If I had a nickel for every time a romantic comedy made me believe that falling in love was as easy as making eye contact with the hottest person in the room, I’d have two nickels (which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice). While movies and TV will have you believe that true love is instantaneous and involuntary, that’s not always the case.
“Culturally, we glorify the romance of fairy tales, complete with a gut punch of butterflies,” says certified sexologist and founder of Inner Eros, Michaela d’Artois. “But when you find a compatible match, it’s often sneakily simple—more of a slow burn than a firework explosion.”
While falling in love can look like different milestones and emotions for everyone (seriously, no two couples are the same!), most people who have been hit by Cupid’s arrow will agree that it feels pretty damn great, especially when your feelings are reciprocated and you’re able to fall in love together—that’s when the real magic happens.
When you’re falling in love, your body might feel at ease, you’ll feel free to be your true self, and your connection will feel natural, “without the emotional highs and lows of wondering where you stand,” says d’Artois. Unlike having a crush or being infatuated—two experiences largely based on looks—when you’re in love, you’re attracted to who they are at their core, adds licensed relationship therapist Emily Simonian, LMFT. You’re more likely to be selfless because “selflessness and engaging in acts of service for a person you’re in love with can sometimes come easily—like it’s almost second nature,” Simonian explains. Finding yourself wanting to do kind things for them? Yeah, your feelings are definitely deeper than a crush.
While there’s no universal timeline for how long it takes to fall in love (because, again, everyone’s different), there may some defining moments within the first six months of a relationship that can help confirm your feelings.
Here are some telltale signs to look out for that could indicate you and your partner are falling in L-O-V-E.
1. When you argue, you want to see their side.
While falling in love should feel easy and slow, relationships themselves often take work. In moments of conflict, you’ll know you’re in love when you genuinely want to understand their side so you can resolve whatever’s in front of you. “When there’s mutual love and respect, you will find yourself willing to see each other’s side as a solution-based approach, instead of feeling the compulsion to define who’s right,” says d’Artois.
2. You’re able to overcome adversity together.
Based on how you’re able to resolve conflict, complete difficult tasks, or go through big life transitions together, these things can bring you closer “over shared tools of problem solving,” says d’Artois, who notes it could be anything from sharing a funny experience, to something bigger like seeing them through a move or a new job. Team work makes the dream work!
3. You want to start new traditions with them..
It’s likely you and your family already have your own, like, maybe you play football every Thanksgiving morning. Or maybe you each open up one present on Christmas Eve. But when you start to think about creating traditions with your romantic interest, that’s a big sign you’re falling in love, says licensed therapist Sasha Jackson, LCSW. “It shows you’re thinking about spending the future with them.
4. You love how they smell.
Even when they like...kinda smell bad? “Pheromones play a huge role in attraction,” says clinical therapist Ashley Starwood, LCSW. If you find yourself sniffing that shirt they left at your house or nuzzling into their neck (even if they haven’t showered or just went to the gym), chances are, your body is literally drawn to theirs.
5. You actually have fun no matter what.
You got a flat tire? You had to walk a couple of miles because you couldn’t get an Uber? You drove around for an hour trying to find a parking spot on a Friday night before ditching your dinner plan and just going home and ordering pizza? When you’re in love, these minor inconveniences become NBD (and even a story to laugh about together later). Being “able to have fun when shit goes wrong,” points to a deeper connection, says Darcy Sterling, PhD, a relationship therapist and host of E!’s Famously Single.
6. You want to know their love language.
Love languages are so important when it comes to lasting relationships because it helps you understand how your partner best gives and receives love (because we can’t all be fabulous gift-givers). If you’re eager to speak their love language, you might be feeling more than a crush, says certified life coach and therapist KeVonya Webb-Riley. “Even though you find joy in doing things for them, you want to do the things that they absolutely love,” and you want to love them in the way they want to be loved.
7. You prioritize their needs.
Not like, at the expense of your own, of course. But in healthy, loving relationships, ensuring everyone’s needs are met is key to a strong bond. “When you’re starting to fall for someone, you want them to feel prioritized,” says Adrienne Michelle, LMFT, a LGBTQ couples and marriage therapist based in North Carolina. If you find yourself randomly grabbing them a glass of water or picking up that special, skin-sensitive soap they like for your shower, you prob think about them as more than just a hookup.
8. You’re willing to try new things for them.
Bonus points if it’s a food you always thought was gross. Weird, right? But it’s true! “Trying something new is a sign of interest in the person on more than a physical level,” says Starwood. “You may not be falling in love with sushi, but you’re most likely falling in love with them.” It shows that you’re interested in their interests no matter how…odd.
9. You encourage them.
Not pressure, hound, or overly push them, so don’t get it twisted. But if you find yourself encouraging your partner based on vulnerable convos you’ve had, you’re starting to care more about them than just a casual date. “When you both start to remind each other of [your] goals and desires for life, you can tell you’re falling big time,” says Michelle. Just make sure you’re encouraging in a way that’s not overbearing, because hi, not cool.
10. You value their opinion about future plans.
Maybe when things were casual, you wouldn’t consider them when making Big Plans, but now you not only want their advice, but their input as well. When you’re falling in love, “you find yourself asking what they think about going to college, starting new jobs, or trying different things,” notes Starwood. “Their opinion becomes important to you, and you begin to value their thoughts.” Er, sometimes more than others'.
11. You start to understand their flaws.
Everyone has flaws (even you, bb), and when you start to come to terms with your partner’s less-than-desirable traits—like never putting their dishes in the gd sink—multiple experts say this means you’re starting to fall hard. Of course, ignoring red flags is never good, but letting go of the fact that they’ll always slurp soup through their front teeth? That’s love, my friends.
