The weird but unmistakable signs you’re falling in love
Seven signs you’re falling in love (according to science)
Long the domain of poets, artists, and philosophers, love is a fairly new topic in the world of scientific study. However, despite being late to party, science has provided some excellent insights into why romance makes us act the way we do. Indeed, these days, if you want to really know if you're falling in love, science has the answers! Culled from neuroscience and behavioural psychology, here are seven actual, scientific signs you're falling in love.
Read more: think you're falling in love? Take our Am I In Love Quiz and find out for sure!
1. You feel a genuine rush or high when you think of them
One of the most well-known scientists studying love is biological anthropologist, author, and TED Talk guru Helen Fisher. Fisher is interested in how the brain's chemistry shapes romance, and among her many interesting findings is the discovery that love and the limbic reward system are closely linked. This means that you can feel genuinely high when falling in love.1
It all comes down to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel joy. Fisher has found that the bit of our brain that creates dopamine (the Ventral Tegmental Area or VTA) is sparked by the act of falling in love: in scans you can see people's VTAs lighting up when they think about their romantic partner. Fisher went into more detail in an EliteSingles interview, but essentially the process is simple: thinking about your loved one causes your VTA to flood your body with dopamine, making you feel a rush of joy. In other words, if you suddenly feel overwhelmingly giddy and happy when you think about someone, there's a good chance you're in love.2
2. You can’t get them out of your head
Brain chemistry is also responsible for the phenomenon where you just can't stop thinking about someone. This time the culprit is serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Serotonin is a mood regulator, and its presence helps us feel stable. When someone is newly in love, however, tests have shown that serotonin levels dramatically drop off – and the result is that our brains are able to go a little haywire. Without serotonin to keep an eye on proceedings, we experience the dopamine rush even more explosively, we crave it even more strongly, and we're unable to stop ourselves going back for another hit.3
3. You experience sleeplessness and loss of appetite
You meet someone amazing and suddenly you're unable to eat or sleep. Sounds like a plotline from a cheesy romcom or romantic TV show, right? In fact, science tells us that these are actually real symptoms that people experience when they're first falling in love.
While love can feel great, inviting someone new into your life also requires vulnerability. Feeling vulnerable can be a little scary, so it can trigger our adrenal glands to release cortisol (aka the stress hormone) in an effort to combat the fear. One theory is that this dump of cortisol constricts the blood vessels in our stomachs, leading to a decreased appetite.4 An abundance of cortisol can also cause insomnia5 – so if that person's on your mind and you can't eat or sleep it may be time to embrace the vulnerability and admit that you're in love.
4. Your heart rates synchronise
U2 may have been on to something when they sang Two Hearts Beat as One, at least according to professors from the University of California, Davis. In a 2013 study, a UC Davis research team looked at the resting heart rates of romantic partners. They found that the heart rates of couples in love often mimicked each other, even if the couple were just sitting quietly without speaking or touching. However, this phenomenon only worked if the couple in question was romantically involved: random pairings showed no sychronicity.6 If your heart beats in sync with your partner's, then, it's a great sign that you're both falling in love.
5. You are more open to new ideas and activities
Feeling extra inspired to try new things (particularly those that your new squeeze likes)? Then there's a good chance that it's love. A 1995 study that tracked college students throughout the year found that those who fell in love began reporting higher levels of self esteem and increased openness to trying new ideas and diversifying their hobbies.7 So, if you feel compelled to start food blogging, or you develop a new found interest in your partner's hockey team, or you can't wait to try out new date ideas, it could because love has a hold on you.
6. You start planning for the future
You meet someone and soon you're daydreaming about the future: where you'll go for vacation, what your wedding will be like, how they'll look in 20 years. If the thought of all that commitment isn't scary at all, it's a great sign you're falling in love. Scientists have theorised that this sort of speculation is more than just idle daydreaming; it's part of our biological drive towards reproduction (and yes, these drives exist even in relationships where babies are not on the cards). Daydreaming about a shared future - especially if you do it with your partner - is a way of strengthening pair bonds, increasing attachment levels, and telling these biological drives to rest easy: this relationship is going to go the distance.8
7. Your empathy towards your partner just keeps growing
According to Psychologist Elaine Hatfield there are two types of love: passionate and compassionate. Passionate love is that can't-keep-your-hands-off-each-other infatuation that often characterises the early part of a relationship. Compassionate love (aka companionate love) is much softer, encompassing the growing intimacy and trust between you. And it's this second type that is most likely to last.9
A big sign you're falling in compassionate love is an ever-growing empathy towards your partner: you feel sad when they're sad, happy when they're happy.10 You go out of your way for them – whether it's with a grand gesture or with something as small as bringing them their favourite ice-cream from the store. Their happiness matters to you. If you've suddenly turned into a big pool of empathy, then chances are you're truly smitten.
Want more indications that you're falling in love? Try playing our Is It Love? game.
Five in a row means bingo! - it's love!
17 more little signs you’re in love
The scientific indications that you're falling in love are indeed insightful, and it's certainly reassuring that what might feel like weird behaviour is in fact totally normal. However, no list of signs you're in love would be complete without a rundown of the little actions that show you're hooked. The following list is unscientific, unobjective – and yet we're willing to bet that those in love have felt nearly all of them!
1. You actually like the sappy love songs on the radio
2. As soon as they leave, you miss them
3. They make even running errands fun
4. You know their coffee order by heart
5. Your heart beats faster when you’re about to meet up
6. You keep catching yourself staring at them
7. You find their little quirks incredibly endearing
8. Just the thought of them makes you smile
9. You make each other laugh until it hurts
10. You constantly check your phone to see if they’ve got in touch
11. And your heart skips a beat when you see they’ve sent a text
12. They’re the first person you want to call when you get good news
13. And they’re the first person you call for sympathy when it’s bad news
14. You genuinely want to meet their friends and family
15. You want to make them proud
16. You feel safe and warm when you’re around them
17. They make you feel as treasured as you do them