Figuring out whether you love somebody can be tough in this world of modern dating. Things are certainly more complicated than back in the day, when you'd be chaperoned on a few dates before walking down the aisle within a year. Courtship was a whole lot simpler and required far less examination. Now there's a new set of rules, but they're not exactly written down for everyone to make use of. We'll try to distill it all for you here...
How Do You Know When Your Relationship Has Progressed?
There are some obvious progress points in the path to love. First, you see your potential lover from across the bar. Or maybe you've been impressed by their photos on a dating app. Second, you go on a few dates and start getting to know each other. At this stage, it's all very low commitment and generally quite fun. The next stage is when it gets confusing.
The Dating Game
There's a point in the dating process where it will stop feeling like a series of job interviews with wine and start feeling a little more serious. You actually start imagining yourself long-term with this person and it seems so right. You can't wait for them to text you - so much so that you'll check your phone at least once a minute.
Finally, things have moved on even further and you've had the "let's be exclusive" chat. You've deactivated your online dating profiles and consider your status to be 'in a relationship'. You see each other all the time and you've met each other's families. Does this mean you're in love now? It's a little more complicated than that...
Love Vs. Infatuation
Being in a relationship does not necessarily mean you're 'in love' or even on the road to love. Monica Parikh, a dating and relationship coach, points out some telltale differences between love and infatuation. Liking, or being infatuated with someone happens fast, whereas love needs a much stronger foundation, she explains.
Liking Someone Can Be An Obsession
"Love understands that true intimacy is developed over a long time and through many seasons of life," Parikh says. On the other hand, liking or being infatuated with someone can become an obsession. You might stalk them on social media or be desperate for them to text. But love is very different and much deeper than the infatuation stage of a relationship.
Love Withstands Conflict
If a major conflict befalls a couple who are in the 'like' stage of their relationship, this is likely to be the end for them. "In infatuation, when one partner hurts the other, the trauma pulls apart the relationship. In love, each partner sees the trauma as the catalyst for deeper intimacy and understanding," Parikh explains.
What Do Professional Matchmakers Think?
Alyssa Bun, who has the very cool job title of 'Professional Matchmaker', says falling in love sparks a physical and chemical reaction in the body. Bunn breaks down the science: "When a man starts to fall in love, his testosterone levels drop. They may feel fatigued, moody, and you may witness a reduced sex drive, weight gain, or muscle loss."
Love Is A Drug
Anyone who has been in love will be able to confirm that the high is a little like being on drugs. When we're in love, our bodies produce more dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin, which give us that wonderful feeling. Once your relationship graduates from 'like' into 'love', the feeling can be "as addictive as cocaine," Bunn says.
As explained by Monica Parikh, intimacy and love is developed through many seasons of life. In other words, we're not always going to feel like we're on cocaine, which is quite a relief. Author of 'Smart Relationships', LeslieBeth Wish, says that the way you experience love absolutely changes the longer a couple is together.
You Need A Foundation
Wish goes on to say that, "Over time, the intensity does not disappear, but, instead, it becomes one of many mutually positive feelings. Long-term, mutually happy couples in love say that they feel peaceful, confident, empowered, and other positive feelings." The general consensus is that, like a house, love needs a strong foundation to truly grow and develop over time.
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