[This article was originally published in July 2020]
Falling in love is one of the strangest and most wonderful things a human being can experience. And while it’s different for everyone, there are some common thoughts and feelings that can help people identify when it’s happening.
You might be experiencing one of the obvious indicators – like not being able to think about anyone or anything else but that person – or the signs could be more obfuscated.
Whatever it may be, there’s no doubt that falling in love in today’s labyrinthine dating landscape is complicated. In a bid to simplify things a little, The Independent spoke to psychologists to identify some of the clear signs that you might be falling in love with someone.
1. You can’t stop staring at them
It’s a classic sign of infatuation: losing yourself in the eyes of the one you love. Consultant psychologist Marc Hekster explains that this is one of the most obvious signs that you’re falling in love with someone. “Why wouldn’t you want to look into the eyes of someone who you experience as the most beautiful and attractive person in your world?” he says.
The thing is, when you look at someone you love, you don’t just see what they look like. You might see your entire future together, or at least imagine what it could be.
“You are looking for something,” says Hekster. “If you have ever seen a mother looking at their newborn baby, or looking at their child in a loving way, then you will recognise some of this constant staring at your love object.”
2. You abandon your usual activities
If you’re enjoying spending time with someone, the reward system in the brain increases your motivation to want “more” of that time, explains dating psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree. “You start to crave their presence,” she adds.
You may start thinking of ways to be near them, too, which can include taking up their interests in the hope it could help strengthen the fledgling bond between you.
“For example, you may detest salsa, but find yourself enrolling on a salsa course, even if they are not on the course, because you feel closer to them by proxy,” explains Mason Roantree. “It also gives you something else you can talk to them about, and perhaps it’s a way to entice them to get closer to you.”
3. You don’t mind when they do something unattractive
“The power of love and new love, in particular, is primitive,” says Hekster.
This means that when someone you’re falling in love with does something you might perceive as unattractive, whether it’s being untidy or leaving the toilet seat up, you won’t mind. In fact, you might not even notice it.
“Love can be immensely powerful and can be associated with the loss of all inhibition,” adds Hekster. “Think about parents who are in love with their baby and how they will acknowledge that they love their child no matter how dirty they are, or how much they stop them from sleeping.”
4. Time flies when you’re together
If you are falling in love with someone, chances are, your time with them will go by very quickly, explains chartered psychologist Daria Kuss.
This is often the case when we’re doing something we enjoy – and spending time with someone we’re falling in love with is no different.
“You are in the flow when you are with them,” she adds, “so you won’t notice the ticking clock when you spend time together”.
5. They can do no wrong
Falling in love can warp your sense of reality a little, says Hekster.
“It is likely that if you feel deeply in love with someone, then you will have a somewhat unrealistic view who they are and how they present themselves,” he adds.
So whilst you might be inclined to be critical of someone else doing or saying something, if your partner does or says them, you might love them for it, because in your eyes, they can do no wrong.
“Even if they are wearing sandals with socks. It’s what makes them so beautiful, right?!” he adds. “When you are in love, all you see is a version of beauty that feels unchallengeable. It is the idealisation of the individual upon whom all your feelings are focused.”
6. You feel unusually optimistic
When you’re falling in love, everything else in your life might feel weirdly wonderful, says Mason Roantree.
“You might also feel a little more energetic for no apparent reason,” she adds.
“This is the result of all those ‘dopamine hits’ you have been getting from thinking about your partner and doing things, either with them or that remind you of them.
“The act of positive anticipation helps reduce feelings of stress, so the anticipation of being with your partner boosts your mental health making you feel better about life.”
7. You want to touch and kiss them
Again, this might seem very obvious. But the reason why you want to touch and kiss someone you’re falling in love with is far more deeply rooted than you might think.
When you touch someone you’re falling in love with, it releases the “love hormone”, oxytocin.
“This will make you feel happy and strengthen the connection between you and your partner,” explains Kuss.
8. You always think about them
“Falling in love involves a surrender of our feelings to another person,” says Hekster.
In that surrender, Hekster explains that we merge with that person in a way and become completely preoccupied with them to the point where they dominate our thoughts.
Again, this is partly thanks to oxytocin, which is released in the brain during sex.
“It can affect emotion, cognition and social bonding,” adds Hekster, all of which can make you feel closer to someone and foster feelings of love.
9. You want them to be happy
When you start to fall in love with someone, you might find yourself feeling more altruistic than usual, says Hekster.
“This characterise the more mature versions of love,” he adds, explaining that it can be a sign of deep, long-lasting love.
“You don’t only want happiness for yourself, but you want it in equal measure for the other person.”