Falling in love can feel exciting, even exhilarating. But over time, these feelings may change to something more mellow or calm. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with your relationship.
Romantic love is a key goal for many people. Whether you’ve been in love before or have yet to fall in love for the first time, you might think of this love as the pinnacle of romantic experiences — perhaps even the pinnacle of life experiences.
But over time, you might find yourself thinking “I love them” instead of “I’m in love with them.” Loving someone instead of feeling “in love” with them simply illustrates how feelings of love evolve over the course of a relationship, especially a long-term relationship.
Being in love generally refers to those intense feelings that take over at the start of a relationship.
- excitement and nervousness
- sexual attraction and lust
Here’s what these feelings might look like in action.
You feel charged and euphoric around them
It may not seem like it, but being in love is a somewhat scientific process. Falling in love involves a lot of hormones, which can supercharge your feelings and make them wildly fluctuate.
When you’re around the person you love, increases in dopamine and norepinephrine lead to feelings of:
- nervous excitement
Decreases in serotonin can fuel feelings of infatuation.
Sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, also play a part by boosting libido and leading to feelings of lust.
Other key hormones, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, help cement your attraction by promoting trust, empathy, and other factors of long-term attachment.
You can’t wait to see them again — even when they’ve just left
Even after spending all day with your partner, you still feel lonesome when they leave. You wonder what they’re doing and whether they’re thinking about you. Maybe you already have plans to meet the next day, but you still wonder how you’ll manage until you see them again.
This is common when you’re in love. And while it’s certainly healthy to spend some time away from each other, that doesn’t mean you enjoy doing so.
If you can’t stop thinking about them even when you’re apart, you’re most likely enjoying that agonizing bliss of being in love.
Everything feels exciting and new
Being in love can change the way you see things. Even everyday activities like going to the grocery store can become more enjoyable.
You might also look at other things with new eyes. Many people in love feel more willing to try new things, or things they previously didn’t care for, simply because their partner enjoys them.
There’s nothing wrong with trying new things. In fact, openness to new experiences is a great trait to have. But it’s pretty common to feel swayed by a partner’s interests, so make sure you don’t feel pressured to go along with things you really don’t want to do.
You always make time for them
Typically, being in love with someone means you want to spend as much time with them as possible. Even if you’re busy, you probably find yourself arranging your schedule to see your partner.
This might also involve a desire to get to know more about them by exploring their interests. When love is mutual, they’ll probably feel the same way about you and want to spend just as much time getting to know your interests.
This is all pretty normal. It’s also common, however, for people in love to briefly “forget” about their friends.
Try to remember to spend time with your friends, too, instead of letting love completely sweep you away.
You don’t mind making sacrifices for them
In the first rush of being in love, you might feel completely dedicated to your partner, ready to do anything and everything to help them through a tough spot or even just make their lives a little easier.
Empathy and your fast-growing attachment can fuel your desire to be there for them and help them however possible. But the hormones involved in love can sometimes affect how you make decisions.
If you feel the urge to do something that would completely uproot or significantly change your life, take some time and think it through.
After some reflection, you may still want to quit your job and travel with your partner to a different country. But make sure you really want to do it for yourself, too.
Sacrifices can be part of any kind of love. In fact, partners who work to accommodate each other’s needs may have a stronger bond. But people in love have a tendency to charge forward and offer help without thinking twice.
You have fantastic sex
Sex doesn’t have to be part of a romantic relationship. But when it is, it can play a big part in falling in love with someone.
The intensity of the hormones involved can affect your sex drive, increasing your desire for your partner and the passion you experience during sex.
When you first fall in love, sex can also help increase closeness to your partner. Great sexual chemistry can make you feel good about sex and increase your desire to keep having it. Wanting to explore each other’s sexual interests usually doesn’t hurt, either.
You idealize them
Being in love can make it easy to idealize your partner’s best traits (great listening abilities, musical talent, warm smile) and gloss over the less than positive ones (doesn’t return texts right away, flirts with your friends).
It’s normal to focus on someone’s best side when in love. But it’s also important to watch for red flags or relationship incompatibilities.
If your friends point things out, consider what they have to say. They aren’t in love with your partner, so they have a clearer perspective and may notice things you miss.
Love takes a lot of forms, and it can change over time. These are some of the ways your feelings may change when you love your partner but don’t necessarily feel in love with them.
