What Does True Love Feel Like, According To Science

Your body is not lying when it says you’re in love! Listen to it.

By Sylvia Epie
What Does True Love Feel Like, According To Science

What Is Love?

A woman holding a heart

Love is one of the most profound of all human emotions,  it has been a consistent subject throughout history and civilizations. Love has inspired some the greatest artworks, started wars and revolutions, Love is a force of nature, no one can control the when and how love appears or predict it. But everyone talks about it, in songs, books, poems, movies and every other form of human expression. Studies on love show that  Romantic love exists in almost every culture of the world and that 72% of people believe in love at first sight. 

Love is bigger than us, all we can do about it is experience it and express it, you can plan courtship or seduction but you can’t plan love, you can’t buy it, command it or change it. We are all at the mercy of its whims no different from how we are to life and death or the moon and the stars. Most of the heartbreak we go through is because we try to control, schedule, or force love. True love is unpredictable and irrefutable, people express and describe it in many different ways but certain aspects of it are universal.

What Do People Say When They Think They Found The One? 

man hugging woman surrounded by plants

  • Despite the fact that true love is a universal emotion, its expression is unique and individualistic. Different people and cultures express it in different ways, even women experience it differently from men. However, there are certain familiar feelings and behaviors associated with being in love. Here are some of the most common phrases used to describe true love
 
  • People often say falling in love is like being struck by lightning, it comes with a burst of energy you can’t explain, it just takes over, making everything around you seem brighter, better, and beautiful.
 
  • Others say it’s like having butterflies in the stomach, you can’t eat, sleep or do anything without thinking of the one you love.
 
  • Some say when you think or see the object of your love, your heart starts racing, there’s a sudden spike in your heartbeat and you feel an overwhelming rush of emotions all over your body.
 
  • Sweaty palms are another bodily function people say they experience when they’re in love, sometimes the sweating isn’t just limited to your palms. Depending on how sweaty you get when you’re nervous or anxious, the presence of the person you’re in love with can leave you soaked in sweat. 
 
  • Inner peace is one more symptom of true love, many people say when they met ‘’the one’’ they were filled with an inexplicable sense of peace that comes from within their soul. All the negativity fades away as they focus solely on the beauty and positivity surrounding them.

Am I Truly In Love?    

woman sitting on tree trunk with man holding on branch near sea under white clouds during daytime

In fact, there’s a great difference between like, love and being in love, people tend to get the terms mixed up, being attracted to someone doesn’t mean you love them or are in love with them. Loving a person is a beautiful feeling but it does not necessarily change you and disrupt your entire being like true love does.

 Scientists have proven that truly falling in love affects our brains and every part of our behavior in a fundamental way that mere lust or sexual attraction can never do. Simply put, if what you feel for the object of your heart does not change the way you see the world, interact with those around, disrupt your routine, and future plans, then you are not truly in love. 

Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and one of the leading experts on the biological basis of love, says studies reveal that the brain's "in love" phase is a unique and well-defined period of time, and there are certain telltale signs that confirm you're truly in love.

Emotional manifestations of being truly in love

1. Feelings of pure joy.

man hugging woman while smiling

Love has a way of filling you with joy, happiness, and all sorts of warm emotions, especially when it is mutual. People in love often say they feel a sudden, intense and overwhelming surge of happiness, like being struck by lightning. You feel like breaking into song all day long or smiling with strangers on the street. There’s a profound sense of peace that comes with truly loving someone and knowing they feel the same about you.  

A person who is truly in love tends to pay attention only to the positive side of things, especially with regard to the object of their affection. All negativity is overlooked and focus is on the things that make you happy. You’re always smiling, daydreaming, and connecting everything and everyone around you to the person you’re in love with. So, in a nutshell, true love is a source of inexplicable inner peace and joy. Every good and beautiful thing you see reminds you of them, from people holding hands, kissing, colorful flowers, or a beautiful sunset, you see beauty and joy in everything around you.

2. Feelings of empathy

selective focus photography of puppy on sweater

It has been proven that love makes you empathize with those around you, feelings of empathy towards another person's pain are heightened when you feel loved. Have you ever heard the reasoning that if someone criticizes you it’s because they are insecure? Well, it’s the same line of thinking, when a person is filled with love, they too dish out love and vice-versa. This is because you’re in a good place and want others to share in your happiness, seeing others struggle becomes unbearable and you won’t hesitate to help them so they too can be happy. 

