When you're seeing someone new and it's clear sh*t is getting serious, it can be hard to know when you're starting to fall in love with your boo. Like, deleted-your-Tinder love. No matter how long you've been dating, when the heat starts to turn up, it's natural to wonder about how long it takes to fall in love, before thinking about finding the right time to express your feelings to your partner. You think about them all the time, you can't imagine life without them, you even want them to meet your friends and family. But has it been long enough?
"There really is no average time it takes to know that you’re in love," Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent dating and relationship therapist in Los Angeles shares. "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."
As Dr. Brown attests, love can evolve and change overtime. Some couples immediately knew they are meant to be with their boo, while others, like the Rosses and Rachels of the world, take years to develop a romantic connection.
My girl Porsha on Real Housewives Of Atlanta and her now fiancé both dropped "I love you" on their first date. My grandparents met as teens and were married within the year. Even my parents fell in love shortly after meeting. Yet, the spinster-skeptic in me feels cautious. If you haven't been dating all that long, isn't it hard to tell? I asked Dr. Brown if couples that say "I love you" quickly within a relationship are really head over heels in love.
"Maybe yes. Maybe no: If you have those feelings, it is perfectly OK to say those three words," Dr. Brown says. "You do want to be careful about the timing of when you say this and how you say this. You also want to ask yourself, 'Why do I want to say this now?' What does the timing of this mean for you? Is it simply the right time, or are you afraid that you might lose them if you don’t say it."
If you think you're starting to fall in love with your partner, it's OK to talk to them about it, even early on. But, it may also be worthwhile to check in with yourself about what you're feeling and what you're envisioning for your future. Knowing why you want to express your feelings can help in finding the best way to express them.
But is love different at the beginning? How can we tell the joy, sexiness, and excitement from seeing someone new, versus the deep I'll let you eat my fries and I'll put vapor rub on your chest when you have the flu love? "If you are like many people, there is likely going to be a difference between the first few weeks or months of falling [in] love, that may or may not be different from actually being in love," Dr. Brown shares. "Being in love can happen at the same time as falling in love, but that can take awhile." After the butterflies and T-Swift songs that is falling in love, comes the comfort, stability, and pride of being in love. There's a certain type of love that happens over time, when you start to show your boo your overnight retainer, or totally lose it on a romantic vacation. Falling in love and being in love can happen at the same time, but at every stage, your love with your boo will build overtime as well.
I asked Dr. Brown about the signs to look for that will tell you that you're in love. "You are genuinely curious about your partner, an you want to know what is important to them," Dr. Brown says. "You realize that this is more than sexual excitation. You want to do things for them. You share more vulnerable parts of your inner [self] with them that you normally keep hidden away."
Dr. Brown also says that you may find you share common values, you see a future with them in it, and you want to tell your other loved ones about your boo. From wanting to gush all about your boo, to wanting to do little things for them, there are many signs you may be in love, all of which can happen at any time.
There is no objective timeline for anything in a relationship — including when you'll know that you're in love. If you're starting to think that you're falling in deep, talk to your partner about how you're feeling and where you see your relationship heading. Everyone falls in love differently, and at a different pace. You can't map out your feelings on a clock or calendar. When it comes to falling in love, the only thing you can follow is your heart.
This post was originally published on Dec. 22, 2018. It was updated on Aug. 30, 2019 by Lilli Petersen.