Couples therapists give 9 signs that you're in love — and why they matter
Being in love comes with exciting new desires, physical symptoms, and changes in the way you think about the future.
- If you love someone, you may start to wake up and go to sleep while thinking about them.
- You may also crave them physically, start planning a future with them, and want to show affection.
- Being in love also means that you're willing to put in the work to see the relationship thrive.
If you've asked your friends how to know if you love someone, it's likely that they said something along the lines of "You'll just know," or "When you know, you know."
For some people, it really is that easy. But not everyone experiences love the same way. And for others, more practical advice might be needed to help you identify your feelings.
If you're looking for some concrete indications that what you're feeling is the real deal, here are nine signs that you might love someone romantically.
1. You go to sleep and wake up thinking about this person
If you love someone, it's likely that you think about them quite a bit, to the point where they might be the only thing on your mind before you go to sleep and the first thing you think of upon waking, says David Khalili, MA, LMFT, couples therapist in private practice.
Thinking about them is likely a pleasant experience and makes you feel good because being in love — especially in the early throws of it — activates reward centers in the brain responsible for releasing dopamine, a compound responsible for pleasure.
In fact, some experts refer to love as being a "natural addiction."
2. You want to take care of them, and vice versa
When you love someone, it's only natural that you feel an urge to take care of them, comfort them, and protect them – and you want them to do the same for you in return.
"You are expressing your love for them by providing them with the types of comfort you know or can reasonably expect that they'll appreciate," says Khalili.
3. You feel like you grow together
Being in love comes with the opportunity for both you and your partner to grow.
Your partner may push you to be the best version of yourself, and you may learn that you're more capable of self-reflection and adjustment when you love someone, says Krista Miller, LMFT, couples therapist at Align Couples Therapy.
Even challenges that you face together can help you grow and feel closer to one another.
4. You're motivated to show affection
When you love someone, you'll want to show it often to continue to cultivate a loving relationship and let your partner know you care about them.
Depending on you and your partner's love languages, you might have unique ways of showing your affection for your partner, whether that's through physical touch, acts of service, quality time, gifts, or words of affirmation.
A nice bonus is that intimacy is healthy for you. "High levels of intimacy correlate negatively with depression and positively with immune function and cardiovascular health," researchers reported in a 2016 review.
5. They complement you rather than "complete" you
When you have a healthy sense of self-love, self-esteem, and self-compassion, you are probably in a place where you aren't seeking out someone to "complete" you. Rather, you need someone who complements you.
You'll know that you love someone because you genuinely enjoy spending time with them and caring for them, which is different from liking someone simply because they make you feel better about yourself, says Miller.
6. You crave them physically
Since this may also be a sign of lust, make sure you're experiencing this along with all the other signs of being in love so you know it's more than just sexual attraction.
"You're craving their touch, smell, taste, or whatever you can get," says Khalili. You want to feel bonded and attached to the person you love, and this is one way to do that.
Researchers suggest that love, as a whole, originated from the fundamental, physical urge to procreate. But humans have managed to distinguish between lust and love, which is clear from studies that indicate each affects very different areas of the brain.
7. You feel physical symptoms
There is some truth to the term "lovesick." Khalili says you might feel physical symptoms such as knots in your stomach or a loss of appetite.
A 2016 paper found that experiencing such symptoms may be due to higher levels of the stress hormone norepinephrine being released in early stages of love.
These feelings may be especially prominent in the earlier stages of falling in love.
8. You notice yourself planning the future with them in mind
You might start picturing future dates, adventures, trips, a marriage, or starting a family with the person you love, Khalili says. It might be hard to picture a life without them in the future.
"Whatever it might entail, it's showing that you're excited about this person and you feel safe enough to include them into your future," says Khalili.
9. You're willing to put in work
Relationships aren't easy – they take active work from both partners in order to thrive.
Miller says one way to know you love someone is if you are absolutely willing to put in the work over a prolonged period of time.
More importantly, each person in the relationship feels grateful to have the opportunity to put in the work. And this goes back to the idea that love, from a strictly biological viewpoint, is based around reward centers of the brain responsible for feel-good compounds like dopamine and oxytocin.
Be on the lookout for signs like an urge to take care of your partner, motivation to show affection, and willingness to put in work when you're trying to figure out whether you love someone romantically or not.
Everyone experiences love differently, but these signs are good indicators that you're on that path with your partner.
While falling in love can be absolutely amazing, be sure to stay vigilant and be aware of any red flags to make sure your relationship is healthy.