3. Emotional dependency

person tip-toeing in front of other person

With true love comes feelings of emotional dependency towards your relationship and your partner, your overall happiness is tied to theirs as well as the success of your love story. When you like someone you fit them into your schedule but when you’re in love your life revolves around them, you plan your days, your weekends, vacations, and routine with them in mind. You think of them when deciding what to wear in the morning or when planning for your future. People in love need affection and validation from the one they love, failure to get it can easily grow into possessiveness, and jealousy.  Emotional dependency on its part easily leads to separation anxiety and the fear of rejection. 

In 2010 a group of researchers concluded after a study in the Journal of Neurophysiology that  "Activation of areas involved in cocaine addiction may help explain the obsessive behaviors associated with rejection in love". This means a person who is in love craves their lover's attention in the same way an addict craves his/her dose of cocaine.  

What Happens In The Brain? (Physical Manifestations Of Being Truly In Love)

4. Feels Addictive

man and woman lying on bed

According to science, when you’re in love the ‘’reward’’ part of the brain fires up. The same area that is activated when you are high on drugs, this is why lovers never seem to get enough of each other. Science has also proven that this feeling of addictive euphoria that you experience when in love is so powerful it reduces pain, it acts as a blockade at the level of the spinal cord stopping pain signals from reaching the brain. 

 Dr. Kimberly Hershenson, an NYC-based therapist says "When you fall in love, chemicals such as dopamine which are associated with the reward center of the brain greatly increase, making you happier. It creates a feeling of your heart racing, sweaty palms, and feelings of romance." This is what people often refer to as ‘’love brain’’.

5. An Emotional Rollercoaster

teal and orange space shuttle

Anyone who has ever been in love knows that it makes you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Love comes with a lot of emotional instability, especially in the beginning when you’re not too sure of the other person's feelings for you. You bounce between happiness, anxiety, euphoria, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, panic, mood swings. When you feel loved and appreciated you exhibit all the positive emotions in the world but the second uncertainty or fear kicks in you’re overwhelmed with the exact opposite of all the emotions you were feeling earlier.

Being in love is filled with highs and lows like a form of addiction, as serotonin levels in the brain decrease, you become more obsessive, that’s why you can’t stop yourself from thinking of the one you love. Psychologists call this behavior ‘’Intrusive thinking’’, 85% of your time is spent thinking of the object of your love. 

How Far Can My Feelings Go?

Life long commitment

adult and girl holding forever scrabble letters during daytime

If the feeling is mutual, it can positively evolve into a deeper love and lasting commitment. All the crazy feelings above can mature over time into something stronger but it takes work, compromise, sacrifice, and commitment to get there. Both partners have to actively try to make it last by incorporating healthy behaviors such as listening, caring, sharing, prioritizing, and understanding each other. 

This is what makes the difference between long-term love stories and flings, unlike one night stands or a crush, which are solely based on sexual attraction, true love much more profound and has a  transition period. A specific moment when everything changes, or at the very least when you realize this is something special.

Loss of identity

woman's hand on man's shoulder

Love makes you rethink your priorities, you subconsciously try to match your plans with those of your partner, you make their priorities yours and if you’re not careful you can lose yourself in the process. You can find yourself doing the things your partner enjoys, eat their favorite foods, watch movies they like and spend your time doing the things that make them happy. You reorder your life to suit them, your ‘I’ becomes ‘’we’ and your ‘me’s’ becomes ‘us’.

This can affect your personality and in extreme cases lead to a loss of identity. Instead of going fishing, you go shopping, you change your vacation plans to incorporate your significant others' preferences.

Feelings of obsession

time lapse photography of couple standing on body of water

Falling in love with someone who does not reciprocate your love can easily turn into an obsession for your partner, you want them all to yourself, and if things don’t go your way, jealousy kicks in. Feelings of obsession and possessiveness can be very dangerous, as they make you do crazy things in the name of love. 

Obsessions are all-consuming and always end up in destruction unless they’re controlled. You think of your partner all day and want to spend as much time as you can with them, everything you do revolves around the person you’re in love with and if you can’t have them the pent up passion can become a destructive obsession.

Related Article: What True Love is - The Characteristics and the Science
What True Love is - The Characteristics and the Science

Understanding the science of love & characteristics of true love

Summary

woman in brown turtleneck sleeveless top lying on man's stomach wearing green button-up collared shirt holding disco ball

As crazy as it may sound to those who have never experienced it, being in love feels like you’re high on drugs and feeling all the side effects at the same time. We may all express it differently as a result of our environment, gender, culture, and personality but as science has proven, the chemical manifestation of love in our brains is universal. Once it hits you, there’s no denying it, you could choose not to act on it but it doesn’t change the fact that you got it bad. A roller coaster of emotions takes over your mind, body, and soul all at once, you’re completely out of control and you are beside yourself but you’re at peace with it and wouldn’t trade all these feelings for anything in the world.

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