12. You’re all like “Ex, who?”
Oh, you mean you haven’t thought about your ex recently who you, let me remind you, made a Finsta for in order to stalk guilt-free? Yup, this is good news, my friend. “If you’re no longer trolling your ex’s social media account, [it means] you’re engaged in making memories with your new love,” says psychiatrist and mental health consultant Rhonda Mattox, MD. Losing interest in your ex, and dating others in general, is a clear sign of fulfillment, says Simonian. You’re not looking elsewhere because you have everything you need right here.
13. You’re craving the cuddles more than the sex.
Yup, cuddling = emotional feels. “When you’re just as excited to cuddle in bed with them all night as you are to get hot and heavy with sex, that’s when you know you’re starting to fall into real love,” says dating and relationship expert Nicole Moore. “Laying on your partner’s chest fills you with this secure bliss that’s like the last part of your orgasm but extended through the whole cuddling session.” Love is so much more than physical attraction and sexual chemistry, so this is a sign that you relate to this person in much deeper ways, adds Simonian.
14. Literally everything reminds you of them...
Eating a chicken nugget? That’s their go-to fast food order. Listening to Celine Dion? Oh, their mom really loves her. Wearing black jeans? You rocked the same pair on your first date. If this person is always on your mind, it’s clear you’re head over heels.
15. You don’t feel constantly anxious about getting hurt.
A lot of times, people think feeling like someone could really hurt them means they really like that person. Which may be true, but it isn’t love. The experts agree that no one who loves you will want to make you feel like you’re at risk of getting your heart broken. If you do feel that way, that’s a sign that the relationship isn’t emotionally safe. Instead, a healthy partner will constantly reassure you of how much they care through their words and behavior.
16. It feels super easy.
Yes, relationships take work. But when you’re falling in love with someone, it’s at least work you’re willing to get through together. Conflict, having arguments, and not seeing eye-to-eye in a relationship is totally normal, says Simonian. “It’s not the absence of conflict that makes [love] easy, it’s being able to resolve and move on from it.” Those in healthy, loving relationships are able to settle problems quickly and efficiently, so arguments don’t lead to resentment, she adds.
17. You talk about things you’ll do together in the future.
It’s not weird to talk about that concert that’s in three months or the trip you want to take to the beach this summer around them, because they’ll be around to go with you. Making future plans with someone and wanting them to be a part of your future is a sign of emotional maturity, says Simonian. You’re looking ahead because you know you want to share your life with this person.
18. Things you usually hate seem okay—and even fun.
Riding a roller coaster you’re terrified of? Fine, as long as they hold your hand and promise not to laugh at how you scream. Doing laundry? Totally fine, so long as they’re hanging with you too. “If you’re enjoying the time you spend with them, even if it’s something that isn’t ‘fun,’ that’s a very good sign,” notes Simonian. That says you’re really interested and invested in who they are, she adds.
19. You’re comfortable with making little sacrifices for them.
You wouldn’t put off your responsibilities for them, but if they’re sick and need you to help take care of them instead of going to brunch one morning, you’re totally cool with that. Putting them ahead of you from time-to-time goes back to that selflessness that is often a marker of true love, says Simonian. “If you want to make that person’s life better and easier, take away their struggles and pain if you can,” that’s when you know you’re in deep, she adds. You’re less inclined to do such things if the connection is just physical or a crush.
20. You feel safe when you're around them.
It’s hard to describe this feeling, but it really is the best thing in the world. It’s like you have an invisible protective blanket around you—nothing bad can happen when they’re around. When it comes to love, “emotional safety is huge,” notes Simonian. If you don’t feel safe with a person or you’re hiding things about your life out of fear of appearing weak and vulnerable, that relationship is not going to be sustainable in the longer term, she adds. “We all have down moments and when we’re with someone we love, we need to be able to feel safe enough to let them in on even the darkest parts of our lives,” Simonian says.
21. When they’re sad, you’re genuinely sad too.
You feel their pain and they feel yours in a super real way. You know what makes them tick and how they react in times of hardship, so you can really put yourself in their shoes, says Simonian. It might feel natural to understand what they’re feeling and really live in those feelings with them. At the same time, you’re not enmeshed and able to separate from their emotions in order to provide solutions or help them through it, Simonian notes.
22. You have to restrain yourself from talking about them all the time.
If you could, you’d gush about this person constantly. Brandon randomly got me flowers the other day—he’s just the sweetest. Sarah got a promotion at work—I’m so proud of her, she worked so hard for this. But out of respect for your friends (and their sanity), you hold back just a little. You can’t help it, you’re in love. Who wouldn’t sing the praises of their favorite person every chance they got?
23. You can be authentic around them.
Feeling like you can be your true self around them is a clear sign of being in love, says Simonian. “It creates a sense of emotional safety. When you’re being yourself, that’s truly sustainable for a healthy partnership.” On the opposite end, if you’re not being wholeheartedly you, after a while, it becomes hard to keep up with the façade, Simonian notes.
24. You’re still able to maintain your sense of self.
This is perhaps the most important marker of a healthy love, per Simonian. “This is like textbook couples therapy,” she says. “We call this ‘differentiation.’ You’re not codependent—you’re able to achieve that balance of, ‘I want to be with this person, but I don’t crumble if I’m not with them every second.’” Society often says that couples need to do everything together and so partners often morph into the same person, Simonian notes, but that really isn’t healthy. When truly in love, you should be able to let go of the other person enough for them to have their own life, and grow as an individual.
In order for love to last, it’s important that you can still be yourself and enjoy things on your own. Healthy love should add to your life, not take away from it.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.