can make you feel good, the early stages of new romantic love can be a roller coaster of emotions – good and bad.

For most folks, there is an urge to impress their future partner, and so they put a lot of pressure on themselves to say and do all the right things. On top of this, you constantly have to deal with the feeling of uncertainty. What if they don’t feel the same way as I do? What if I’m rushing things? What if they don’t like the “real me”?.

As such, someone experiencing new love can experience symptoms more commonly associated with anxiety, such as sweaty palms, the feeling of having butterflies in one’s stomach, a fast heart rate, loss of appetite, and an inability to fall asleep. This is due to elevated levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine.

Teenager typing on smartphone lying in bed early in morning

2. You Can’t Get Someone Out Of Your Head

Relationship experts like David Khalili believe that not being able to get someone off your mind is one of the telltale signs of being in love. For some people, it gets to the point where the object of their affection is the first person they think about when they wake up and the last person they think about as they drift off to sleep.

Indeed, biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher confirms this: “When you’re madly in love with someone, in a romantic attraction, you are obsessed”, she says. “In a platonic attraction, you don’t think about them night and day”. In other words, friends don’t usually obsess over their platonic friends.

But why do we get obsessive when we’re in love? It’s deceptively simple. Being in love makes you feel happy. It activates the part of your brain that releases dopamine, or the pleasure chemical. Your brain then remembers the thing that brought you immense pleasure and develops a craving for similar experiences.

3. You Feel An Urge To Take Care Of The Other Person

When you’re in love with someone, you don’t just enjoy spending time with them. You tend to feel a strong inclination to put their interests first. You pay more attention to their wants and needs and you start thinking of ways to make their lives easier. It’s like you develop a deeper sense of empathy for your partner and you want to do everything you can to help them.

Licensed LGBTQ+ marriage and family therapist Adrienne Michelle tells Cosmopolitan that, “When you’re starting to fall for someone, you want them to feel prioritized”. This could mean anything from buying them soup and meds when they’re sick to running errands for them when they’re swamped with work.

But bear in mind that being in love with someone isn’t a good enough reason to set your needs aside to give your all to another person. Many people tend to lose themselves when they’re in love, allowing their entire worlds to revolve around their love object. This isn’t healthy and could result in codependency down the line.

lovers hugging drinking cup of coffee together in the morning

4. Your Beloved Makes You Want To Be A Better Person

They say that if you fall in love with the “right person”, you can be more motivated to grow and improve certain aspects of yourself, be it in the realm of your career, your mental health, or your finances.

According to couples therapist Krista Miller, a new partner may help someone realize their faults and shortcomings and push them to be “the best version of themselves”.

5. You Start To Take On Your Partner’s Traits

Have you ever noticed how a lot of couples in long-term relationships tend to dress similarly? According to relationship expert Dr. Nikki Goldstein, “harmonious dressing” is done subconsciously, and is likely to happen because we “tend to want to fit in with the person we are dating”.

Thus, people who are in love will tend to pick up on and adopt each other’s traits, food preferences, hobbies, interests, and even how they act and talk.

“You’re attracted to your partner for a reason and by being in a relationship with them you’re indirectly saying ‘I like the way you do things’,” says Dr. Goldstein.

Young lesbian caucasian girls brushing teeth with toothbrushes in bathroom at morning

6. You’re Less Worried About The World Around You

Not in the sense that you care less about other people or society at large, but being in love can make your worst fears and worries start to feel less threatening. It can even make you feel excited for what the future holds.

In a study by the Journal of Personality, researchers found that engaging in a romantic relationship “decreased neuroticism” in young adults. As it turns out, when you’re in love, you tend to see things through rose-colored glasses.

7. You Experience These Three Key Components

According to psychology professor Robert. J. Sternberg, who coined the “Triangular Theory of Love”, there are three main components to love:

  • Intimacy is about a sense of closeness or connectedness. It’s what gives you those feelings of warmth in your body when you think about or are around the person you love.
  • Passion is about the drive, or the motivation, that leads to romance. It refers to your physical attraction and desire to have sex with someone.
  • Decision/commitment refers to your commitment to make future plans and build a life with another person. Being deeply committed to someone is a sign of long-lasting love.

But experiencing these components doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing romantic love. It depends, says Prof. Sternberg, on the amount and balance of these components between two people.

For example, infatuation, says Prof. Sternberg, is the result of experiencing passion and excitement without intimacy and commitment. Meanwhile, romantic love is a combination of deep intimacy and passion, while complete love results from a “full combination of all three components”.

Gay couple laughing together

How To Know If You’re Falling In Love

Falling in love comes with so much uncertainty. It can be confusing, overwhelming, dizzying even.

But you don’t need to take a “how to know if you’re in love” quiz online to find out whether you’re falling in love. At the end of the day, all you have to do is listen to your body, listen to your mind, and as corny as it sounds, listen to your heart.

RELATED:  Finding love in a world that’s rigged in favor of straight romance