Entering a new relationship can feel exhilarating, exciting, and even a little scary sometimes. But, how long does it take to know you love someone?
These 21 falling in love stages will help you to understand where you’re currently at in your relationship development, and how far away you might be from falling in love, if you haven’t already.
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Amongst psychologists, there is a lot of debate when answering the question how long it takes to fall in love.
Certified sex therapist Amanda Pasciucco tells us that although there are many stages to falling in love, the first couple of stages mostly relate to lust.
She suggests that falling in love happens about 18 months-3 years into your relationship. She explains “around this time, none of those hormones that make you feel high or extra excited are really flowing through the body.” To her, love is “when you actually know your partner for who they are.”
Other psychologists have said that it can take as little as two weeks.
Everybody is different, and everyone experiences love differently. I believe that there is no definitive amount to answer this question because it really does vary from person to person.
I also believe that we are capable of loving more than one partner in our lifetime. It might take you 6 months to fall in love with your current partner, but it might have only taken you 3 months to fall in love with your ex-partner.
The timing of the arrival of love is therefore unique to each couple and their specific characters, personalities and circumstances.
Arguably, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to fall in love, as long as you enjoy the journey.
Love is a blend of physical attraction, emotional connection and constant attachment. Love cannot be defined in just a few words, more like a few paragraphs. Love has long been the speculation and muse of poets, songwriters and lyricists, all putting their own particular spin on this element of the human condition.
As we all know, there are different types of love other than romantic love. There is familial love between parent and child or siblings. But for our purposes, this is just about romantic love and the ancient Greeks had seven different words which reflect the different stages of falling in love and being in love.
If love were represented by color, there would be present all the tones of the rainbow with shades in between. That is why love is so hard to define but it is part of the human condition to want a definition, to coral it, catch it so we can understand it and apply it to our own situation.
The first stage of falling in love is the initial attraction that you feel towards this person.
Some people even believe in love at first sight.
Scientists describe this as the law of attraction which is crafted as love in the eye of the beholder. ‘I loved her as soon as I saw her’, is a phrase often heard and references a genuine attraction, which hindsight and the reasoning part of the brain look back on and dress with the mantle of love at first sight.
Whether it’s love at first sight, or attraction at first sight, both play a part in the development of your romantic relationship.
Of course physical attraction is important, but we don’t spend our entire days thinking about every single attractive person that we walk past on our way to work.
If you find that you can’t stop thinking about this person, you’re clearly invested enough to want to get to know them on a deeper level.
That’s why instant attraction is so important, because it can encourage you to feel romantically interested in this person without ever having spoken to them.
Of course this is only something that you will experience if you frequently see one another. You might work in the same building, or have mutual friends.
Frequent eye contact is the next step to fall in love. It creates excitement, and gives you a reason to feel a little nervous around each other, causing more anticipation and excitement.
Most people will know if they want to date after the all-important first encounter. It’s where first impressions are made, and where you can gain a sense of a person's behavior around you.
It’s also where you can establish if there’s a strong sexual attraction between the two of you.
This first encounter might be a date, it might result in a date, or it might establish chemistry; regardless, they are all important factors that will lead you to eventually fall in love with this person.
Dating is important, but how many times have we dated somebody for a couple of weeks and come to realize that they’re not the right person?
Regular interaction will play a huge factor in your eventual relationship, and is a natural process when getting to know a love interest better.
As this time increases, you’ll both get a better sense of how you see this person play a part in your future.
This is a big one, and will shine light on whether you’re on the same page or ultimately want different things.
If you become a large part of each other's days, then you’re on the right track to fall in love.
If you’re anything like me, you have told all your friends about them before you even spoke to them.
However, some people are a little more discreet.
The second you realize that this person is constantly on your mind, you feel overwhelmingly happy and you want your friends to know all about them, you’re entering the infatuation stage.
All of the above is well and good, but how do we know if those feelings are being reciprocated? I mean, you’re probably not going to confess love this early on, and you might feel as though it’s too soon to let them know that you like them…
When you come to the realization that the feelings are mutual, and this generally takes a couple of weeks, then you’re ready to start officially dating.
