Love is on everyone’s minds. We all want to fall in love and be loved. We’ve seen the beautiful, romantic couples on TV, we’ve read books on falling in love and happily-ever-after, and it’s only natural to dream and hope that we get to experience something like that one day.
But no one seems to talk enough about the stages of falling in love and how, unlike what we see in Disney movies, love is not all about getting saved by the knight in shining armor or dancing the night away with a beautiful princess. It can get messy.
Falling in love hurts sometimes. And being prepared for it can ease your worries and even help you understand yourself better.
What does falling in love mean?
So if love is not exactly what we see in fairy tales, what is it? Here’s the straight truth — no one knows for sure. There have been many debates about what exactly love is. Some people say it’s feelings of affection toward another. Others say it’s mutual trust and commitment. Still, others say it’s a choice.
So, how to know if you’re falling in love? While people don’t know what ‘love’ is exactly, everyone has experienced the ‘feeling’ of falling in love. To fall in love with someone is to grow more attached slowly, enjoy their company, and be vulnerable with them.
The falling in love stages for a man could involve being vulnerable with your partner or being more protective. The stages of falling in love for a woman could involve feeling safe with your partner or slowly getting accustomed to being loved and cared for.
Sometimes these experiences are experienced by men, women, and non-binary individuals.
There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to fall in love. Falling in love can involve feeling scared, content, anxious, or over the moon. It can be a wonderful feeling.
What are the first signs of falling in love?
So, what are the stages of falling in love? Are there multiple stages, or is falling in love an immediate feeling?
Love, at first sight, sounds like it happens all the time. But does it? The science of falling in love hypothesizes that love, at first sight, is passion, but that’s not a bad thing.
They found that people who claim they experience love (or passion) at first sight feel more love and attachment later on in their relationships.
But not all relationships start this way. The most common way people begin to fall in love is when they develop intimate feelings for their friends. This is called the mere-exposure effect, where people feel more attached to the people they see most often.
It’s no surprise then that people usually start dating their friends. The first falling in love signs could be either a sudden attraction to someone you just met or a slow-burn development of feelings for someone you’ve known a very long time.
According to psychology, the stages of falling in love are not necessarily ordered, and people can sometimes completely skip the first signs and directly develop intimate or compassionate love.
How long does it usually take to fall in love with someone?
While we all want a definite answer, love is a little too complicated to have a specific time frame. Some people are quick to trust and quick to love. Others need more time to open up and trust another person to love them.
Each person has their own pace, so don’t worry about when you will fall in love. As long as you’re enjoying the company of your partner, feel connected to them and care for them, love is definitely nearby.
One of the early stages of falling in love involves friendship. Not all relationships go through this phase, but that’s okay. This is one of the phases of falling in love when you truly get to know someone without romantic intentions.
You become friends with them and get comfortable. This is also the stage where you either firmly decide to keep things friendly between you or move on to the next stage.
This is probably one of the most awkward stages of falling in love. You realize that being friends with someone is not enough and slowly grow to become attached to them.
You find yourself thinking about them all the time, and no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop being preoccupied with their thoughts of them. However, in reality, you’re still friends and nothing more — yet.
4. The awkward phase
You’ve decided to move things along now. The awkward phase can be both frustrating and exhilarating at the same time. People claim this can also be one of the first signs of falling in love because you start to develop a rapport with them.
There’s a lot of flirting, stolen glances, butterflies, and excitement, but it can also be unbearably awkward and embarrassing at times.
In fact, research shows that the way you flirt can predict how your relationship will unfold, which is probably why certain flirting methods work better on some people but not others.
It’s perfectly normal to feel insecure during these situations, especially if you feel like you’re not great at the flirting thing.
The honeymoon phase embodies exactly what falling in love feels like. Partners tend to idolize each other — they can do no wrong. Everything your partner does is endearing, beautiful, and attractive.
During the honeymoon phase, intimacy levels skyrocket. You feel closer and more attached to your partner than ever. You slowly realize that feeling this kind of happiness is how you know you’re falling in love.
6. The insecurity phase
Right after the giddy honeymoon phase, the insecurity phase tends to hit like a brick. Suddenly, you realize that you’re not spending as much time together as used to, but you still feel the same intensity of feelings toward your partner.
But because you don’t have the opportunity to express or receive those feelings, insecurity begins to creep in.
This video gives a few great tips on dealing with insecurities in relationships-
During this rough patch, lots of relationships start to fall apart and sometimes even end. But while many might think the feelings of insecurity is because the relationship is not working out, in reality, it could just be a stepping stone toward learning how to navigate falling in love.
7. The building phase
In this stage of falling in love, partners have overcome the obstacles of insecurity and have moved on to working together toward building their relationship or future. This phase involves lots of discussions about the future.
Couples also tend to make many short-term and long-term plans centering around the relationship. Research shows that couples who make plans are more stable and long-lasting, so this phase is especially important in any relationship.
8. The jigsaw phase
Everything just clicks into phase. All of a sudden, your life aligns with your partner perfectly. You slowly develop a routine together, and you bask in the glow of happy coincidences and hard work paying off.
This is one of the most satisfying stages of falling in love as you begin to truly appreciate your relationship from the bottom of your heart. Your love grows every day.
You’re committed. Your relationship has a solid foundation. You have grown accustomed to each other, and while it might lack the fiery passion and butterflies of the earlier stages, it has its subtle charm.
You might think you’ve figured out how to deal with falling in love by this point, but you begin to pick up on small details about your partner that only makes you fall for them even harder.
The stability phase can be a stage of falling in love for a woman that is completely different from a man’s experience. However, regardless of what gender your partner is, you’re both experiencing the same kind of attachment to each other by the end of it.
10. The fulfillment phase
As the name suggests, this phase is all about reflecting on your relationship and feeling fulfilled about your choices. This phase of a relationship is usually when a couple embarks on a big life change together, like moving in, getting married, or traveling together.
This is the final stage of falling in love and can be a very sweet moment.
Not all couples make it to the final stage. Some couples may break up or call off their relationships earlier. Others might make it one of the last stages and then realize that their relationship is not a good fit for them.
But these are all arbitrary distinctions. These stages may not be so clearly separated and may not even be experienced in the same order.
Each different stage of falling in love has its charm- as you go through this journey with someone, take the time to reflect on your feelings and how you’re feeling in your relationship.
It might be messy sometimes, but working on your relationship and having faith in your partner can go a long way in having a happy connection with your partner.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.