Love tends to be somewhat complicated. Most people would probably agree, in fact, that even “complicated” is putting it mildly.
In one experiment, researchers asked a total of 111 university students (45 female, 66 male) two questions about their current or most recently ended romantic relationship:
Even the act of falling in love can mean different things to different people – or at different points in your life. If you’ve fallen in love a time or two before, you might have some firsthand knowledge of its complexities. You might even find it a slippery thing to define, no matter how many times you’ve experienced it.
Is it that first rush of powerful attraction that leaves you dizzy, breathless, and feeling like you’re about to literally fall over? That spark of absolute certainty that you’ve finally met your match? That moment when you can no longer imagine a life without that person in it?
If you already know people typically don’t fall in love at exactly the same time, in exactly the same way, it may not surprise you to learn that researchers find it somewhat challenging to pinpoint the time it takes to fall in love.
Basically, it’s tough to measure a process that doesn’t fall within any defined parameters. There’s no set test that can determine whether you’re in love or not. You might not even know with any certainty exactly what your own feelings mean.
But researchers have tried to measure how long it takes people to feel like confessing their love. Using this as a litmus test for falling in love makes sense, when you think about it.
You might choose to wait before saying those three (not-always-little) words, sure. But chances are, you wouldn’t start to consider saying them unless you actually had started to fall for someone.
- Who confessed their love first?
- About how long did it take before you started to consider saying you were in love?
The results suggest it took male participants just over 97 days, on average, to consider sharing their feelings. Female participants reported taking more time to think about ‘fessing up: nearly 139 days, on average.
Study authors also suggest some partners might put a more romantic spin on their connection by remembering that early spark of desire as love
Various other surveys conducted by dating sites have found similar results, suggesting that it generally takes at least a few months to fall in love, regardless of gender.
Life experiences and social expectations around gender roles can absolutely play a part in the amount of time it takes you to confess your love.
But your actual gender, wherever it falls on the spectrum, may have little to do with the act of falling in love itself.
Romance novels, fairy tales, and romantic comedies would have you believe in the magic of chance encounters and serendipitous insta-love. Science suggests an alternate explanation: attraction at first sight.
Upon first meeting someone, you probably know next to nothing about their personality traits, ability to commit, or typical relationship behavior – you know, all those factors that play a major part in sustaining long-term love.
You don’t have much more to go on than physical appearance, in fact, and 2017 research supports the idea that most reports of “love at first sight” stem from that first flash of attraction.
So, we’ve established you can’t use time to reliably predict when you might fall in love. Then how can you tell when it actually happens?
- A burst of energy and excitement. You might describe this as feeling “on top of the world.”