Falling in love is a magical experience. It’s associated with feelings like butterflies in your stomach and a constant longing to be with someone. You might have heard phrases like ‘love at first sight’ — and sure, that can be a thing. It might also take time to develop a deep connection — what some might call ‘true love.’
So how long does it take to fall in love? While there are certainly no set rules when it comes to matters of the heart, there have been extensive studies on the phenomenon. Depending on the research subject and methods, falling in love can take anywhere from seconds to months.
This article explores the weird and wonderful world of falling for somebody. We also see what science tells us about love — and the classic signs that you’re head over heels.
According to a 2022 study, falling in love takes an average of 3-4 months. The research carried out on 3,109 participants, found some striking details about when the average person will first tell their partner “I love you.” It found:
Men fall in love noticeably quicker than women. The average time it takes to fall in love with men was 107 days; females took 15 days longer.
Interestingly, there wasn’t such a significant difference in the time each took to think about saying “I love you,” with all participants considering it after around 70 days.
On being told “I love you” by their partners, around 90 percent of participants felt strong feelings of happiness.
But strong emotions — like feelings of love — are strange, powerful, and often uncontrollable things. While the average amount of time it takes to fall in love gives us a good indication, it’s not a hard and fast rule.
In a new relationship, you could meet them for your first date and it’s love at first sight. It can also take months or years to develop feelings of romantic love. But a leading study into the brain chemistry that affects feelings of love brought some startling news:
It’s physically possible to fall in love with somebody in just 0.2 seconds.
The study, led by Syracuse University professor Dr. Stephanie Ortigue, demonstrated how falling in love is a complex process for our bodies. But it can also be a quick one.
Ortigue’s team found that falling in love involves a combined effort from multiple parts of the brain. This effect then triggers the release of chemicals like:
Dopamine (which plays a role in feeling pleasure)
Oxytocin (also known as ‘the love hormone’)
Serotonin (which can improve your overall mood)
Vasopressin (associated with how we feel love and social attachment).
When you combine these factors, it’s easy to see why falling in love can promote feelings of infatuation, emotional connection, and improved mental health.
We all experience different types of love in our life. Whether you are only in the first month of dating, or well into your relationship, it can be hard to process how you feel about your partner fully.
So how do you know that you’ve found that special someone? These are some telltale, scientifically proven signs that you’ve fallen in love.
Feelings of physical attraction: When falling in love, you will often feel a strong physical attraction to the other person. Touching, kissing, cuddling, and sex all release the happiness and love hormones associated with deep, passionate love.
Spending time thinking about that person: If you’re daydreaming and longing for that one person, it’s usually a sure sign of love. Many people find that thinking about a loved one can get in the way of concentrating on everyday activities.
Making future plans: Is “me” becoming “we”? Making plans for a future romantic relationship with somebody shows that they make you feel loved, safe, and happy.
You want to tell them everything: If you receive good news, is your first instinct to tell that person? Likewise, you might seek comfort from them in tough times. Relationship experts agree that these are both telltale signs of a loving relationship.
Thinking the other person is special: Above all, you’ll probably just think the other person is pretty great. Their good qualities will seem magical, and you might not notice any downsides. In fact, research shows that we highly exaggerate someone’s good qualities if we’re in love with them.
You are learning more about yourself: Falling in love is not only enjoyable, but it can also lead to personal growth for those who embrace it. Asides from experiencing sweet moments with your partner, you might also discover a lot about yourself. Regardless of whether you have been in love before, you open up and share parts of yourself, which allows you to process deeper emotions that you’ve been holding inside.
You are braver in your vulnerability: One of the biggest surprises about falling in love is how you surprise yourself with how brave you are with your vulnerability. It might feel like a romantic comedy saying “I have never felt like this with anyone before!” or “I can’t believe how comfortable I feel sharing this with you!” When you’re in love, in a healthy safe relationship, you will show new bravery in opening up and letting someone into your emotional world.
If you notice a few of these signs, your body is giving you a hint that you might be in love.
While falling in love can be a complex process with no set timeline, there are some classic stages of a relationship that couples can follow:
Honeymoon Period: Beginning stage, couples ignore flaws and experience mostly strong, positive, passionate feelings towards their new partner.
Attachment Stage: Building trust and having deeper conversations. At this stage, couples may become exclusive and make tentative plans.
Doubts and Crises Stage: At some point, the initial buzz and chemical rush will wear off a little. Accepting flaws and navigating conflict is an inevitable part of any healthy relationship as you both become vulnerable and build trust.
Deep Attachment Stage: Long-term couples compromise, overcome challenges, and work together. This builds a deep experiential intimacy, knowing you can get through the tough times.
Wholehearted Love Stage: At this stage, couples will accept flaws and embrace heading on a journey together. This is where the hard work begins — keeping the spark alive and maintaining the connection you’ve built.
So, if you recognize the signs and feel like you might be in love, when should you let the other person know?
As we’ve seen, it’s completely normal to take months before saying those three little words. It’s a good idea to make sure before making such a big display of love, after all.
But remember, there are no set rules. If you’ve spent time with your partner, checked in with yourself, and feel the time is right, then tell them. It could be the start of long-term love.
It can take a lot of courage to tell someone that you love them and if they don’t say it back, it can feel like the end of the world.
Remember, people fall in love at different speeds. Just because they don’t say it back right away, it doesn’t mean that your relationship is over.
However, if you feel that your partner is avoiding the question or is backing away from the relationship, it may be a sign that they’re not ready or emotionally available.