I hear it often – people who say they are in love, but then afterward admit that they weren’t. It’s easy to “feel” in love. I feel love for various actors, fictional characters, and chocolate. But truly loving someone is different. I’m young, and by no means any expert on love. I’m just a romance writer who only knows one true thing about love, but I’ll reveal that later. So, if you’re feeling these loves feelings and you want to know if it’s real, how do can you find out?
Let’s understand that love feeling a little more. Ashley Cameron in her article “Chemical Romance” explains that happy rush you’re feeling is caused by dopamine, which regulates pleasure and emotional responses. You’ll also feel a rush of PEA, which is the endorphin that increases sex drive. These chemicals produce obsession, sexual attraction, and erotic love according to Phillipa Perry from Psychology Today.
In other words, those butterflies and tingles you feel when you’re around that special someone or even thinking of him or her can be the beginning stages of love or lust. You can’t stop thinking about that person and you want to spend all your time with them. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in love – it means you’re really really attracted to that person.
Marriage therapist Christine Milrod says “dopamine increases last about six to eight months on average. Though the length of time varies for everyone, it never lasts longer than a year, leading some to assume the fade of the “giddy,” loving feelings means they fell out of love.” Six months is the average time it takes to begin to really get to know someone. Can you be in love before these six months? My personal opinion is no. You can feel in love, but you can’t love someone you don’t know. What you love is the idea of that person. Who you idealize that person to be.
So let’s say you’ve known the person longer than six months. Now how do you know it’s love? Perry explains that love is developed from practicing goodwill, commitment, compromise, and understanding. This love is known as Pragma, which is “when the passivity of erotic transference turns into the active behaviors of listening, caring, dialogue, appreciation, mutual impact and priority.” During this development into mature love, the chemical that is responsible for bonding and trust, oxytocin, is released. Marriage therapist Sharon Hart May says, “It takes about two years to form a bond with someone.” This doesn’t necessarily mean it takes two years to love someone, just to become really attached.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (NIV).
Love is not a feeling. It is a commitment backed up with loving actions. I don’t believe it’s possible to fall in love with someone else once you’re already in love with someone. You can feel erotic attraction to someone else, but that’s not love. And if you truly believe you love someone else, then you don’t truly love the person you’re with.
I once asked my mom the question I’ve been trying to answer here. “How do you know you’re in love?” I asked her. “You just know,” she said. This made no sense to me and I insisted that she explained it. She couldn’t. She just said, “you just know.” I later discovered that she was right. If it’s something you’re questioning, there is a high chance it isn’t love, maybe not yet.
I am not a love expert, but there is one truth I know about love: it is selfless. When you put someone else’s needs before your own desires, then it’s love.