Amour. Is any pursuit more worthy? For it, any sacrifice too great? But how do you know if you’re falling in love when you can’t exactly DM cupid to confirm your suspicions? After all, falling in love doesn’t always feel like the crescendo of a romantic ballad, or look like a rom-com. And you may not be the type of person who’ll be tempted to burst into a chorus of “So This Is Love,” while hugging your glass slipper. While the sensations may vary by person and relationship, here are some telltale signs that you are, indeed, falling in love. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
You want to share your world with them.
Dawoon Kang, Cofounder and Co-CEO of online dating platform Coffee Meets Bagel, says “Falling in love is different for everyone,” adding she believes in the Triangular Theory of Love, which is Cornell University’s Dr. Robert J. Sternberg’s idea that there are three aspects of love: intimacy (the desire to feel closely connected), passion (physical and emotional stimulation) and decision/commitment (the resolve to stick together).
“You don’t need all three components to know that you’re falling in love, but they are strong indicators that you’re on the way,” she explains. “But don’t conclude that someone isn’t falling in love with you because they aren’t showing the same exact signals as you do.”
That said, Kang’s greatest sign flowing from the intimacy department is you find yourself wanting to divulge as much as you can with your love interest, from a small win at work to your relationship history, she says.
“I knew I was falling in love with my now-husband Jack when I found myself calling him every night, wanting to share every little detail about my day and wanting to know about his,” she gushes, as she reflects on the beginning of her romance with her spouse since May (after dating for about two years).
They’re always in your thoughts.
It may be trite, but it’s true. You know you’re falling in love when that special someone begins to take up major real estate in your thoughts. In fact, Kang recalls re-reading her husband’s text messages and viewing his photos over and over again when they began dating because she thought about him so often.
And you’re dying to know if they’re thinking about you, too.
If you find yourself considering whether this person feels similarly and you look for for signs that they’re missing you, too, that’s another signifier, says Dr. Jacqueline Olds, an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
“Your stomach and heart may take a leap every time they contact you or suggest spending time together,” adds Olds, who has completed extensive research on long-term marriage alongside her husband of 41 years Dr. Richard Schwartz. In addition, the couples therapists co-wrote Marriage in Motion: The Natural Ebb and Flow of Lasting Relationships.
Along this same vein, if you’re falling in love, you tend to experience a warm feeling when you think about your significant other, according to Kang, who has given multiple talks on dating, technology, and entrepreneurship—most notably her TEDx talk: “The Beautiful Truth About Online Dating.“
They become a priority.
“We make time for what–or who–we love,” according to the chief dating expert for Match (formerly known as Match.com), Rachel DeAlto. “If you’re rearranging, reprioritizing, and reimagining your life, you may be falling in love,” she explains.
You crave them.
You read that right. Similar to how you can crave a favorite food or perhaps a pumpkin spice latte this time of year, you can crave a person too.
Match’s chief scientific advisor, Dr. Helen Fisher, has studied these feelings and found that an area of our brain associated with focus and craving called the Ventral Tegmental Area or VTA creates dopamine when you’re falling in love.
Note that this yearning is coupled with feeling a rush when you think of them, points out DeAlto, who is additionally a relationship expert on Lifetime’s Married at First Sight and TLC’s Kate Plus Date.
You even find their quirks attractive.
Perpetual apologizer? Neat freak? Snorter when laughing? All traits of your beloved are fair game and seemingly welcomed when you’re falling in love.
“You start to find everything about them irresistible. Their little quirks, their odd sense of style and so on all become endearing,” explains DeAlto.
More important than their external composition, you’re mindful of the emotional climate within the other person: what troubles them, what brings them joy or triggers anxiety. “You care about their happiness, as much as your own,” says DeAlto. “Empathy and compassion for your partner rises as you fall in love.”
They make you feel better about yourself.
People in the throes of falling in love often report feeling like they know more, or can do more, according to Dr. Theresa E. DiDonato, an associate professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland. She describes how an experience of “self-expansion” often occurs as people fall in love, meaning their own sense of self grows through their relationship with this new person. For example, someone whose partner loves hiking might start to see themselves as a hiker too.
You’re ignoring other attractive people.
Gone are the days of swiping right, inboxing or eyeing around for you. If you realize you’re not as inclined to investigate those other fish in the sea, DiDonato argues this is telling.
“Falling in love may correspond with changes in attention, specifically: people in loving, committed relationships show less attention to other viable partners,” she says.
You’re kind of freaking out.
Replaying interactions in your mind. Analyzing text messages. Mulling over what to wear. Haven’t we all been there? That delicious daze that can also disrupt our everyday peace or functional madness.
“Changes in stress or anxiety may correspond with the early stages of falling in love,” explains DiDonato. While exhilarating, the newness of a relationship, the uncertainty, and the intense experience of new romantic love can predict stress, as indicated by cortisol levels or self-reported anxiety, she says.
Their traits become your traits.
Whoever first coined the term “two become one” wasn’t kidding. As a romantic couple gets to know each other, their own perceptions of self begin to merge, says DiDonato. “Because of this self-other overlap, individuals feel real pride for their partner’s achievements, see themselves more like their partner, and can mistake their partner’s characteristics for their own,” she says. On top of that, you may start to dress or talk like your new boo.
You want to say those big three words.
You look hot.
Just kidding–not those three, although Kang does mention desiring a physical connection and opportunities to express your affection outwardly as natural parts of this process. And, you know it’s love and not just lust or a physical attraction because you’re curious and interested in what makes them tick, says Olds. “You want to hear their words and their thoughts, not only feel their body,” chimes in Schwartz.
But, as you expected, you do find yourself wanting to take the courageous leap of saying “I love you,” says Kang.
Friends are noticing.
Are you always talking about them or asking if you can bring a plus-one along? Yeah, your friends see that. They also might notice that you’ve been spending less time with them as you’re devoting your attention to your romantic relationship. Just don’t forget to try to strike a balance, DiDonato says.
You see a future with them in it.
“You might find yourself making weekend and travel plans with them,” says Kang. Or maybe what you envision can go further… like your wedding theme, or relocating to another city together. In any case, this is a strong sign and reveals commitment blossoming, according to Kang.
It feels right.
“I actually think for a majority of people it’s not a hard question and the answer is perfectly obvious to them,” says Schwartz. “And part of that is because one of the characteristics of being in love is this feeling of rightness and certainty and absence of doubt,” he adds. He goes on to explain that the parts of the brain responsible for social judgement and critical thinking go into a slower operation when we’re falling in love and there isn’t the kind of scrutinizing, questioning and assessing we may undergo in alternative circumstances. “Love is something we feel and, when we do, we say ‘this is it.’”