How Men Fall In Love - Is It Different For Men And Women?

Updated January 18, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

What happens to a man’s body and brain when he falls in love? It can sometimes seem like our culture encourages women to talk about romance much more than men. This can leave people confused about what love is supposed to feel like for men. Do men and women fall in love differently? Or do the similarities run deeper than we suspect?

Research on this topic has shed some light on the biggest differences between women and men in love. It’s also revealed many things that the sexes have in common. This article will review some of the characteristic ways that love can blossom and grow for men. 

Nature, Nurture, And Neuroscience

Discussions about men and women often start from the idea that people of different genders are simply “wired differently”. The idea that there are deep structural differences between male and female brains may be an attractively simple explanation for why women seem to act differently from men.

But contemporary neuroscience research suggests that it’s often a mistake to assume that gender differences are rooted in the brain. In many cases, societal differences in how men and women are raised, educated, and treated by their peers may offer better explanations. That’s important to keep in mind as we look at how men fall in love.

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Men May Fall In Love More Quickly

Everyone reading this has probably heard plenty of stereotypes about women pushing for relationships while men are afraid of commitment. But there’s evidence that on average, men may actually fall in love more quickly. 

A survey of more than 170 college students found that male respondents reported both feeling love and saying “I love you” at earlier stages in their relationships than females. Another poll reported that more men than women believe in love at first sight. Statistically speaking, men may be more likely to be “hopeless romantics” than women.

Falling In Love Can Make Men Obsessive

When someone is in the beginning stages of love, they tend to find it hard to keep their partner off of their mind. You probably know what we mean if you’ve ever found yourself struggling not to send your fifth text message in two minutes to a new flame, or thinking ahead all week to your upcoming date night. 

Research on romance suggests that this obsessiveness is a very common and distinctive phase of new relationships. It appears to involve the brain’s dopamine reward system, the same mechanism responsible for habits and addictions.

Despite clichés about women obsessing over every detail of a conversation with their crush, men appear to be just as susceptible to the deep fixation of early love. One study found that men in love display hormonal patterns similar to those seen in obsessive-compulsive disorder, with their serotonin levels dropping sharply. Interestingly, although women showed the opposite pattern — increased serotonin when in love — their levels of self-reported obsession were just as strong.

Men Feel Euphoric When Falling In Love

A man who’s falling in love will often feel happier, more energetic, and more confident. Part of this may be linked to the activation of the reward system discussed above. When you’re craving another person like they’re a drug, every interaction with them can feel like the first sip of beer after a long, hot day. This can translate into an elevated mood overall for a man in love, especially if he’s spending a lot of time with the person he’s falling for.

This happy state may also make people feel more adventurous (regardless of gender). Some researchers believe that love can actually expand your sense of self, helping your personal identity become more complex. The confidence and happiness a person gets from a flourishing romance may make them more open to trying new things and adopting new interests.

Men Often Want To See Their Partners Respond

Many men enjoy the feeling of provoking a smile or a laugh from the person they’re in love with. A 2015 study looked at this pattern, analyzing how much male participants tried to make female participants laugh. The researchers found that the men’s level of interest in dating their partners strongly predicted how hard they’d try to be funny. So if a man you know seems to be constantly cracking jokes, there’s a chance he has feelings for you.

This may be part of a larger, deeply-felt need on men’s part for visible signs of affection from their partners. For example, a 2021 paper revealed that 95% of men reported that it was important to them to feel desired by their partner. Contrary to stereotypes, this need for affection may not be limited to sex; another study found that emotional closeness mattered just as much for men as for women.

Love Can Make Men Gentler

The initial sexual attraction that can spark a romance is often helped along by testosterone, a hormone that plays an important role in behaviors like sex, aggression, and impulsivity. However, studies have shown that as lust deepens into love, a man’s testosterone levels decrease noticeably. This might have something to do with the way that many men begin to show their softer sides when they develop strong feelings for someone. 

Women showed the opposite pattern in the above experiment. Their testosterone levels rose during the early stages of a relationship. The two sexes appear to be more hormonally similar when falling in love than at any other stage of life.

Men Have Better Sex When They’re In Love

People often think of testosterone as the “sex hormone”. So it might be surprising to hear that men’s sex lives get better when they’re in love, given that we just said their testosterone levels dropped. The reality is that the human hormone system is incredibly complex, and there are many more things involved in sexual desire and pleasure than testosterone alone.

Researchers report that enjoyment of sex is “associated positively with relationship satisfaction, love, and commitment for both men and women” [Emphasis ours]. This might have something to do with the fact that it’s easier to vulnerable and open with someone when you trust them deeply. The more intimacy you confer with another person, the more likely they are to understand what gets you going in bed.

Keep in mind that desire is complex and can vary widely between men. Love and sexual attraction don’t go hand in hand for everyone, and men of some orientations may experience intense romantic feelings despite having no interest in sex. However, for those who do experience a link between sexuality and love, a stronger romance often means a better sex life.

Do You Want To Better Understand What Love Is Like For Men?

Passion Deepens To Compassion

Much of what we discussed above relates to the beginning stages of romantic relationships, which are often marked by an intense, obsessive desire for the other person. Research suggests that this urgency may decrease as the relationship matures, but feelings of empathy, trust, and attachment increase. This longer-term love may be modulated in large part by oxytocin, which appears to have powerful pair-bonding effects in mammals. 

This process seems to work largely the same for most people, regardless of sex and gender. It may be marked by a greater ability to see things from a partner’s perspective and anticipate their needs. One study found that both women and men in love show greater activation in their “mirror neurons”, the parts of the brain which help us put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Love Looks Past Flaws

Men in love are also likely to see the best in their partners — maybe even viewing the other person more positively than they view themself. Many studies have found that people with deep romantic feelings hold idealized images of their partners. Once again, this seems to be true no matter your gender or biological sex. 

This doesn’t always translate into putting your partner on a pedestal or believing that they’re perfect. However, it often means finding the best interpretation of the other person’s characteristics. A man who’s fallen in love with someone will likely forgive their shortcomings and perhaps even be charmed by things that would normally annoy him.

Counseling May Help You Understand How Men Fall In Love

Once again, it’s worth remembering that the information presented above may not apply equally to everyone. Research can tell us about some of the broad patterns in the ways men fall in love, but each individual’s experience will be slightly different. If you’re feeling confused about what love means to you or your partner, it might help to discuss it with a therapist. Having a neutral, professional perspective on your relationship can often help both parties understand each other better.

Some couples prefer online counseling over more traditional in-person therapy. Conducting sessions over the internet means that you can talk to your counselor from your own living room. This may improve your comfort with the process and make it easier to express yourself honestly. It may also make it easier to coordinate schedules between yourself, your partner, and your therapist.

Most couples who tried online counseling as part of a 2020 study reported that the experience was helpful and positive. Many found that the online format made it easier for them to become “fully immersed in the therapeutic process”, and the majority said they were able to “effectively connect with their therapist.” BetterHelp’s online therapy program can help you find a licensed relationship counselor to help you understand and improve your relationship dynamics.

Takeaway

In many ways, men fall in love much like women. The early stages can involve a distracting, even obsessive infatuation, which slowly deepens into trust, compassion, and deep attachment. Men may also fall in love quickly and feel a strong need for affection from their partners. If you’re seeking a better understanding of how love is affecting you or your partner, BetterHelp can pair you with a licensed relationship counselor.

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