Am I in love?
The question is simple—or is it? “While some people are struck by love at first sight, for others, love unfolds over time as attachments and commitment grow,” explains Pam Shaffer, a licensed psychotherapist.
If you’re not among the lucky few who know they’re in love right away, you might be struggling to pinpoint exactly when your feelings for someone have tiptoed into L-word territory.
Don’t stress if you’re not sure yet: It’s healthy to let love slowly develop as you get to know someone, and you learn about their positive and negative qualities, Shaffer says.
But to help guide you in figuring out your feelings, she and Vienna Pharaon, a licensed marriage and family therapist, provided some signs to help you determine whether or not you’re in love.
Signs that you might be in love:
1. You prioritize the other person’s needs on the same level as your own
When you start thinking about someone else’s desires and needs as much as your own, it’s a pretty good sign that you are in love, Shaffer says. “You may not necessarily want the same things but when you are in love, you start thinking of the other person’s perspective just as much as your own.”
2. You feel comfortable being yourself
“When you start allowing your partner to see your flaws, that’s when love can flourish,” Shaffer says. You should never feel that you have to hide something from your partner—and if you do, it’s probably not real love. That’s not to say you should give up on being presentable and polite to your partner, but remember it’s often our imperfections and quirks that make us lovable. When you feel comfortable being yourself, for better or worse, that is a good sign that you are in a trusting, loving relationship.
3. You feel grateful for your partner without taking them for granted
If you find yourself feeling thankful for the little things your partner does—not just the grand gestures—then you may be in love. “You don’t just assume they will be there for you, even though you trust that they will,” Shaffer says.
4. You are proud of their accomplishments as if they were your own
“When your partner finally publishes that novel they are working on or gets that promotion, your heart should swell with joy,” says Shaffer.
When you’re in love, you want want to brag about your partner’s accomplishments and take pride in their projects, whether they are something you are super interested in or not. Love can be feeling in alignment with your partner’s joy and success.
5. You are willing to put in the work to understand them even if you have a conflict
“Even when you are fighting, love is knowing that you are still on the same team,” Shaffer says. It can be frustrating but it’s worth it to put in the work to peacefully resolve conflicts, which there will be, even and especially when you’re in love. Of course it’s not fun, but you still want to do it because you want to be with your partner.
Signs that you’re probably not in love:
1. You’re not being your authentic self
You shouldn’t hide yourself or compromise on your values in order to be with someone, explains Pharaon. “If you find yourself needing to be inauthentic in any way for fear of the other person leaving, then the dynamic is not as healthy as it could be.” It’s also probably not love.
2. You’re codependent
Love and codependency are two completely separate things, and it can be easy to conflate the two. “Wanting someone to need you has been romanticized in movies and media for ages,” says Pharaon. “This ‘I can’t go on without you’ might sound charming, but relying too heavily on one another eradicates a sense of autonomy and independence.”
3. You immediately feel like you can talk about anything with them
Adjacent to being codependent is this idea that you can tell your partner everything from the moment you meet. This actually implies a lack of boundaries, according to Shaffer.
It’s one thing to feel comfortable with your partner, but a whole ‘nother to feel as though you can just spill your emotions all over someone you just met. “Vulnerability is being judicious about who you trust and love, not just oversharing because you feel like it,” she says.
4. You have great sexual chemistry, but that’s it
Great sex is important in most relationships, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor of whether or not you’re in love. Throughout loving relationships, sexual activity can change over time. “If it’s the only thing going for your relationship, that’s not going to go very well,” says Shaffer.
5. You feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster
“All those ups and downs are usually more of a sign of mismatched attachment styles or potentially a disaster waiting to happen,” says Shaffer. When you are in love, there will be some particularly spectacular moments, but you should not feel like you’re constantly up and down.
People sometimes confuse boring relationships with not being enough, while “chaotic” relationships get confused with excitement and connection, explains Pharaon.
“If the family you grew up in operated with a lot of chaos, it’s very easy to find yourself in dynamics that resemble or reenact the ways you tried to receive love as a kid,” she says. “Remember, not everything that’s familiar is healthy.”