Here’s a question for you:
Is “love at first sight” a real thing?
Because if so, it means that love can be instantaneous — happening within seconds.
What if it’s not?
Then that indicates how love is a process, a long one at that.
But we’re not here to make guesses.
Because while there is practically an infinite number of ways to define and express love, science and research can help us better understand this complex yet universal phenomenon.
So with that in mind, our question for today is:
How long does it take to fall in love?
There’s no single answer to this.
But it’s definitely worth looking at the most compelling answers.
Check them out below.
1) There’s No Definitive Answer — But You Should Think of the Whys
How long does it take to fall in love?
One answer can be summed up to this:
There is no average time — the moment is pretty much unpredictable.
“There really is no average time it takes to know that you’re in love…Some people fall in love on the first date. Some have been friends for months or years, and then one or both realize that they have developed much deeper feelings for each other.”
What does this mean for your love life?
It could mean:
— That you can fall in love on the first date.
— That you may not be truly falling in love with someone until you’ve been dating them for five years.
Some feelings of love happen in between these two contrasting time periods, but you get the point.
But why is this so?
Well, it’s because we all have different perceptions of love.
Some may think that receiving flowers and chocolates is extremely romantic — making it easier for them to fall for the other. Some think it’s just cliche and impractical.
You may fall in love during a romantic dinner date.
Or, you won’t sense it until the two of you are comfortable in baggy clothes, watching Netflix at home all day long.
But should you pop the three words on your first date?
However, consider these before explicitly telling someone how you feel:
— Are you saying “I love you” because you do believe you’re falling in love with them?
— Do you feel it’s the right time, or perhaps you’re just worried that they will leave if you don’t express yourself right away?
Because let’s face it:
“I love you” is pretty darn powerful.
You don’t just throw it randomly and expect that the receiver won’t think about it all day.
So, yes, you can tell someone you love them the first time you meet them.
But you must be prepared for what comes after.
Are you ready for a serious relationship, for rejection?
Keep in mind that people develop love at different times, so you can’t expect your partner to fall in love at the same rate.
Aaron Ben-Zeév Ph.D. says in Psychology Today, “Not everyone develops love or expresses it at the same pace.”
He also suggests keeping in mind gender differences as well. According to a survey, men take an average of 88 days to tell a partner “I love you”, compared to a woman’s 134.
2) Falling in Love and Being in Love Aren’t Mutually Exclusive Events
Maybe you’ve asked yourself:
“How do I know if I’m just falling in love and not already in love?”
Well, the truth is that both can happen at the same time. This may calm you down or understandably make you even more confused.
According to relationship expert Kemi Sogunle, “being in love with someone can stem from infatuation, possessiveness, and obsession.”
However, loving someone “goes beyond physical presence. You desire to see them grow, you see past their flaws, you see opportunities of building into each other and together; you motivate, encourage and inspire one another.”
So how does this work?
Well, we can explain it using relatable romantic behavior.
If you’re falling in love:
— You can’t help but listen to all the happy love songs, even if you hate pop music.
— You feel butterflies in your stomach.
— You get nervous about your dates and stay up late at night going through scenarios.
But if you’re in love:
— You’re comfortable sharing more personal things with them
— You know that you’re not just staying because of how good they look
— You don’t get irrationally upset when they can’t be around because they’re busy
And the amazing thing is that these two can happen simultaneously.
You still feel nervous when you see them in their best clothes but you’re also okay with them hearing you burp after eating a lot of burgers and fries.
You feel sexually attracted to them but you also know that intimacy doesn’t have to be physical.
So how long does it take to fall in love?
We can’t really know for sure.
Yet here’s what’s certain:
How fast or how long it takes for you to fall in love is in no way indicative of when you will be in love with someone — and when you do, you can still keep falling for them.
3) Attraction Takes Only 3 Seconds
A good number of people in the field of psychology and therapy believe that there is no definitive answer as to when we fall in love.
But there’s also research supporting the idea that it happens early.
Just last year, on the 31st of December, news outlets reported a study about attraction.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania worked with the online dating company HurryDate to check just how fast people can feel attraction.
They checked the data of more than 10,000 people who participated in speed dating in the U.S.
That it took people just three seconds to feel attraction.
You read that right.
However, keep in mind that the study involved a particular kind of person:
— The age of the speed daters was between around 20 and 40s — the average was 32.
— They were also quite rich. The men earned around $80,000 per year on average while the women earned more than $50,000.
