Most of us hope that if a relationship lasts long enough, we'll eventually fall in love with our partners. But how do you know when you're in love? Love is a bit like porn in Justice Potter Stewart's view: it's hard to define, but you know it when you see it. It may look a little different for different people, though, and it also may look different to the same person in different relationships during different stages of their lives.
Personally, I have been in love twice and recognized it in two different ways. The first time, I knew because I felt frustrated that I could not give my partner the entire world and more. The second time, I loved him as a friend first and our relationship began to feel romantic without us even trying. By the time we were officially dating, we were already in love.
To find out how others identify love, I asked nine people when they first knew. Some of them described concrete actions that took place, while others recounted moments where their feelings simply became clear. Here are some stories that may help you decide if you're in love and some signs of love I've gleaned from them.
1. They Go Out Of Their Way For You
"When he offered to drive me to the flower store and pot my plant for me." — Chrissy, 29
2. You Want Them To Be Happy, Even At Your Own Expense
"It was a guy I was crushing on in high school and we had become good friends. He told me he had feelings for another girl and wanted my advice on how to treat her like a queen. In that moment, I was devastated, BUT the way he talked about her made his face light up. It made me happy to see him so happy even though he wasn't pursuing me, so giving him advice on how to woo the other chick made me realize that real love is truly a selfless act. I had never experienced anything like it before." — Rory, 28
3. You Couldn't Stand To Lose Them
"I had a nightmare that he died and woke up crying. I realized I could imagine being old and heartbroken to lose him, and that the idea of losing him, ever, was crushingly painful. I realized I was worried that 60 years or so wouldn't be enough — not whether we would make it there. This was exactly a year ago. We're still in love and planning our future together." — CC, 26
4. You Picture Them In Your Future
"I realized I was in love, really in love, with my current partner (and more so than any other previous partner) when, after only dating for a little over a year, we were talking about moving several states away from (my) home, together, and it didn't scare me at all. I felt like I could trust this person with my life and happiness and wellbeing and that this idea of moving forward in our lives together would work out just fine no matter the ups and downs. I had almost lived with my previous significant other, and this was what caused me to break up with him: I knew the opposite — I was afraid to live with just him. I didn't feel like it could work. That lack of fear and full ability to trust my current relationship in an unknown upcoming, new situation were what made me realize that I was invested in this person like they were me, that I was in love." — Zara, 24
5. You Want To Say "I Love You"
"I remember having this growing need to say it out loud. I knew it and the words were just going to burst out. There is giddiness, ease, trust, butterflies, attraction, and desire for a future together that happen all at once. I think that's the best way I can describe the feeling of knowing that you are in love." — Caroline, 25
6. You Won't Let Anything Get In The Way Of Your Relationship
"I knew I was in love for sure with my current husband back when we were dating and had our first big fight. As angry as I was, there was this giant tug inside myself that kept pulling me toward forgiveness, compassion, acceptance and... love. A love I had never felt before and couldn't have been prepared for. The kind that looks for the light in the darkness, for the 'yes' in the face of so many 'no's. Love that says 'I'm making this work no matter what.' It was undeniable." — Erica, 32
7. You're More Comfortable With Them Than Anyone Else
"The weirdest thing is that we weren't doing anything out of the ordinary. We were at dinner and he was talking for a while and this weird wave of warmth just came over me. I realized I was really happy with this person and comfortable in a way I never was with anyone else, like, literally, anyone. And then I though, 'Oh shit. This is it.' Terrifying." — K., 23
8. They Embrace Your Quirks
"I first realized I was in love with my now-fiance a week after he wrote me my first legitimate love letter. We went to Barnes and Noble over winter break, the week or so before Christmas, and I have a tendency of sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor of the YA shelves so I can read a few pages. Instead of rolling his eyes or waiting for me to get up, he took a seat next to me on the floor, grabbed a book, and read with me. Afterwards, he took me to Starbucks, where we sat in the parking lot, top down in his Mercedes, talking about our crazy, creative goals in life. It was then that I took his cup and wrote "I love you too" on its sleeve. He didn't realize until we pulled up in front of my house. It's my favorite love story." — Julia, 24
9. You Can Talk Forever
"I started loving him the first time we had a long conversation. It was a beautifully warm, dark autumn night (and a Monday) and we bumped into each other outside of the student center. We had met a handful of times, as acquaintances, and we got into a conversation. That conversation turned into eight hours of talking into the night, completely ignoring our homework. There was an energizing, buzzing vibration between us [that still happens :)] and it felt like we were truly together, not separate people speaking. Everything in my periphery turned to black and all I could see was his face. When we kissed, my entire body shook, something I had never experienced before. I knew I was in love with him about two weeks later (love really does not abide by the rules of time, huh?). I woke up next to him, and the words almost slipped out of my mouth. I didn't think about it; I just knew. There was no question, no debate, no uncertainty. Only love." — Alison, 22
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