You might think that people who are truly in love automatically know the answer to this question, with no doubt in their minds—and a lucky few do, but for many, this generally isn’t the case. The extent to which people can recognize and distinguish between their emotions is different. This is a problem because it affects our actions.
So how do you know if you’re feeling love—or something else?
Research on love and relationships offers a scientific basis for discerning between love and interpersonal emotions. This research does not guarantee long-lasting relationships. As you attempt to understand your current situation, consider the following signs. These signs may help you decide your next move.
1. You find yourself saying “we” more than “I” or “me.”
Language is a window into your perception of yourself and others. What words do your use? What words do your partners use? People who are close use plural words like “we” more frequently in conversation than singular pronouns like “I” or “me”. People who feel close to someone are more likely to use plural pronouns when expressing feelings of love.
2. You’re ready to make sacrifices for the other person.
Love is in the air. Sacrifice is also in the air. Costly commitment signals can lead to a more long-lasting relationship. Costly commitment signals are pro-relationship behaviors that require substantial sacrifice, perhaps in time, emotions, or financial resources—e.g., driving a partner to an appointment or giving a gift. It is good for relationships to engage in expensive commitment signals. However, if these behaviors are absent they can lead to a decrease in long-term stability.
3. You enjoy looking at their faces.
The surprising sign of romantic intentions is eye gaze. It can be used to distinguish between love and lust. A recent experiment revealed that visual attention in love is directed towards the face. In lust, however, the focus of the eyes is often directed toward the body.
4. You don’t mind the idea of some dependency.
People want to control their lives. Relying on others can make life difficult. Plus, people aren’t always thrilled to have others depend on them. However, experimental evidence shows that people who are highly motivated to increase closeness—like those who are in love—no longer hold negative views of dependence when it comes to their love interest.
5. You sometimes feel like you can’t get enough of this person.
Prominent relationship researcher Helen Fisher suggests that love is a biochemical experience—much like drug addiction, because intense love activates the brain’s reward system in ways quite similar to addictive substances. While it is important to find a balance between time alone and time together, attraction is also vital. Sometimes, long-term happy relationships can feel as passionate as when the couple first met.
6. Although you have your differences, you share important dimensions with this person.
Although the idea that opposites attract seems compelling, it is not supported by research on long-term relationships. That said, opposites do tend to attract for short-term flings, suggesting that there’s a great deal of appeal in the exotic or different—although that appeal may not sustain a relationship. Your partner and you are more likely to be compatible if your relationship is heading toward long-term love.
7. You’re physically attracted to this person.
Some people might argue that love isn’t about sexual attraction, but research confirms that sexual desire and sexual behaviors enhance closeness and intimacy, promoting pair bonding, or attachment to a significant other. It’s believed that sex is a mechanism that keeps a couple together, and is part of the experience of consummate love.
Love doesn’t look the same for every person, but these trends depict what scientific evidence suggests many people experience. It can be difficult to tell the difference between passionate love and long-lasting love. Research suggests that passionate love can be sustained if it is accompanied with substantive compatibility, support from a social network and mutual commitment.
With 16 years in the adult industry, including many years at LELO, it’s fair to say Stu has been around the sex toy block a few times. As LELO’s resident sex geek, he’s been featured in the Independent, the Guardian, HuffPost, Vice, Cosmopolitan, and anywhere people talk about sex. In a regular op ed, he shines his light on the key events that are affecting sex today. His views are his.