Or in lust? Feelings are confusing. Here’s a checklist that can help.
I had a conversation this week that made me have a good, hard think about my feelings.
Well, okay. I’m a Pisces, so I’m always thinking about my feelings.
But, as someone who’s always in my feelings, I’m aware of subtle differences in mood — my own and others — and the nuances of my own thoughts and feelings. Being such an emotional person, I’m always questioning my feelings — with a specific emphasis on the romantic ones.
After this particular conversation, I got to wondering — how do I know if I’m in love? Have I ever really been in love? Do I even know what it feels like?
Before we get to the checklist, let’s try an experiment:
Picture yourself with your partner in a bar, surrounded by your closest friends.
He (or she) has his arm around you. How do you feel? Are you glowing? Elated? Uneasy? Anxious?
Then your ex walks in. “The one that got away.” How do you feel now? Are you relieved that you dodged that bullet and that you found your current partner? Or does seeing your ex make you wish you were single and want to run into their arms?
If the second question is more your speed, then maybe you’re not feeling the love connection as strongly as you thought you were. And maybe you have some unresolved feelings for that ex that need straightened out before you continue dating anyone seriously.
But if you’re glowing like a torch, there’s a good chance your feelings are more than just passing infatuation.
So how do you know if you’re in love?
A Google search is unhelpful so don’t even try.
You are the only one who knows your heart, and you are the only one who can determine if you’re in love or not.
And that’s just it — love is a feeling, but you decide when you feel it or not. It’s a choice.
Not everyone loves the same way you do, so it’s hard to make a universal checklist that applies to everyone. Love looks different on everyone and to everyone.
But these are a few commonalities I’ve noticed and observed in my own relationships that I pay attention to and look for.
If you check “yes” for any of these, you could be in love. But only you can decide that. So consider this a jumping off point to help you decipher your feelings.
Being with them is better than being alone.
I’m a solitary creature and I like spending most of my time alone, with planned excursions to hang out with friends. I love living alone, sleeping alone, and having my own space.
As someone who values my alone time and guards it with a moat full of ravenous alligators, you have to be pretty dang special for me to toss away my alone time and devote it to you instead. If I meet someone like that, I know they’re worth hanging onto.
It’s worth noting that when I say, “better than being alone,” I don’t mean it like, “Well, I guess I’ll be with this random person because I’m tired of being single.”
I mean that I relish their company so much that I no longer covet my alone time as closely, and I’m willing to sacrifice some of that treasured alone time in order to spend it with them.
My bed and my home are my sanctuary and my sacred place, and I don’t share them lightly. But, if I want to come home to that person, or if I don’t mind sharing my bed with them, then there’s a good chance my feelings are stronger than just like or lust.
Your feelings are unprecedented
This doesn’t always mean it’s love, but it can be a sign of growing affection that could lead to love. So flag it and pay attention to it.
The few times I’ve been in love, I always remember that one key, common phrase that I used to describe all of them: “I’ve never felt like this before.”
The most recent time I said this, it one was the biggest of all — a connection unlike any other I’ve ever experienced with another person. That’s how I know it’s real — because it’s unprecedented, and it’s big.
Every time you’re in love, it won’t be the same, and it won’t always feel exactly the same. Because people are different, so the love that you feel for them can be different, too. But the unprecedented nature of your feelings should make you sit up and pay attention. They’re unprecedented for a reason.
They always teach you something new
Maybe this one is unique to me, but something that I look for in a partner is someone who will help me to grow, and can teach me something new — whether it’s a skill, a fun fact, or new way of thinking.
If they can teach me something new, it probably means that they — like me — are an avid reader and a sponge for information with a love of learning.
That common personality trait, too, means that you’ll never run out of things to talk about and teach each other. It keeps the relationship alive and thriving, and it grows your bond into something lasting.
You value their opinion, you respect them, and you want their input
You give a shit what they think — about you, about anything.
And, even if you don’t have the same opinion on things, you are willing to overlook your differences for the sake of the relationship — because you respect them.
You ask for their input when making decisions — big or small. Their advice and what they have to say matters to you.
To what degree you implement their advice is up to you, but the fact that you value them and their opinions enough to ask and consider them speaks volumes of your feelings.
You want to be vulnerable with them
You want to let them see all of your flaws and the things about yourself that you aren’t proud of because you want them to know you — all of you.
You don’t mind if they see you ugly cry, or see you first thing in the morning when you’re cranky and crusty-eyed.
You want to let them into your life and your family, and get to know all the intimate details about you and your life.
They’re the one you want to talk to, even if you’re in a foul mood, or just generally feeling gross.
When you’re feeling low, does the thought of that person make you feel better? Would you want them to be there, even though you aren’t at your best?
Communicating is easy
This might not be indicative of love — but it is indicative of a strong connection that you should not ignore — and it could very well grow into love.
At first, I had this title as, “Your conversations last for hours and span every subject.” Which, if you like to talk, this could be an indicator that you might have found someone you love. But, if that’s not the way you communicate best, then that doesn’t really apply to you.
So maybe you write long emails or letters to each other, or you talk on the phone all the time, or you FaceTime regularly, or the text conversations are always flowing.
Or maybe you’re more about nonverbal communication, like the right touches at the right times. Or maybe it’s about small acts of service like making sure you always have his favorite snack at home, or going out of your way to help him in some way.
However you communicate, if communicating with the other person is second nature to you and things are really clicking, it’s worth considering that it just might be a love connection.
You consider their needs as equal to your own
I’ve heard this one as, “You put their needs before yours,” but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. In fact, I think this could be a slippery slope.
You should never sacrifice your own needs for the sake of your partner — that is not love, that is unhealthy. Instead, if it’s love, you care about their needs just as much as you care about your own.
Because you both have an equal stake in the relationship, one person’s needs should not be above another’s. You shouldn’t have to elevate your partner’s needs at the expense of yours. So, saying that what your partner wants is just as important as what you want puts you on equal footing.
Being with them is like breathing
Because it comes so naturally and is comfortable.
Couples will fight, and any relationship is going to have its issues. So when I say “being with them,” I mean literally being in their physical presence. Spending time with them. Hanging out with them.
You wouldn’t even mind doing the mundane activities of running errands or doing the house chores — as long as they’re there, you’re happy — even having fun. Just their presence lights up your entire experience.
This list is not exhaustive
Doubtless there are more things I could have added to this list, but these are the bigger buckets that I always notice in my own relationships.
Love is a confusing emotion, because it can be uncertain — because we get to decide if we’re in love or not.
Sometimes, our hearts take over and we know we’re in love just because the feeling is so overwhelming. But other times, it’s not as straightforward. Sometimes love can sneak up on us and it takes us a minute to catch up.
If any of these line items stood out to you, it’s worth considering that you might be in love. But it’s your choice.
You’re in love as soon as you decide you’re in love.