Some people date for months before entering a relationship. But the important thing to consider when you begin dating somebody is that both of your friends and family will become aware that you’re seeing someone regularly and that you’re really into each other.
It’s like the precautionary stage before you enter a relationship.
Okay so this is where the hormones really start to kick in.
Scientist Shannon Odell, in a TED-Ed YouTube video, The Science of Falling in Love, tells us that “Infatuated individuals show increased activation in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The VTA is the reward processing and motivation hub of the brain.”
“Activation releases the feel-good neuro-transmitter dopamine, teaching your brain to repeat behaviors in anticipation of receiving the same initial reward.” She goes on to explain it typically only lasts a few months, but this is like the honeymoon phase of dating.
Physical intimacy may come sooner, or even later, it’s entirely up to you. But it definitely plays a part in the development of true love.
When entering a new relationship, it’s important that the sex is good. If you find this person physically attractive, then you’re already halfway there, but you want to both feel alive when in the bedroom.
Generally speaking, this is where an emotional attachment begins to form as intimacy increases the emotions and feelings that you have towards one another.
Although you’ve both probably been feeling completely into each other, at this stage you probably haven’t verbalized it yet.
When you have an honest conversation about your feelings for each other, you’ll have a clearer idea of where you stand and where you see this heading in the future. It’s so important to know if you’re on the same page or not.
At this stage, you may decide to become exclusive.
When you rule out dating other people, you will develop trust. Not only trust in the sense of security, but in every aspect from feeling safe in their arms, to trusting that they have your best interest at heart.
Trust is the foundation of every strong relationship.
Most people wait to introduce the person they’re dating to their friends and family, because that introduction is something that can’t be taken back. This is why trust is so important.
You want things to go smoothly and you want your friends and family to like them. It’s kind of bizarre but sometimes this validation is what’s needed to begin to develop a relationship with them.
The big thing that is the label of a relationship.
Even though you’ve probably been dating for a while, your friends and family already consider this person your partner, and nothing really changes upon making it official… It still feels like such an important step.
This is when you really feel as though you can show your partner off to the world, this is where you start to imagine a future together, and this is where you really start to fall in love.
When in a new relationship, there’s nothing better than seeing how you bring out the best in each other. It’s such a lovely and secure feeling, because it tells you both that it’s right.
Spending time together as a couple will help your relationship development and you’ll both decide who it is you want to be in your relationship, if that makes sense.
What I mean to say is, something changes when we’re in a relationship, because people now perceive you as a couple and not just as individuals. So you almost develop a new identity that says a lot about your new relationship and, in turn, the future of said relationship.
Spending so much time together you’ll naturally pick up some of the other’s habits and become more in-sync.
The average person fails to see this happen as it should feel so natural to you both. However, it’s something that will generally be commented on by family and friends.
To fall in love, you can’t imagine your life without them.
You simply see no future that they’re not in.
And the beauty of coming to this realization, is that in the early stages of a relationship you tend to frequently talk about the future, encouraging you to both realize how much you mean to each other.
To confess love and to think you’re in love are two entirely different things.
Love is subjective, and we don’t always know if we can trust our feelings. You might think you’re in love, but you don’t want to say it for two reasons, the first, you’re scared they won’t say it back, and the second, you’re not actually sure if those feelings are real.
Have you ever thought back to a past relationship where at the time you thought you were insanely in love with them, but looking back you now know that it wasn’t the case? Actually, it just means it wouldn’t be the case now. Love changes, and particularly how we learn to love changes too.
Sometimes, these early warning signs are not so visible to us as they are to other people. Love is hard to pin down, hard to quantify. We might realize we are falling in love but how do we know when we have arrived at true love central station? And will this love endure?
Love is complex and textured, it has phases and shades which alter throughout its life. As human beings, we strive to evaluate each part of the journey of love so our rational brain can confirm our emotional experience.
The best way to look at it, is if you think you’re in love, then you’re probably in love.
The big confession, and once you say it once, it will just come so naturally to you; I love you, the be all and end all, what you’ve both been waiting for.
According to Christopher D Watkins, “Contrary to gender stereotypes, research in the United States demonstrates that men are more likely to confess love first.”
