How to Know If You're In Love, According to The Experts

A racing heart and obsessive thoughts about someone are surefire signs.
Men kissing on cheek how to know you are in love
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Dina Cheney - The Knot Contributor.
Dina Cheney
Dina Cheney - The Knot Contributor.
Dina Cheney
The Knot Contributor
  • Dina writes for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in food, travel and relationships.
  • With more than 20 years of experience in service journalism, she also pens articles and recipes for publications, such as Good Housekeeping, Parents, SELF, Health, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Prevention, Fine Cooking, Weight Watchers and Diabetic Living.
  • Dina graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University and The Institute of Cul...
Updated May 23, 2023

You seem to think about and desire your partner 24/7 and the hot barista at your local coffee shop no longer has any effect on you. You may not even be able to picture your life without your partner. But how do you know you love someone, really?

To help answer the age-old question of how do you know you love someone, we spoke with three acclaimed experts: Dr. Paulette Sherman is a psychologist, author of Dating from the Inside Out and host of the podcast "The Love Psychologist." Dr. Beverly B. Palmer is the author of Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life. And Dr. Marisa T. Cohen is a marriage and family therapist and owner of the practice Embracing Change Marriage and Family Therapy, PLLC. A relationship scientist, she studies relationships from both the clinical and academic perspectives.

Now, before you go and drop those three little words, scroll on to help determine whether or not you're really, without-a-doubt, head-over-heels in love.

In this article:

What Does Love Feel Like?

When we first connect with someone who makes us feel desirable and needed, it's likely that we conclude that we're in love. Along with feeling significant and not being able to stop thinking about this person, we're also just plain happy, due to the brain chemistry involved with these new emotions.

As Palmer explains, the "chemistry" we feel with someone is thanks to hormones: The stimulant phenylethylamine (PEA) and two neurotransmitters (serotonin and dopamine) cause us to constantly think about and want to be with our partner. We want to kiss and touch them and we lose interest in other people romantically.

The Signs That You're Falling in Love

As Sherman explains, when it comes to falling in love, "brain areas involving reward and euphoria are activated." This may cause people to display and experience certain behaviors. And as passionate love develops into a stable, long-term love these behaviors may grow, shift and increase.

5 Signs of Passionate Love

Passionate love comes earlier in the relationship, when everything is still new and exciting. As you fall in love with your partner, you may experience the following signs:

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Loss of appetite

  • Daydreaming about your partner

  • An increased display of empathy, especially towards your partner

  • Being increasingly affectionate

5 Signs of Stable/Long-Term Love

Staple or long-term love develops as you begin to build and plan for a life with your partner. As you continue to spend time and work on your relationship with them, you may experience the following behavior (sometimes in addition to the signs above):

  • A willingness to make sacrifices for your partner

  • An insatiable curiosity about your partner

  • Feelings of comfort and safety

  • Focusing on and excitement for the future

  • Striving to be a better partner and person

How do you know you're in love?

Even if you checked off all the signs above, it may still be tough to really know and trust that you're in love. According to Palmer, the biggest giveaway of being in love is when you perceive that your lover is fulfilling you in the ways that are most important to you. And if there is some area of the relationship where you aren't satisfied, they're open to making adjustments to help you feel fully supported and satisfied.

Cohen adds that you should also experience feelings of trust and safety in their presence. Committing to your partner, envisioning your life with them and shifting your focus from "I" to "we," are all surefire signs of being in love.

Is there a difference between being in love and loving someone?

When you are in love or experiencing passionate love, the nature of this cognitive function and the increase in hormone release makes you feel sexually attracted and bonded to your lover, explains Sherman.

In contrast, as passionate love develops into a long-term love, you'll discover that loving someone involves accepting their assets and flaws. It means truly knowing them, supporting them and committing to them even when the relationship isn't easy.

How can you tell if you are falling in love or experiencing lust?

Both lust and love involve intimacy, explains Cohen. However, lust is often focused physical intimacy, whereas love centers on emotional intimacy.

If you lust for someone, you may be very sexually attracted to them. Yet, you may not feel any desire to bond with them or join their world in other meaningful ways. Falling in love involves the whole person.

"You want to bond with that person on mental, emotional, physical and spiritual levels, too," notes Sherman. "You probably want to be part of their larger life and there's a desire for greater attachment."

How can your love change over time?

Researchers say the hormones involved in being in love tend to fade one-and-a-half to three years into a relationship. Afterwards, love transitions into a more companionate love, based on attachment.

"It may feel less obsessive, frenzied or lustful and more like a friendship-based romantic love relationship," Sherman explains. "You can still have a great sex life and really enjoy each other, but the hormones subside due to familiarity."

That said, relationships possess natural ebbs and flows. "At times, partners feel more connected to one another and during other times, less so," says Cohen. "The introduction of stress and big life changes can also affect your ability to connect to and express love to one another."

How can you keep the love going?

Lasting love requires empathy, acceptance, genuineness and active caring, explains Palmer. "The more we display these qualities in a relationship, the more we will receive those qualities."

Basically, by investing in your relationship, you'll up the chances that your bond will stand the test of time.

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