The 7 Fascinating 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. 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, than anything else.
The truth of the matter is, love is difficult to define and measure. And it can be even more difficult to define across gender lines. "It is difficult to ... study 'falling in love' because of the subjective nature of the experience," psychologist Dr. Danielle Forshee tells Bustle. "Evidence suggests that men and women differ in their expressions of emotions and in their descriptions of related thoughts." But, 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 to consider. 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 us believing that women are the ones falling first, there are certainly no hard and fast rules.
There may, however, be some biology at play. "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," they say, whereas men may have less to lose. Of course this isn't the case for everyone, but it is something to consider.
2. Men May Say "I Love You" First
Going off of that same idea, studies have shown that men in relationships with women are typically the first ones to say "I love you" in a new relationship.
"A study by Harrison and Shortall (2011) found that men tend to fall in love faster than women. Contrary to popular belief that women are the first to be more expressive in a relationship, the study showed that men are more likely to [say] 'I love you' first," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Women, on the other hand, enter relationships more cautiously," and may wait longer to say these all-important words. Again, not a rule, but something observed in research perhaps due to evolution.
3. Women Might Say "I Love You" More Often
Once a couple is already together, however, women in relationships with men tend to say "I love you," much more often, research finds. As Dr. Forshee says, "Cross-cultural research has indicated that females tend to say 'I love you' more than males."
And, the phrase might mean a lot more to women than it does to men, says 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."
This may also be based in biology. "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 male, especially based on the fact that they can only reproduce for a certain period of time," Dr. Forshee says. Even though these are modern times, 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?
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 everyone they see. It all comes down to the individual.
5. Women May Be Less Visual When Falling In Love
A "man can fall very easily 'from afar,' and know very quickly if he is in love," Jonathan and David Bennett say. "A woman tends to assess feelings of love based on physical attraction along with other factors (including a potential partner's personality), 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."
6. Women & Men Look For Similar Qualities In Long-Term Partners
Remember how I said there aren't too many differences when it comes to falling in love? Well, that seems to be reflected in the research, as both sexes seem to be interested in the same things when looking for relationships.
"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," Dr. Forshee says. I mean, who doesn'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 men and women can certainly differ in this arena. A 2010 study conducted by Andrew Halperin and Martie Hazleton at the University of California, Los Angeles, for instance, 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 in the study, but not women, overperception of others’ sexual interest was linked with more frequently falling in love, as was placing a high value on physical attractiveness.
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.