At the start of a new relationship, it’s common to feel that butterflies-in-your-stomach, stars-in-your-eyes rush of emotions. But when exactly does the big “L” word come into play? When do things go from infatuation to really being in love?
You may have had friends who say that they fell in love a couple of weeks after meeting someone, but other people can be together for months and months and still not be sure. So how long does it take to fall in love with someone? If you’re questioning why you don’t feel “in love” as quickly as you think you should, then it’s time to give yourself a break. Because with love, it’s often better to think about the long term.
If you’re wondering what the answers are, you’re not alone. These kinds of questions have kept most of us up at night at least once, if not more.
Unfortunately, there’s no specific timeline; there’s no set in stone answer behind how long it takes to fall in love.
Each relationship is unique, just as you are unique.
But don’t worry, the process is more important than the timeline.
It’s not that you can’t have strong feelings for someone very quickly — but, often those strong feels will actually be lust or infatuation, which can feel a lot like love in the beginning. So, when it comes to how long it takes to fall in love, you need to give yourself some time to make sure that’s really what you’re feeling.
“In my estimation it takes longer than a lot of people think that it does!” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells us. “There’s no one answer or time frame but I generally find that when people say they are in love after four weeks or even after eight weeks they are talking about lust! We can have lust and passion at first sight, but it takes longer than that to really get to know someone and figure out who they are and how the two of you connect. Love is definitely something longer term.”
So how long it takes to fall in love can really depend — and, if you’re taking a little longer, it might just mean that you’re holding out for the real thing. “And of course you should take it at your own pace,” Hartsein says. “Even if the person you are dating proclaims their love early on, that’s no reason for you to start questioning yourself and your feelings. Everyone is different.”
In this article, I’ll break down and explain the stages of falling in love. I’ll also highlight some important things to remember about falling in love.
Lastly, we’ll take some time to talk about a few factors that define lasting, healthy love.
So, let’s get started by looking at some averages. How long does it take for people to decide they’ve fallen in love?
As funny as it sounds, men and women fall in love at different speeds.
The facts say so.
On average, according to a study conducted by eHarmony and YouGov, men on average tend to jump the gun faster than women.
It might seem surprising; the idea generally goes that men are more hesitant to commit than women.
Men will wait on average 88 days to drop the “I love you” bomb. Women will wait longer, closer to 134 days.
So on average, men take around 3 months to feel comfortable proclaiming they’ve fallen in love. Women take closer to 5 months.
That’s quite a difference.
Furthermore, a study done in 2011 found that men, on average, think it’s acceptable to confess they’ve fallen in love around 1 month into a relationship.
Women, on the other hand, think it’s acceptable closer to 6 months in.
The thing is, though, I’ve had several relationships where my girlfriend has said she loved me long before I was ready; I’ve had the exact opposite happen also.
The bottom line is this: each person and relationship is different. Averages don’t give you the most honest, accurate picture of how long it takes to fall in love.
There’s no exact timeline; it’s just too personal of a decision.
So how on earth can I know if I’ve fallen in love?
It’s a good question. The best way to tell, though, doesn’t have to do with a specific timeline. The stages of romance are far more vital to understanding if you’ve fallen in love.
So what are the stages of falling in love? And how are they identified?
The stages of falling in love
There are three stages in the development of romantic love, according to behavioral anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D.:
- Lust: You feel a strong physical and sexual attraction.Lust is a bit of a stigmatized word. The idea of “lust” is often negative, associated with words like “sin”. It’s seen as shallow, a feeling that doesn’t have value or worth.
But lust is a feeling that should be far from guilt. Lust is an instinctive feeling, something that’s extraordinarily powerful. It doesn’t just have to do with sex, either.
When it comes to the stages of love, it’ll likely be one of the first–and one of the most powerful–feelings you’ll feel.
You meet someone new, and after a few conversations, you realize that they’ve been put on this earth just for you.
That may seem a bit like an overstatement, but sometimes lust makes us feel this way.
Other times lust is purely physical, a sexual desire for someone that seems overwhelmingly irresistible.
Lust is an important part of falling in love (and one of the most fun parts). It may show itself strongest at the beginning of a relationship, but its presence is felt in even the most established relationships.
Lust isn’t just a one-time affair, either, even though it’s often strongest at the beginning of love.
- Attraction: You feel overwhelmingly drawn to the person, thinking about them constantly, wanting to be around them all the time, and feeling a mix of electricity and nervousness when you’re together.
- Attachment: You feel securely connected and close to your partner, with feelings of deep affection, trust, and contentedness.
Signs of being in love:
- You feel attached and connected to this person.
- There’s way more than physical attraction going on—there’s an emotional attachment.
- You don’t really have those jittery butterfly feelings anymore. Instead, you feel a warm, steady contentment when you’re with this person.
- You’re very attentive to their needs and try to tend to them, and it’s not because you want this person to like you. You just want them to be happy.
- You earnestly care about this person’s well-being—regardless of whether you stay together.
- You would go to great lengths to take care of this person and to avoid hurting them.
- You feel alive, full, and fully yourself when you’re with this person.
- The idea of learning more about this person’s inner world lights you up.
- You want to be a better version of yourself.
- You may be thinking meaningfully about a future or long-term commitment with this person.
- You’re not concerned about the risks of going deeper with this person.
- Saying you “like” them just doesn’t feel like enough.
Some important things to remember
1) Love is long term
There’s a reason people often confuse infatuation for love. The intense feelings of infatuation feel so real, strong, and lasting.
