Love and being in love are among the purest of human emotions. To love someone unconditionally is an indescribable experience. Love is often described as infinite, beautiful, wonderful, positive, or amazing. There are many different ways to love another person; it does not always have to be in the romantic sense. For example, there is the love a parent has for their children, the love for other family members, and even the love for friends. However, the most familiar type of love is romantic love. Romantic love is often described as the type of love that takes your breath away, makes your stomach feel like it is going to fall out of your body, and makes you do things you never thought were possible. Prior to being romantically in love with someone, people often experience a period where they are falling in love.
How Does a Person Fall in Love?
There is no clear-cut way to describe how a person falls in love. Many times, people describe falling in love as having “just happened”. Love is usually something beyond our control, and often we do not get to choose the people we fall in love with.1 There is no “right” age or “perfect time” to fall in love. The best age and time to fall in love is when both partners are ready to receive and give feelings of love to each other.2
Being in love with someone is unique to the individual, and there are even varying patterns among different age groups. Young love, for instance, is often passionate and short-lived. Many adults describe falling in love with someone new as “feeling like a teenager again.” While there is no one way to fall in love, the following list includes a few examples that can lead to a person falling in love3:
- Close proximity to a person
- Attraction to a person
- Feeling a deep connection with a person
- Being intimate with a person
- Having similar interests as a person
- Sharing values with a person
Feelings of love may include happiness, exhilaration, excitement, joy, anticipation, nervousness, comfort and completeness.4 However, love may be painful at times. It may include feelings of anger, frustration, jealousy, sadness, or fear. If a relationship does not end up the way one person hopes it does, it may be incredibly devastating. Relationships commonly have ups and downs. Couples may fight, clash, struggle or argue with each other. However, couples who are in love believe that the good times together outweigh the bad. This belief is especially true for strong and healthy relationships.5
Each couple has their own timeline for falling in love. Generally, the being in-love stage lasts from six to eighteen months.6 In the beginning stages of love, people are very interested in the other person. A person may feel an intense longing for the other person’s attention. In the early stages, a person may not see the other person’s faults and have an extremely positive opinion of the object of their love.6 Hormonal changes have been linked to falling in love. Researchers have found that females who had recently fallen in love had higher testosterone levels than females who had not recently fallen in love and that males have lower testosterone if they had recently fallen in love compared to those who had not. Both females and males who had recently fallen in love had higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.6
As time goes on, people become used to loving each other, and there may be a switch from passion to intimacy. Shared experiences can also contribute to a couple moving from falling in love to being in love. Being in love comes at a different time for each couple. The shift between falling in love and being in love occurs when the partners have developed deeper feelings for one another and reciprocate feelings of love.7 Additionally, hormone changes have been related to being in love. Oxytocin and vasopressin are associated with the intimacy and are often secreted when a person is in love.7
“Love” vs. “In Love”
It is possible to feel love for many different people. Love for family members, such as your mother, father, sister, brother, aunts or uncles, is often unreserved. It is immediate and can feel automatic. Loving your friends is somewhat similar to familial love. A person may care for, admire, and protect their friends. These are all examples of love, but it is different from being in love with someone.
The main difference between loving someone and being in love is that being in love with someone is associated with having romantic feelings for them. Romantic feelings can include getting butterflies when around the person or hear their name. A sign of romantic love is constantly thinking of that person. Emotions are unpredictable and being in love with someone may leave a person feeling out of control and at a loss for words. One of the best things a person can do when they are in love is to simply let go and enjoy the experience.
Saying “I Love You”
At some point in a relationship, one or both partners may feel the urge to say “I love you.” There is no time frame for when it is appropriate to say those three little words.8 A person may be afraid their partner might not say it back or feel the same way. These situations can be hard to navigate. Partners may be afraid of saying the words too soon, or not at the right moment. An important thing to remember is that love does not come with a rule book. If it feels right, say it. If a partner does not reciprocate, it may be time to evaluate the relationship and make sure the partners are on the same page. People fall in love at different speeds. Even if one partner is in love with the other, they may not feel ready to say “I love you.” They may decide to show their love in others ways. While some people value actually saying the words “I love you,” while others may value actions to show their partner they love them. These actions may include writing notes, delivering flowers, running an errand, repairing something, or any small thing that they believe will make their partner’s life a little easier.
When it comes to family and friends, saying “I love you” can be an entirely different concept. Family members may say they love one another on a daily basis, at the end of phones calls, or on the occasion. Each of these timelines are normal and vary between individuals. It is less frequent to say “I love you” to friends. Friends often express their love through actions, not words. Spending time together, trying new things with them, opening up to them may all be signals that indicate love in friendships.
