7 Differences Between How Men And Women Fall In Love, According To Science
When it comes to dating and forming relationships, there aren't too many differences between how men and women fall in love. Due to biology and societal expectations, the process of falling in love can vary slightly between them, in terms of what each might value, who traditionally says "I love you" first, and so on. But in general, love is love — how men fall in love and how women fall in love generally doesn't matter. And if there are any differences, it's usually much more focused on how men and women actually show their love once they're already dating and feelin' those feelings, than anything else.
The truth of the matter is, love has always been extremely tricky to define and measure. "It is difficult to [...] study 'falling in love' because of the subjective nature of the experience," Dr. Danielle Forshee, a licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. "Evidence suggests that men and women differ in their expressions of emotions and in their descriptions of related thoughts." And when you try to define it across gender lines, it can become even more difficult.
Of course, at the end of the day, gender is just a construct, and not everyone will share experiences based on gendered expectations. When it comes to love, there ultimately are no rules, but science has found some interesting trends that are worth considering. Here's what the research has to say regarding women, men, and love.
1. Men Might Experience Feelings Of Love Faster
"One recent study found that men tend to fall in love, and express feelings of love, more quickly than do women, despite believing that women fall more quickly," Jonathan Bennett and David Bennett, dating experts and founders of Double Trust Dating, tell Bustle. So even though movies and popular culture might have you thinking women are the ones to develop feelings and fall in love first, the opposite may actually be true in many cases.
And the reason for this is most likely related to biology. "The authors [of the study] concluded that this makes sense primarily because [...] women have to be more guarded about falling for [someone] for evolutionary reasons," the researchers claim, whereas men traditionally have less to lose. Of course this isn't the case for everyone, and may not apply to life today, but it is something to consider.
2. Men May Say "I Love You" First
To expand on that same idea, that study also revealed that many men in relationships with women typically say "I love you" first, which really does fly in the face of what we may think to be true.
According to the study, there's this widely held belief that women are more "romantic," but the responses of study participants indicated that men reported falling in love earlier, and expressing it earlier than women reported.
Again, biology may be at play here, due to the that a pragmatic and cautious view of love has adaptive significance for women, according to the study. Remember, it's certainly not a hard and fast rule, but may be a pattern that's sticking round all thanks evolution.
3. Women Might Say "I Love You" More Often
Once a couple has already established how they feel about each other, however, women in relationships with men may be more likely to say "I love you" on a more frequent basis, research finds. As Forshee says, "Cross-cultural research has indicated that women tend to say 'I love you' more than men."
That, and it may also be true that the phrase means more to women than it does to men, according to science. "Overall, research suggests that women list their partners' expressions of 'I love you' in their top 10 romantic acts, but men do not. If men possess knowledge that women find 'I love you' to be romantic, men may communicate what their partners want to hear with the objective of advancing the relationship," Forshee says. But will they be as likely to say it on their own accord? Maybe not.
Again, biology may be at play. "From an evolutionary perspective, women saying 'I love you' may communicate commitment, and they would benefit from saying this because it would assure them the ability to pair up with a partner, especially based on the fact that they can only reproduce for a certain period of time," Forshee says.
Even though these are modern times we're living in, it's something that may have stuck with some people.
4. Women Are More Likely To Focus Their Love
Think back to your high school or middle school days, and all those crushes you had. Did you tend to focus your love and affection on one individual? Or were you pretty much in love with everyone? While everyone's different, your gender may have played a role.
One study "showed that adolescent males [attracted to women] fall in love more quickly, and do so more often, i.e. falling for a variety of girls, whereas girls [attracted to men] tend more to fixate on a smaller number of guys," Jonathan and David Bennett say.
Of course, this doesn't mean that all women attracted to men zero in on one man, while their male counterparts are off falling in love with every women they see. It all comes down to the individual, preferences, and so on. But is still interesting to consider all the same.
5. Women May Be Less Visual When Falling In Love
A man can easily fall in love "from afar," Jonathan and David Bennett say, and know very quickly that he's in love. But compare this to women, who may be more likely to "assess feelings of love based on physical attraction along with other factors (including a potential partner's personality)," they say, "which means it may take longer for a woman to 'warm up' to a potential partner, and the person can grow on her over time."
Men can quite literally experience the phenomenon of "love at first sight," and experience feelings without much more information, while a lady needs a bit more info. Not surprisingly, this might have to do with biology once again. According to brain studies, men tend to be more visual.
That said, anyone can feel attracted to someone based on looks alone, and feel excited about the possibility of what may come next in the relationship.
6. Women & Men Look For Similar Qualities In Long-Term Partners
As mentioned above, there aren't too many differences when it comes to falling in love. And that's something that seems to be reflected in the research. Studies have shown that, despite what pop culture might say, both men and women are looking fine love, settle down, and have a successful marriage in equal numbers.
Both are looking for pretty much the same thing, too. "Overall, evidence reflects that men and women report similar preferences for a long-term partner, and include traits such as kindness, intelligence, understanding, and someone who loves them in return," Forshee says. And really, who wouldn't want that?
7. Men Are More Likely To Feel Like Their Love Isn't Reciprocated
There are so many factors that go into the feeling of falling in love, so it's no surprise that men and women can certainly differ in this arena.
In fact, a 2010 study conducted by Andrew Galperin and Martie Haselton at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that even though "women and men did not differ in either their lifetime number of loves or likelihood of falling in love first," men did report in the study a greater number "of 'loves at first sight,' as well as a higher percentage of loves that were not reciprocated, indicating men’s greater willingness to fall in love during the courtship stage."
The researchers also found that for men, an over-perception of a woman's sexual interest in them was linked with more frequently falling in love, which may explain why they eventually went on to report a feeling of unrequited love.
The thing to keep in mind is that love is tough to define, and thus can be difficult to research. Women and men may express themselves differently, or experience things through a different lens, but at the end of the day, love is love — and gender doesn't always play a role.
Harrison, M. A., & Shortall, J. C. (2011). Women and men in love: who really feels it and says it first?
Wilkins, R. and Gareis, E. (2006). Emotion expression and the locution “I love you”: A cross-cultural study. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 30(1), pp.51-75.
Galperin, A., & Haselton, M. (2010). Predictors of How Often and When People Fall in Love. Evolutionary Psychology, 8(1), 147470491000800. doi: 10.1177/147470491000800102
Montgomery, Marilyn J, and Gwendolyn T Sorell. “Love and Dating Experience in Early and Middle Adolescence: Grade and Gender Comparisons.” Journal of Adolescence, vol. 21, no. 6, 1998, pp. 677–689., doi:10.1006/jado.1998.0188.
Dr. Danielle Forshee, licensed psychologist
Jonathan Bennett and David Bennett, dating experts and founders of Double Trust Dating
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