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Falling in love isn’t a choice, but loving is. Then again, how can you know for sure if you’re simply lustful or looking for fun, or properly head-over-heels in love? Luckily there are a few signals that might help you know for sure!

Love comes in many forms. It grows and matures, it adapts to different stages of relationships, from never-ending phone calls, exhilarating date nights, and non-stop thoughts and butterflies, all the way to the comforting companionship of long-term commitment.

Love can be dizzying and intoxicating, or soothing and affirming. It can be obvious and discreet, celebrated or feared, joyful or anxiety-inducing, reciprocated or unrequited.

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Sometimes knowing you’re in love is obvious. But because love is both desired and elusive, sometimes the answer isn’t clear. If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re not certain whether you’re in love. Maybe you’re in a new relationship and suspect your partner could be the one. Maybe you’ve been with someone a while, and aren’t sure if you love them enough to fully commit. Maybe you’re unsure what love even is.

In the words of psychiatrist M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled:

“Falling in love is not an act of will. It is not a conscious choice. No matter how open to or eager for it we may be, the experience may still elude us. Contrarily, the experience may capture us at times when we are definitely not seeking it, when it is inconvenient and undesirable. We can choose how to respond to the experience of falling in love, but we cannot choose the experience itself.”

Whether you’ve been in a relationship for five weeks, five months, or five years, you’ll want to know whether it’s true love. Although only you can know for sure, there are a number of standout signs that indicate love is in the air. Below are the five biggest indicators you’re in love. These signs correlate to the three stages of love identified by anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher: lust, attraction, and attachment.

1. You Might Be in Love if Your Emotions Are Erratic

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As the saying goes, all’s fair in love and war. Falling in love implies something outside of conscious control. We become love drunk and love blind, under a spell, transfixed or even obsessed, if you experience the elusive twin flame connection. Poets, artists, and philosophers across the ages have tried to capture the exhilarating and sometimes terrifying experience of falling in love.

During the early stages, love has a highly disruptive impact on your emotions, mirroring stress or anxiety; you may be unable to eat or sleep, have constant butterflies, and become more impulsive.

The science behind this shows just how much of an addictive force love can be. Fisher’s research discovered that the early stages of falling in love, lust and attraction, flood the brain with chemicals such as dopamine and testosterone. Dopamine is part of the brain’s reward circuit, and causes feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Testosterone is the hormone responsible for sexual desire.

A result of all these ever-changing processes is erratic behavior and mood swings, which some studies have found mirrors addiction. If you notice that you aren’t yourself, that the object of your affection is causing a swing of emotions, hyper-excitability, anxiety or longing, it could be a sign you’re in the early stages of love. So, take a deep breath, and get ready for the ride.

2. Love Might Cause You to Think About “Them” all the Time

In addition to an emotional rollercoaster, the early signs of falling in love include intrusive or ever-present thoughts of the person with whom you may be falling in love. “Many are willing to change their habits or beliefs, even die for this special other,” Fisher writes. “The besotted thinks obsessively about him or her, known as ‘intrusive thinking;’ and they crave emotional union with the beloved.” Research by Fisher has shown that people in love think about their beloved 85 percent of the time.

The experience ranges anywhere between a welcome escape or attraction, such as joyfully daydreaming while queuing in the supermarket, or frustration, such as replaying recent interactions during an important meeting. But the result is the same: the intrusive, never-ending thoughts aren’t chosen. Instead, they’re the brain’s way of telling you that love is taking its lead. 

3. If You’re in Love, You’re Probably Looking for More Than Sex

A lot of online advice about being in love focuses on the early stages. But how do you know if you’re in love in a long-term relationship? The biggest giveaway comes during the transition between lust and attraction to the attachment stage. While falling in love isn’t a choice, and is sometimes an inconvenience, choosing to commit to someone, and build a relationship together, takes discipline and work. That usually begins with the acknowledgment that the relationship offers more than just sex.

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Moving beyond casual dating, perhaps you find that you’re looking for emotional intimacy, shared interests, or socializing with each other’s groups of friends. An emotional union may start to become a priority over a sexual one. Studies have also discovered that the majority of women fear emotional infidelity more than sexual infidelity, demonstrating how important a trusting and safe emotional connection is for a lasting romantic relationship.

4. You Feel What Your Partner Feels if You’re in Love

Hugging-in-the-fog

As an extension of yearning for more emotional connectivity, in addition to romantic feelings, you may notice you naturally become more attuned to your partner’s emotional landscape. Psychologist Elaine Hatfield identified two types of romantic love. Passionate love indicates strong attraction and sexual chemistry. The other type, compassionate love, is dedicated to mutual respect, truth, and affection. Underlying these qualities is the ability to truly understand what your romantic partner is feeling.

This is also the stage where love becomes more active. Whereas falling in love seems to happen all by itself, compassionate love requires the ability to understand your partner through communicating clearly, listening, and understanding how you can improve their lives. It doesn’t mean taking too much responsibility for their happiness, though — that can be a sign of codependency.

5. Love May Make You Include Partners in Future Plans

loving mature couple

As a more mature and long-lasting love develops, taking the place of the erratic and unpredictable stage of falling in love, it’s natural to start including your romantic partner in your plans. That involves day-to-day and long-term strategies.

Being in love is, for the most part, a beautiful experience, and it’s natural to want to spend as much time with your partner as possible. Sharing life experiences together, moving in, or following the traditional path of marriage and children, can all be part of the future life you wish to build.

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When it comes to true love, this process should feel effortless, or at least fairly clear. If you’re struggling to picture your partner in your future, it pays to look at this more closely. It doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t right, as it could indicate an inner blockage, such as being afraid of commitment or intimacy. However, if you feel like you have to force enthusiasm for future commitment, it could be a sign that the love you seek is lacking.

Why Is It Important to Know if You’re in Love?

young couple flirting outside smiling
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

No two relationships are the same. Knowing if you’re in love depends on what your goals and motivations are for the relationship. As we’ve looked at above, falling in love isn’t a choice, and isn’t always an indication a relationship is right. Love runs the risk of being addictive, and as is the case with all chemical highs, it can’t last forever. What’s more important is looking at your relationship, and considering whether you’re compatible in multiple areas. Is this a person you can learn, grow, and evolve with?

If that’s the case, there’s a promising potential to make things last long-term, beyond the honeymoon period. But love has to become a choice — something that guides every interaction and decision. Something that stops you from being overly reactive, and encourages you to apologize when you slip up. Knowing you’re in love is one thing — knowing you want to be loving is another.

Falling in love can be attractive because it’s a mysterious process. But developing a loving relationship, one that is committed and respectful, and honors love as a daily practice, is where the treasure truly is.

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