— They all had at least a bachelor’s degree.
So the data was of people who were relatively young, educated, and successful.
Does the three-second finding not apply if you don’t meet these criteria?
We’re not so sure about that.
10,000 people is a lot.
Plus, they were all given the same amount of time to talk to other speed daters:
At the least, the findings encourage more discussion:
— Is being attracted to someone the same as falling in love?
— Does participating in speed dating have any effects on how fast or slow people feel attraction?
— What if you didn’t have to individually meet 25 people in more or less 75 minutes?
How much this study really tells us about falling in love is another question. After alll, attraction and fallling in love aren’t the same.
Michelle Ava in Mind Body Green describes the difference:
“Love is an intense feeling of affection toward another person. It’s a profound and caring attraction that forms emotional attachment.”
On the flip side, lust is a strong desire of a sexual nature that is based on physical attraction. Lust can transform into deep romantic love, but it usually takes time.”
All we know is that the rules of attraction aren’t as clear-cut as we thought they were.
4) You Only Need Around 0.20 Seconds to Fall in Love
The previous discussion said that attraction takes just three seconds.
But it seems science has an even more surprising suggestion:
That falling in love takes just one-fifth of a second.
Here’s what we know about the study:
— It’s a meta-analysis study, which means that the data comes from several studies.
— In particular, the studies chosen were about the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging or (fMRI).
— The study aimed to identify the parts of the brain associated with passionate love and other forms of love.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way — What did we learn?
Well, the first is that twelve sections of the brain are responsible for that feeling of falling in love.
They give us that feeling by releasing a variety of chemicals.
Two of them are dopamine and oxytocin, respectively known as the “feel-good hormone” and “love hormone.”
Does this mean that it’s wrong to say that loves comes from the heart — that it actually comes from the brain?
Both the brain and the heart contribute to making us feel love.
So let’s ask the question again:
How long does it take to fall in love?
In this case, the answer lies in molecules known as the nerve growth factor (NGF). When you fall in love, the blood level of your NGF increases by a significant margin.
In other words:
If you somehow had a way to measure your NGF blood levels while you’re out on a date, you can determine if and when you fall in love.
But even if you don’t, at least we know one thing:
That falling in love can happen in a matter of 0.20 seconds.
Perhaps this time, it’s better to ask how short it takes to fall in love.
5) It Depends — Are You a Man or a Woman?
It may less be about the time and more about the hormones, according to biologist Dawn Masler.
Biologist Dawn Maslar notes a few things:
— Love has a biological basis.
— There is no exact time for falling in love.
— There is no such thing as love at first sight; it’s mere lust.
The first is in line with the previous item on our list, but the third statement is in direct contrast with it.
So what is her reasoning behind these?
People all have the oxytocin as the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone”, but how its level rises depends on whether you’re a man or a woman.
For men, oxytocin levels rise when their testosterone levels drop.
But how can this happen?
Apparently, it’s all about commitment for men.
If they are not in a serious relationship, their testosterone level is high — affecting how well oxytocin functions in the body.
But once in a committed relationship, their testosterone levels are reduced. This allows the effects of oxytocin to become more potent.
So in this case, men fall in love after they enter a relationship.
What about women?
It seems that they have a better degree of control over when they fall in love:
— Feelings of excitement increase their dopamine levels.
— Their oxytocin levels rise when they kiss or begin to trust someone.
— Moreover, their oxytocin levels reach their peak when they achieve climax in the bed.
Thus, women can increase their chances of falling in love with someone.
They can go for a kiss or something more intimate.
This is just one explanation.
It’s not going to apply to every man and woman — and it’s always up for debate.
How Long Does It Take to Fall in Love — Does It Really Matter?
So there you have it.
Science offers a variety of enlightening answers.
One research indicates that it happens in less than a second thanks to our brain. There’s also a belief that it depends on your biological sex. Then there’s the notion that there’s no average timeline at all.
But no matter which explanation you accept or reject, remember:
Falling in love is not a competition.
There’s no need to rush things — don’t feel so pressured. It doesn’t matter if your friend falls in love in just an hour while it takes you five months.
Want to know what matters?
Being honest with yourself and your feelings.
If you don’t have any romantic feelings toward someone, don’t act like the opposite is true.
But if you’re sure about your feelings? That you’ve truly fallen in love?
That you love them.
That’s what matters, after all. For people to know how it feels to love and be loved.
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