How Do You Know If You Love Somebody?
Updated February 11, 2020
Reviewer Laura Angers
Love can be complicated. It's something many of us want but have great difficulty defining. If we say, we love someone we often describe feelings and emotions without really pinning much down. Because we all love differently the list of "symptoms" can be confused with other feelings like lust or obsession. Especially when we are young knowing what love is can be a game of trial and error.
Start With The Facts
- How Long Have You Known Them
Love takes time to grow. When we meet someone and instantly feel a connection that is not loving but lust. Lust is part of love, but love cannot be part of lust. When we lust after a person, we don't know them well but have a strong physical craving for them. This intense relationship floods our system with a variety of different chemicals much like addiction and lights up similar areas in the brain. If you haven't know that person long, then it's more likely that you're in lust with them rather than in love.
One of the reasons you might be wondering if you're in love is if the relationship has been going on for a long time. Time, while a strong indicator of love, may not indicate love if the feelings are not "sure." Most people realize they are in love suddenly, it simply "happens" one moment. If you have to debate whether you're in love or not, then there's a good chance you're not, but you may be on the way there.
- How Do You Feel Around Them
Being in love is like being with your best friend. It feels natural and normal; there's no pressure and no need to "perform." When you love someone, you feel the same way about them whether they're in sweatpants on the sofa or dressed up for a night out. Love isn't about impressing anyone or being someone you're not it's about sharing space and emotions together.
If this person isn't someone you actually spend time with and only admire from afar, then there is no way you're in love with them, and what you're feeling is just strong lust.
When you're in love, it's very peaceful. You feel secure in your affections knowing that they feel the same way about you. The exception to this is unrequited love where you may feel everything, and they do not feel the same. Unrequited love can be very difficult because your feelings are strong and may even reflect those of a person in love but because the object of your affections doesn't feel the same the relationship can never work.
Those dealing with unrequited love go through the same stages of grief that a person who has a break up goes through. They will experience the same emotions, same thought processes, and experience almost the same feelings as someone who was in a real relationship that has ended.
If you're in love, you'll miss them terribly when they're gone. You think about them all the time; you talk about them a lot, it can sound like a bit of a broken record. When you're in love your connection to that person is very strong, it's mostly connected to the dopamine/oxytocin reactions in your brain when they're around. Whenever you're apart, those levels drop so your brain tries to create ways which will make you interact again and bring their levels back up. While it can feel like you "miss" someone you care about, actually being in love is much more powerful than that alone - it feels like a constant thought at the back of your mind.
- What Is It That You Love About Them
When you're in love you can come up with a million little things that person does that makes you love them. When you're in lust because you don't know them very well most of those statements are either physical or superficial. For example, a person in lust might say the person they admire has a nice butt, and while a person in love might agree that their partner has a nice butt, they will also be able to say thing like they love the way their partner cares for them.
People who are in love spend a lot of quality time together, even if that's over video chatting because of long distance. They can tell you details about a personal life because they're interested in their life and not just their image or how "fun" that person appears to be.
- Are You Behaving Like You're In-Love
According to Dr. Gary Chapman love has 5 "languages" that you can spot when you're in love. People in love spend a lot of quality time together, they touch each other a lot, they want to do things for their partner just to make them happy, they give each other little gifts, and they may also tell them a lot of compliments. When you're in lust, you're not likely to do the first or the third because the interest is purely physical.
It can also be hard to tell the difference between love and infatuation. While you may think about them all the time, people who are infatuated rarely know the person they are obsessing over. It's likely that you may only have met them a handful of times, or even if you're seeing them regularly, your relationship may not have progressed beyond casual conversation even if you've gotten physically intimate.
- How Do They Feel About It
If you're not very close to them and can't tell what their feelings are then it's much more likely you're not in love. Love is a mutual feeling and if it's only one-way then
When you start a relationship you might feel many physical symptoms like a fluttering in your stomach, you might feel full of energy or antsy, and you might even feel nauseous. Asides from that, you may want to talk to everyone about your newfound love.
It can be scary talking to someone who you're not sure about, but if you're in love doing so should feel very natural, especially as they likely feel the same. Honesty is the best choice in this situation because without knowing you'll continue in an awkward limbo. Tell them how you feel and ask about their feelings without putting pressure on them.
So What's The Problem?
Love is a complicated thing, maybe you're in love, but your partner isn't. If this is the situation talking to a relationship counselor might help. While you can't force someone to fall in love, they may simply be unsure of their feelings and need help expressing themselves. Perhaps it's frustrating you that they don't seem to be behaving like they're in love but still say they love you. Sometimes love isn't going to happen, and even when you love that person with all your heart, they just don't feel the same. Unrequited love sucks, and it can leave you feeling empty and despondent. Therapy can help you talk through these empty feelings and give you better coping strategies for your grief as you try and move towards healthier relationships.
Unrequited love can also bring up questions about sexuality. While many cultures accept same-sex relationships, some do not, and it can lead to feelings of confusion and even a loss of identity or depression. While you may believe your love isn't acceptable talking these feelings through with a therapist may benefit you from wasting your time and help you accept your sexuality beyond the confines of your culture.
If you've decided you're in lust but you just can't seem to let go of them it might be time to talk to a therapist. Lust can lead to other problems like sex addiction if you feel you can't control your emotions. In cases like this, therapists often try and help you talk through what it is that is causing you to hold on to that person while forsaking anyone else. If you're obsessing over them, it's just as unhealthy as an addiction because of the way your brain chemicals work. While reading books and blogs and doing quizzes might lead you to the right conclusions without a solid diagnosis obsession and infatuation can bloom into stalking and other legal issues. Seek help asap if you're in this situation.
Even if you know you love someone if those feelings aren't mutual, then a relationship can never work out. Love is a two-way street and only works when both people share the feelings. If you're struggling with your feelings talking to someone can help you move on. Sites like BetterHelp allow you to look over different counselors and therapists so that you can find someone who is not only experienced with your problem but who you feel can best help you. While love can be a wonderful thing, it can also be one of the most painful if it isn't meant to be.