I say, if you know you’re in love, shout it from the rooftops. Successful romantic relationships shouldn’t hesitate to show love and affection to their partner.
Shannon Odell describes the attachment phase as the development of compassionate love. “As your relationship develops, you may feel more relaxed and committed to your partner, thanks in large part to two hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin”; both associated with romantic love, “known as pair bonding hormones they signal trust and feelings of social support.”
Love constantly grows, and you’ll never stop learning how to love and support your partner.
You might go through phases where you struggle to trust, or you might experience an avoidant attachment style, where you feel uncomfortable with intimacy. But, ultimately you will work through it and love will persevere, and if not, it doesn’t make your love for each other any less valid.
If you both tend to fall in love quickly, it might be that you’re already falling for each other. If this is the case, everything might be a bit more full on than the typical dating process we’re used to seeing.
A major sign that you’re already falling for each other is if you’re talking very openly about where you see your future together, and if you immediately want to spend a lot of time together; almost like an overwhelming feeling of dependence on somebody.
However, remember to remind yourself of the difference between lust and love. It can be easy to get ahead of ourselves when experiencing infatuation.
The early signs of love differ from what comes later. Initially, the human brain goes into overdrive and seemingly, all normal service is suspended. The key signal is you cannot stop thinking about that person and, if you see them a lot, say, someone you work with, you just can’t stop looking at them.
Ironically, stress can play a big part in falling in love. The brain is under pressure and may release cortisol which is the stress hormone. This is what can account for that feeling of a fluttering heart; this is actually physical and tangible anxiety. You may feel sick or just nauseous, you may even sweat or perspire.
Helen Fisher, an American anthropologist, coined the phrase to describe love as, “someone camping out in your head.” Fisher had long been studying romantic love in over 150 different societies. In an experiment conducted in 2011, Fisher and her scientific colleagues conducted an MRI scan of 37 people who were truly, madly, deeply in love.
The scan revealed an increase in dopamine, the feel-good hormone demonstrating tangible evidence of romantic love akin to the highs experienced following alcohol or cocaine use.
They discovered activity in areas of the brain such as the caudate nucleus in the cerebrum of the brain which is linked to the reward mechanism. Crucially, this part of the brain also integrates sensory experience into defined social behavioral patterns.
I think it’s possible to love at first sight due to the fact that love is what you make it. Love has a thousand different meanings and interpretations.
Technically speaking, can you love someone so much that you’d risk absolutely everything for them at first sight… probably not. But, it can definitely lead to that, and will even play a hand in the amount of love you go on to feel for this person.
If you feel such a sense of infatuation that you feel as though you fall in love upon laying eyes on this person, then there’s a good chance those feelings are going to continue.
Infatuation turns into love when the excitement wears off and you’re entirely comfortable around this person.
A good relationship should always feel exciting, but when you truly begin to feel comfortable around each other, and feel confident that you will have a lasting love together, that’s when you know things are getting pretty serious.
You could argue that you can still feel infatuated and in love at the same time, but generally speaking those intense feelings should begin to settle and you will be a lot more natural around one another as your relationship develops.
As we’ve established, there is no definitive amount of time that it takes to fall in love, and it will entirely depend on the people involved.
And although there are many stages to falling in love, every couple is different and will experience a different journey when developing feelings.
First and foremost it’s important that you understand how you love, in order to see if you’re falling in love. It can take a while to learn, as it’s not something we tend to give much thought.
Learn your love language, take the time to understand your emotions and feelings, and take the time to think about what you want in a partner.
Then, everything else should come naturally.
It’s also always a good idea to seek advice from your friends and family; those who you already love. They will be able to see if you’re truly happy, and they are the ones who will be able to see if you’re in love, probably before you even realize yourself.
As they’re not infatuated with your partner (hopefully not anyway), they’ll be able to guide you and help you to make sure you’re not love blind.
Please feel free to comment any of your experiences with falling in love, and as always, share with a friend in need.
It can feel incredibly overwhelming trying to figure out if we’re falling in love or not, and figuring out if we’re in a relationship with the right person, so show your friend in need that they’re not alone and that love can be complex, but it’s all about having the right approach.