Hopeless romantics and helicopter parents who just want to see you settled and married have a stock answer to “how do you know you love someone?”
“When you know, you know,” they say. Except, as a rom-com-loving person whose personality skews to the obsessive, I assure there are times when you simply just don’t know. For instance, is it love if you’re willing to go to their great aunt’s memorial service? What if you have a secret 300-pin-rich Pinterest board dedicated to your future—is that love? Suffice it to say many of us do a lot of idealizing (in and out of partnerships) before we can know whether our feelings are real, and in many cases, the romanticization can cloud what’s actually happening.
This confusion is especially rife when you’re in the early throes of a blossoming relationship, and you know, intellectually at least, that what’s at play could simply be cuddle hormones and the honeymoon phase. As the philosopher Taylor Alison Swift posited in simpler, pre-“Me!” times, “So it’s gonna be forever, or it’s gonna go down in flames.”
And though it could still go down in flames no matter what, rounded up below are a few guidelines to help inform whether your feelings are the real deal and you’re likely in love.
Check out 8 expert-approved signs that answer the age-old question: How do you know you love someone?
1. You want your partner to connect with your family (and the people who are important to you)
Nothing solidifies a relationship like wanting to be with someone so much, you’re willing—and even excited—to introduce them to your friends, and, if you’re bold, subject them to your family.
“When you’re in love, you are happy when your partner connects with other people in your life and gets along with those who are important to you,” says relationship expert Terri Orbuch, PhD, AKA the Love Doctor. “You want your partner to get a sense of your past, and you like the idea of your family and friends being impressed with this person.”
2. You want to connect with your partner’s family (and the people who are important to them)
If you want everyone important in your life to know about your new partner, it stands to reason that you’ve taken a similar interest in your partner’s background—the good, the bad, and the complicated. And you want them to really like you. For instance, the first time I met my S.O.’s mom—which, in a classic nightmare move, he made happen on Valentine’s Day after two months of dating—I came armed with cookies and obsessed over his baby pictures like a first-class creep. Maybe that’s a little extra to some, but love comes with the fun anxiety of needing to shine in front of relatives.
“When you’re in love, you want to get to know your partner—all of them,” says Dr. Orbuch. “You want to get a sense of their past, and you like the idea of getting to know their family and friends. You also want their friends and family to be impressed with you, like you, and want to spend time with you.”
3. You’re aware that there will be ups and downs
You’re realistic in your understanding that not everything will be perfect at all times—and that elimination of desired perfection is a good way to know that you’re really in it for the long hall. “In a loving relationship, you won’t be crushed, want to break up, or worry that you’ll be dumped whenever you and your partner have a fight,” Dr. Orbuch says.
4. You speak in “we,” rather than “I” terms
“When two people are in love, their lives are intertwined,” Dr. Orbuch says. “You think of the two of you as a couple—a “we” or “us,” rather than a “me” or “them.” For example, when people ask you what you did this weekend, you respond by saying ‘We went to the movies, we went for a walk’ rather than ‘I went to the movies, I went for a walk.'” In this case, you have what Dr. Orbach calls “couple identity,” which means you view yourself as part of a team. (Just try not to take offense if some of your pals eye-roll at you for resorting to this sentence structure all the time.)
5. You want to share personal (often confidential) information with them
“Love prompts you to share extensive personal, and often confidential information with your partner,” Dr. Orbuch says. “You might not have revealed these feelings or desires to other people you know.”
6. You influence each other, be it socially, emotionally, financially
“When two people love each other, what one partner does or want to do influences the other in strong and meaningful ways,” Dr. Orbuch says. “For example, if you wanted to move to another city for work, or were contemplating a big change, your partner would be involved in that decision. The two of you are interdependent.”
7. You want to go to the other person for support
For a love to be steady as a rock, you’ll start to see your loved one as your, well, rock. “When you have a medical scare, a work issue, or a family problem, you go to the other person for support and connection,” Dr. Orbuch says. “This person doesn’t have to be the only person you go to for support—or even the first—but you go to them regularly when troubles or issues arise.”
8. You want to celebrate good news with them
This was literally the cliffhanger that ended The Bold Type season two. When Tiny Jane debates whether she should go for Dr. Ben or Pinstripe, Kat asks,”If you got really good news, like today, who would you call first?” And NO SPOILERS, but the person Jane texts ends up being her season-three beau.
“When you have something good happen to you in your life—you get promoted or a raise at work, you win an award, you win the lottery or a trip, you go to the other person to celebrate with them—and they are just as excited and want to celebrate with you.”
And if they’re not thrilled, it’s time to start wondering whether this person you seem to really love loves you back. If it isn’t mutual, well, at least there are a couple million pop songs to help you get by.
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