Relationships

11 Differences Between How Men & Women Fall In Love

#3: Women might say "I love you" more often.

These are the fascinating differences between how men and women fall in love.
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Falling in love can be complicated. Dating jitters, social expectations, and gender dynamics can all impact the way you interact with a potential partner. And while all humans experience attachment in their own ways, there may be some differences in how men and women fall in love that can help you navigate the confusing dynamics of an early relationship.

Love has always been extremely tricky to define and measure because of the subjective nature of the experience, says licensed psychologist Danielle Forshee, PsyD. There is, however, some biology involved when it comes to falling for someone, adds sexologist Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D. When you start a relationship with someone, your brain floods with happy chemicals like dopamine, which makes you feel excited and giddy about your new partner. As the relationship progresses, your brain experiences a surge in different feel-good substances like oxytocin, which help you grow attached to your boo in the longer term, she explains.

But although similar things are happening in the brain, Forshee says cultural and evolutionary dynamics can impact how men and women express and describe those emotions, very generally speaking. At the end of the day, gender is just a construct. Not everyone will share experiences based on gendered expectations because when it comes to love, there ultimately are no rules.

Nonetheless, science has found some interesting trends to consider. Here’s what the research has to say regarding men, women, and love.

1

Men Might Experience Feelings Of Love Faster

Movies and popular culture might have you thinking women are the ones to develop feelings and fall in love first, but the opposite may actually be true in many cases, say Jonathan Bennett and David Bennett, dating experts and founders of Double Trust Dating. “Men tend to fall in love and express feelings of love more quickly than do women, despite believing that women fall more quickly,” they tell Bustle.

And the reason for this is most likely related to biology. The researchers posit that evolutionarily, women had to be more guarded about falling for someone because they needed to select the best possible partner for reproduction. Men, on the other hand, had less to lose when shooting their shots. This dynamic may persist in subtle ways today, says Bennett.

2

Men May Say "I Love You" First

Men in the same study reported falling in love and expressing it earlier than the women did, despite the widely held belief that women are more romantic. The researchers hypothesize that this might be biology at play again, since a pragmatic and cautious view of love has adaptive significance for women while men have more reason to cut their losses and profess their devotion. And while this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it could be a pattern that’s stuck around thanks to evolution.

3

Women Might Say "I Love You" More Often

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Once a couple has already established how they feel about each other, however, Forshee says that women in relationships with men may be more likely to say “I love you” more frequently. Research also suggests that this phrase might mean more to women than men, broadly speaking. “Overall, research suggests that women list their partners’ expressions of ‘I love you’ in their top 10 romantic acts, but men do not,” Forshee tells Bustle.

4

Women May Be More Skeptical Of Men’s Commitment

Evolution may also have programmed women to question men’s devotion more, according to 2010 research in the journal Evolutionary Psychology. After all, ancient women had to make sure their mate was suitable and reliable when it comes to reproduction — not just any man would do. This may also explain why men generally evolved to fall in love and express their devotion first: They needed to prove their commitment before moving forward in a relationship.

5

Men Are More Likely To Feel Like Their Love Isn't Reciprocated

The same research shows that men may be more willing to fall in love during the courtship phase than women because of that evolutionary drive to prove devotion and, consequently, reproduce. Men in the study reported a greater number of loves at first sight, as well as a higher percentage of loves that were not reciprocated. The researchers also found that for men, an over-perception of a woman’s sexual interest in them was linked to more frequently falling in love, which may explain why they eventually went on to report unrequited feelings.

6

Women Are More Likely To Focus Their Love

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Think back to your high school or middle school crushes. Did you tend to focus your love and affection on one individual? Or were you pretty much in love with everyone? While everybody is different, your gender may have played a role, say Bennett and Bennett.

One study found that teenage boys who are attracted to girls fall in love more quickly and do so more often. In contrast, girls who are attracted to boys tend to fixate on fewer guys overall, Bennett and Bennett explain. Of course, this doesn't mean that all heterosexual women zero in on one man while their male counterparts are off falling in love with every woman they see. Ultimately, it all comes down to the individual.

7

Women May Be Less Visual When Falling In Love

How men fall in love can have more to do with physical appearance, according to Bennett and Bennett. Generally speaking, a man can fall in love “from afar” more easily than a woman, they say. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to assess feelings of love based on factors besides just physical attraction, like a potential partner’s personality, they add. The end result? It may take longer for a woman to warm up to a new flame compared to men.

Unsurprisingly, this might also have to do with biology. According to 2009 research published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, men tend to be more visual than women. That said, falling in love at first sight is not men’s default, and is by no means off-limit to people who are not men.

8

Men May Fall In Lust More

Men’s tendency to focus on the physical may also mean they “fall in lust” more often than women, according to dating expert James Preece. Research shows that men tend to focus on the person in front of them based on their appearance without always questioning whether they’re actually compatible, he previously told Bustle. And sometimes appearance alone is enough to create the illusion of commitment. “They think they are in love, but they simply just enjoy the idea of being in love,” he said in a previous interview.

9

Women And Men Look For Similar Qualities In Long-Term Partners

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As mentioned above, there aren’t too many differences when it comes to what’s happening in men's and women’s brains when falling in love. And the research reflects that. Studies have shown that men and women seek to find love and have a successful marriage in equal numbers. Both are looking for pretty much the same thing, too, adds Forshee. “Men and women report similar preferences for a long-term partner, [including] traits such as kindness, intelligence, understanding, and someone who loves them in return,” she tells Bustle.

10

Women Tend To Cope With Rejection Better Than Men

Love doesn’t always lead to a happy ending. And women are better able to cope with ill-fated relationships than men, according to a study published in the journal Sex Roles. The research found that women are more likely to end a relationship they see as doomed and better able to cope with rejection than their male counterparts. Why? Women tend to be more attune to problem areas in the relationship and take action accordingly, explain the researchers. While this doesn’t always mean a breakup, that lack of blind spots can impact how women decide to proceed in their partnerships differently than men.

11

Both Men And Women Can Love Love

There’s an assumption that women tend to be mushier when it comes to romance. But you know what they say about assumptions: Research published in the Journal of Social Psychology found that both sexes have similar responses and attitudes to love and romance stimuli, suggesting that women aren’t greater “fools for love” than men.

Despite the research, love is tough to define. Everyone expresses themselves differently, and at the end of the day, gender doesn’t always play a role.

Studies referenced:

Fisher, H. (2005). Romantic love: an fMRI study of a neural mechanism for mate choice. Journal of Comparative Neurology, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16255001/

Galperin, A. (2010). Predictors of How Often and When People Fall in Love. Evolutionary Psychology. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22947775/

Harrison, M. (2011). Women and men in love: who really feels it and says it first? The Journal of Social Psychology, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22208110/

Montgomery, M. Love and Dating Experience in Early and Middle Adolescence: Grade and Gender Comparisons. Journal of Adolescence, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9971725/

Puts, D. (2015). Human sexual selection. Current Opinion in Psychology, https://beel.la.psu.edu/documents/human-sexual-selection.pdf

Rupp, H. (2009). Sex Differences in Response to Visual Sexual Stimuli: A Review. Archives of Sexual Behavior, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2739403/

Wilkins, R. (2006). Emotion expression and the locution “I love you”: A cross-cultural study. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0147176705000908

Experts:

David Bennett, dating expert and founder of Double Trust Dating

Jonathan Bennett, dating expert and founder of Double Trust Dating

Danielle Forshee, Psy.D., licensed psychologist

Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., sexologist and ambassador for sexual wellness and sex toy brands We-Vibe, Womanizer, and Arcwave

James Preece, dating expert