It is important to remember that you can never tell a family member or friend that you love them enough. Tell your loved ones how you feel, and often.
What About Sex?
It is a common perception that romantic love should always include sex. However, sex does not have to be a part of a relationship if a person is not ready for it to be. The best way to deal with the issue of sex is to be open about it with your partner. Communication about your feelings and what you want from a relationship will help partners learn their values about sex and intimacy. If physical intimacy is an important aspect of a relationship to a person they should communicate it to their partner. Talking about intimacy will ensure that the needs of both partners are met. It is important to remember that physical intimacy does not have to mean sex. Partners may cuddle, kiss, or engage in other forms of sexual behaviors if they feel comfortable doing so. When one partner wants to have sex but the other does not, it may be difficult to find compromise. Caring about a partner includes respecting their decision to have sex or not. If one partner is not ready, it is important for the other partner to respect that decision and communicate other ways both partners’ needs can be met.
Sex and physical intimacy are not the only ways that love can be expressed to a partner. Furthermore, having sex or being intimate does not mean that partners are in love with one another. Partners can have sex and not be in love. Likewise, partners can be physically intimate and be in love. If the partners are in love, sex can be used as a way to express the love in the relationship.
If a relationship does include sex, it is important to consider some form of birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While pregnancy is only an issue for heterosexual couples, it is still important for LGBT couples to talk about barrier methods of contraception that will reduce a person’s risk of contracting STIs.
Falling Out of Love
People can fall out of love just as they can fall into love. Falling out of love can be as involuntary as falling into love. When falling out of love, one may feel conflicted and struggle with their emotions. All intimate relationships go through challenges, but a lack of connection may mean that a person is falling out of love with the other person. Falling out of love often comes with lessened affection. When falling in love, feelings of physical affection are frequent. As connections lessen, partners may not feel the need to express love in the same way. This lack of affection is often noticeable.9 When falling out of love, a person may have a change in priorities. Their partner may not be as important to them as they once were. Also, falling out of love may come with a lack of energy, patience, and enthusiasm in regards to one’s former object of love.9 The end of an intimate relationship can be painful because most lovers intend to remain fully committed to their relationship.
Famous Quotes About Love
“Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Ernest Hemingway
“Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.” – Lao Tzu
“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” – Aristotle
“There is no remedy for love, but to love more.” – Henry David Thoreau
“The heart was made to be broken.” – Oscar Wilde
“The laws of gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.” – Albert Einstein
“Love is something eternal; the aspect may change, but not the essence.” – Vincent Van Gogh
“Love is the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” – Mark Twain
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.” – Sophocles
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama
Many people seek love from and give love to other people. There are a number of different types of love, which include familial love, friendship love, and romantic love. In regards to familial and friendship love, a person generally loves another person. In romantic love, a person is generally in love with their partner. Saying “I love you” can be a common and natural thing between family members. Romantic love can often cause people to think about when and how they first say, “I love you” to their partner. There is no instruction manual for love; thus, people can say, “I love you” in a variety of ways and within any amount of time. Actions and behavior can be a nonverbal way of telling your partner that you love them. Sex can be a way to enhance love, but communication and respect is essential. It is important to remember that sex and physical intimacy can occur between partners who may not be in love with each other. Physical intimacy itself does not mean there is love between partners. Overall, love is a strong and pure emotion that inspires people to maintain and create human connections.
Check out this interesting video about falling in love!
- Dovey, D. “Falling In And Out Of Love: How Much Control Do You Have Over Your Emotions?” Medical Daily. (2017).
- Pickhardt, C. “Adolescence and Falling in Love.” Psychology Today. (2012).
- Barker, E. “How to Make Someone Fall in Love with You.” Time. (2014).
- Thrasbyule, L. “What Falling in Love Does to the Brain.” LiveScience. (2012).
- Poulsen, S. “A Fine Balance: The Magic Ratio to a Healthy Relationship.” Purdue Extension. (2008).
- Downs, M. “Timeline of a Love Affair.” WebMD. (2009).
- Sogunle, K. “The Difference Between Falling in Love and Loving Someone.” The Huffington Post. (2016).
- Ben-Zeev, A. “When Should You Say ‘I Love You.’” Psychology Today. (2014).
- Gunther, R. “Are You Falling Out of Love?” The Huffington Post. (2015).
Last Updated: 18 April 2017.