Those feelings can honestly be overwhelming. I personally fall in love very quickly, and that’s due largely in part because my feelings of infatuation can honestly be so overwhelming.
But love is something that will last. How long will it last? There’s no specific answer, no two timelines are the same. It may seem way too short, or it may last a lifetime.
In either case, there are deep feelings of attachment involved in truly loving someone, a sense of kindness and permanence that reaches beyond any of the other stages.
2) Take things at your own pace
Going over the averages at the beginning of this article highlighted the point that people fall in love at different speeds. Even further, each relationship is different.
It might take you all but ten minutes to decide you’ve fallen in love with one person, but for a different person, it might take you ten weeks to reach that point.
So make sure to take things as slow (or as fast) as you think best. Make sure you’re comfortable. If the person you’re starting to fall for tells you they love you first, don’t feel overly pressured to reciprocate. If you’re not ready, it’s okay.
Whatever your pace is, make sure you’re being authentic and honest about yourself and feelings.
3) Don’t overthink it
Love comes naturally. In many ways, love is the opposite of contrived. Love is organic–uncontrollable, even. Sometimes we just can’t help the way we feel, or the way we don’t.
So try not to overthink things. If you’re at all doubtful about whether you’re in love with someone, it’s a good hint that maybe you’re not. Or not as much as you think you are.
An honest consideration of your feelings will always be good, but remember to go with the flow. Love is an unmistakable emotion that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought.
Here are some differences between falling in love and flowing in love.
While we can break down the biology of love and everything that happens in the brain, there’s still a lot of mystery. The reasons for falling in love, why it happens, and how it shapes our lives is so much more intangible than just knowing what chemicals make love happen in our brains.
Why do you think so many musicians write about love?
It’s a universally understood mystery.
Love takes on various shapes and forms and reaches far beyond just romance. At its most quintessential, love is going to be a positive thing.
The way we demonstrate love, reciprocate it, and behave in relationships isn’t always perfect, though. Trauma, neglect, and complexes can warp how we show love in relationships.
Not all love in practice is good. Not all love is healthy.
How to make someone fall in love with you:
Don’t put pressure on it.
You can’t really force someone to fall in love with you, and it’s important not to put pressure on the other person to get there before they’re ready. “I would steer away from trying to do things to move the process along because it can easily become inauthentic and unsustainable,” Brown-James says. “Not to mention it can feel like a betrayal when one person feels that love is owed to them as a reward for behavior.”
Consider trying the infamous 36 questions to fall in love, a research-based experiment that many couples say has helped them create feelings of intimacy. “What I really learned from the excitement around those questions and desire to have a person fall in love is that vulnerability is the key to building relationship connection,” Brown-James says. In other words, one piece of falling in love is being able to share really personal parts of yourself with the other person, to be truly open and vulnerable with one another.
Grow your emotional connection.
Having an emotional connection with someone means that you’re able to connect on a deeper level, beyond just having fun, physical attraction, or intellectual similarities. Being emotionally connected means you can rely on each other, feel seen by one another, and have shared feelings of romantic attachment. While you can’t make someone fall in love with you, you can find ways of deepening your connection as a couple.
So what are some factors to help identify healthy, lasting love?
Factors of lasting, healthy love
1) Honesty and trust
Trust is something that will make love stronger. There’s a reason relationships so often end when one person cheats.
They break that trust, the person no longer feels safe with their significant other, and they can’t love them the same anymore.
Trust is vital to healthy, lasting love. According to Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., “when you know you can totally trust your mate, it strengthens your love.”
The ability to be honest about who you are in a romantic relationship is very important. Knowing that you can trust the person you love gives you safety, comfort, and stability.
All of which are key to lasting, healthy love.
2) An emotional connection
I touched on the importance of an emotional connection a little bit earlier in the article. It’s one of the big signs you’re starting to feel real love for another person.
So if a relationship is built only around physicality, it’s not the kind of love that’s going to last very long.
Those kinds of relationships tend to live mostly in the beginning stages of falling in love, with lust and infatuation. Those things don’t last, not without something deeper to keep them going.
A relationship needs intimacy, and a purely physical relationship often lacks it.
With attachment comes a sense of loyalty. If you don’t feel very attached to someone, that love doesn’t run very deep.
So when times get tough or circumstances change (or one of you just gets bored), there’s no reasons to stay, and that love isn’t going to last.
Attachment styles differ between people, too. It’s a good idea to understand your style of attachment, so you can better communicate that with the person you’re falling in love with.
When you understand the role of attachment in lasting love, your relationship will be all the healthier for it.
The bottom line.
How long it takes to fall in love will vary depending on the individual and the relationship they’re in. There’s no real way to fast-forward the process and make someone fall in love, but there are plenty of ways to nurture a relationship so that those feelings can more easily manifest.
There is unfortunately no set amount of time. There’s no cut and dry answer.
It’s safe to say, though, that being in love with someone comes after several beginning stages, namely lust, infatuation, and passion. So it’s going to take some time to be sure.
But don’t overthink things, follow your feelings and trust your emotions. It’s important to be rational, especially during the infatuation stages of a new relationship, but don’t be afraid to be honest about your feelings.
Love is love, and it’s hard to deny it when you feel it.
If your feelings of attachment are suddenly growing deeper and stronger, it’s a big sign that it’s turning into love.
Once you are head over heels for someone, it’s not the end of the story. Remember that love is complicated and sometimes difficult, but always rewarding.
If both you and your significant other demonstrate loyalty, honesty, and a willingness to put in the effort, you’ll be rewarded with a healthy, loving relationship.
Whether that relationship took two weeks to establish, or two years.
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