You’re secure in their affection
When you first fall in love, you might not only idealize your partner but also want to present an idealized version of yourself.
You might, for example, always try to look your best. Or maybe you try to hide what you believe are flaws that might turn off your partner.
But over time, as your relationship strengthens, you may feel more at ease being yourself. You don’t worry they’ll dump you if you leave dishes in the sink or forget to take out the trash. You accept that both of you will always wake up with morning breath.
This doesn’t mean you don’t make an effort to maintain this affection and help it flourish. It just means you’ve switched over to a realistic view instead of idealized versions of each other.
You don’t feel the need to hold back your opinions
If you’re in love with someone, it’s easy to take on their opinions as your own. Sometimes you may not be completely conscious of this.
You may find it easier to openly share your feelings with a partner you love and feel comfortable with. Love often conveys a sense of security, so you may not feel like you need to hide your feelings or opinions to protect the relationship.
Even when you have a small disagreement, you know you can talk through it.
You see (and accept) the good with the less than good
Your partner, like you, is an imperfect human. They have good traits, of course, which probably helped you fall in love with them. But they most likely have some aspects of personality or habits you don’t find so great.
Even the things that seemed endearing when you first fall in love, such as the way they brush their teeth at the kitchen sink, may become something you sigh and roll your eyes over.
Loving someone requires you to see them wholly and accept all their parts, just as they see and accept all of you. Minor flaws often don’t really matter over the long term.
But when something does bother you, you’ll probably feel comfortable enough to speak up about it and work to encourage and support each other through personal growth.
This doesn’t include serious red flags or signs of abuse. Always reach out to a professional if abuse is present.
Intimacy might require more effort
When you fell wildly in love with your partner, you probably had sex all the time. As your relationship stabilizes, you certainly still have sex, but maybe less often or with less intensity.
The first time you fall asleep without having sex, or spend a night alone, it might seem like you’ve lost something. You might even worry the relationship is failing.
But often this only means the demands of life have made it necessary to plan time with your partner. Sexual activity might happen less often, but the effort you put into connecting intimately can make those moments even better.
The relationship takes more work
It’s easy to give a relationship your all when you’re head over heels in love. The relationship might seem to progress smoothly, even flawlessly, and the two of you seem to be on the same page about absolutely everything.
This isn’t sustainable over time. Eventually you may need to prioritize your partner slightly less to take care of daily life.
Spending time together may seem less natural and easy, especially when you’re both busy or tired. But love means you keep trying and make an effort to show you care.
You feel deeply connected
Loving someone can involve a sense of strong connection and trust. You know your partner well enough to rattle off their likes and dislikes, values, and strengths without a second thought.
They’re probably the first person you turn to when feeling down and the first person you want to share your successes and aspirations with. You’re a team. Sometimes you might even feel like a single unit.
So, you know you love your partner, but you think you may not be in love with them any longer.
That’s perfectly all right. In fact, you might even feel a bit relieved to know your hormones have settled down a little.
Some people prefer the excitement of being in love. Others prefer the intimate, deep connection associated with long-term love. Many people work toward long-term relationships for this very reason.
What you want out of a relationship may make one seem better than the other, but healthy relationships are possible with either.
You might feel sadness or regret if you feel your relationship has lost the “spark” associated with being in love. Maybe you want sex to be more spontaneous, or feel excited about seeing your partner instead of comfortable.
Talking to a relationship counselor can help you rekindle the feeling of being in love, but these tips can also help:
- Maintain an interest in their thoughts and feelings. Don’t forget about everyday check-ins. Ask how their day’s going, making sure you really listen to their response.
- Prioritize time together, including intimacy. This might mean dipping out of a work event early or taking a rain check on those movie plans with your friend.
- Don’t forget maintenance tasks. Think of your relationship as a car you depend on to get to and from work. To keep it going, you’ve got to get regular oil changes, rotate the tires, and so on. Give your relationship regular tune-ups by making a conscious effort to communicate openly and offer affection. These don’t have to be big, over-the-top displays. A kiss to welcome them home can go a long way.
After making it past the early stages of infatuation, your feelings for your partner might become less intense. You may not long for their company in quite the same way. In fact, you might even enjoy time apart.
Don’t worry. This is pretty normal, and it doesn’t have to spell the end of things.
Long-term love involves commitment. If you and your partner devote effort to maintaining your bond, at the very least, you’ll probably have a strong relationship. And you just might keep that actively in love feeling alive, too.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.