You stand on your balcony and wonder what's really in a name. Your heart beats wildly as you peer out at the object of your affection from beneath a masquerade ball mask. You couldn’t care less that your families hate each other.
OK, hold up, Juliet. There are better ways to figure out whether you’re in love than seeing whether you’d be willing to (spoiler alert!) poison yourself rather than lose the love of your life. If you think you just might be falling head over heels, here's some advice for thee. When you’re really, truly in love, you:
1. Ignore basic biological functions
Tossing and turning at 3 a.m.? Just realized that you forgot to eat all day? It could be love. During the first few weeks of falling in love with someone, the brain releases hormones that can keep you awake all night and make you lose your appetite. (At least you’ll save money on groceries?)
2. Can’t concentrate…
… On anything besides your beloved, that is. When people fall in love, they often can’t think about anything else. So if your best friend is telling you about a super-upsetting fight she had with her mom, and you barely hear her because you're thinking about that adorable thing he said last night . . . yeah, you’re probably in love.
3. Are nervous and happy at the same time
No one likes the kind of nerves that strike before an important speech or a big exam. Being in love can make us feel just as anxious, but in a bizarrely good way. Research indicates that if you’re really smitten, you’re likely to feel butterflies and mood swings resulting from the activation of different chemicals in the brain.
4. Feel high
Scientists say the biological experience of being in love is pretty similar to a narcotic high. When we’re in love, our brains release the same chemicals that they release in response to smoking crack, and these chemicals can make us feel euphoric. We’re talking a happy mood, a heightened sex drive, and greater self-confidence … without the organ damage and illegal activity.
5. Can’t stop staring at him or her
Whoever said staring was rude was obviously not considering the effects of new love. According to Lucy Brown, Ph.D., neuroscientist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a person in love literally can’t take her eyes away from the object of her affection. It’s especially rewarding, Brown says, to make eye contact with the person. Just try to be subtle about it in public, cool?
6. Are OK with your differences
When you’re casually dating someone, you might constantly look for flaws. She laughs like a hyena (you prefer to chuckle quietly), doesn’t know how to make toast (you can whip up a mean filet mignon), and still has a Backstreet Boys poster hanging in her bedroom (enough said). But, as psychologist Paul Coleman and relationship expert Wendy Walsh, Ph.D. write at Cosmopolitan, once you fall for the person, these dissimilarities don’t seem to matter anymore. If you can accept that you’re different people, and you’re still crazy about the person … well, you know.
7. Feel a strong sense of empathy
He stubs his toe, and you’re suddenly screaming in pain? Not quite, but being in love does make you extra aware of the other person's experience. The general idea is that, when you’re in love, you feel somewhat responsible for the object of your affection, writes sex and relationship researcher Helen Fisher, Ph.D. And you feel that you’d be willing to sacrifice almost anything for him or her, even if that means ditching your after-work softball game just to snuggle in bed.
8. Feel that the sex is different
You’d think that a couple in love would be all over each other, right? In fact, one survey found that the majority of people in love disagreed with the statement, “Sex is the most important part of my relationship.” That’s possibly because these duos are more concerned with their emotional connection than their sexy time. Moreover, philosopher Eliot D. Cohen, Ph.D. writes at PsychologyToday that sex when you’re in love isn’t necessarily about pleasing one person or the other. It’s about your experience together, as a unit.
9. Don’t keep searching for something better
Most of us have been on dates, or even in relationships, where we find ourselves wondering if we couldn’t find something (or someone) more satisfying. But being truly in love, relationship expert Margaret Paul, Ph.D. writes at The Huffington Post, means feeling deeply connected to your partner with “no desire to wander.” You feel as though, out of all the Romeos on earth, you’ve finally found the one who makes you happy and whole. If that’s not love, what is?