Here Are 6 Clear Signs You Actually Love Someone, According To Science

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You've probably heard that "love works in mysterious ways"—so, uh, how exactly are you supposed to wade through all that mystery and know if it's real or not? Social media, movies, and pop culture, in general, will have you believe that love is meant to feel like fireworks and butterflies. You're supposed to hear music and "see the light." So, what if you don't? Does that mean it's not true love?

The short answer is no. Falling in love can mean many different things and it's felt in many different ways—and that love can evolve over time. Nearly everyone in long-term relationships has doubt and questions at some point. "We don't stay in that high place all the time," Linda Carroll, M.S., a licensed marriage and family therapist and life coach, told mbg. "Some days are cloudy, some are stormy, some are gray, and sometimes the sun shines. Relationships are seasonal and cyclical."

But you can rest easy knowing that there are actually a few key signs that will help you figure out if what you're experiencing is real love or not, even if things aren't always "perfect":

1. You feel no pain.

You've probably heard stories of mothers who instantaneously gain incredible strength to save their children from impending dangers. It turns out there's science behind the connection between being in love and feeling no pain. One study showed that simply viewing a photograph of your romantic partner could provide immediate pain relief. Of course, this doesn't mean love is a cure-all for any ailment. But feeling a sense of relief from pain, discomfort, or stress when your partner is near could be a sign of true love.

2. You want to try new things.

Have you ever had a friend who finds a new partner and seems to become an entirely new person? Falling in love can often mean you're willing to get out of your comfort zone and try new activities or hobbies. If you find yourself willing to go for a run or a hike, or travel to a foreign country, with your new beau (for the first time in years), it could mean you're falling in love. That said, it's even better if your partner is also stepping out of their comfort zone for you. Bottom line: If you're trying new things that are new to both of you, or if each of you is partaking in the other's interests, that's a great sign.

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3. You want them to be happy.

Compassion plays an important role in healthy love. As with most relationships, you should always want what's best for the other person. After all, how can you expect them to contribute to your happiness if they're not happy themselves? "Compassionate love" is a telltale sign of true love. It means you're willing to go above and beyond to make your partner happy, putting their needs above your own in certain instances.

4. You just can't look away.

"Love at first sight" might just sound too good to be true, but research has shown that prolonged eye contact actually can lead to a romantic connection. Gazing into your partner's eyes sounds like something straight out of a rom-com, but wanting to do it can be a sign that you're fixated on them and that you love the person.

5. You feel the urge to utter three little words.

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it's worth noting because there's actually science to back it up. If you find the words "I love you" on the tip of your tongue, it probably means that those words and feelings are true. And while heteronormative culture will have you believe that women are more likely to say "I love you" first, research shows that men often beat them to the punch.

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6. You still think about your ex (stay with us here…).

It's not uncommon to think about past relationships and lovers. In most cases, people view this as a sign that you're not over that important person you left behind. But surprisingly, research has shown that reminiscing can actually be good for your present relationship. Though it sounds backward, being reminded of your previous relationships (good or bad) can boost emotional and social health and even contribute to greater satisfaction in your current relationship. So if your ex occasionally pops up in your brain, or even if you find yourself comparing your ex to your new love interest, don't take this as a sign that you're with the wrong person. It could mean just the opposite.

It's important to keep tabs on this, though. If these memories and comparisons are so pervasive that you can't fully be present in your current relationship, that may be a sign you're with the wrong person or that you haven't given yourself the proper time to process your feelings or heal.

The importance of healthy love.

Remember that a healthy relationship requires balance. It's important to reflect and try to figure out if you love the person, but you should feel love too. Does this person want to try new things with you? Does this person want you to be happy? You can only be your best in a relationship if it's a true partnership.

As time goes on, also remember that "a long-term relationship has many seasons," says Carroll. So if you find that your once-profound feelings of love start to wane a bit, that's not necessarily a sign that you no longer love the person. The act of falling in love, she says, "is a chemical high that isn't meant to last forever."

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