It is possible that you may have had friends who say that they fell in love a couple of weeks after meeting someone, but other people can be together for months and months and still not be sure. While there’s no one-size-fits-all algorithm for how long it takes to fall in love with a new partner, experts say there are a few common factors that influence the pace of how long it takes to love someone.
When you have a new date friend and it feels like you’re not falling at the same speed, it can make you question whether the relationship is right. The reality is that there’s so much that goes into falling in love with someone that has nothing to do with them, personally. (“It’s not you, it’s me” isn’t always a lie.) Your upbringing, your mental health, your values — all of these things can affect your ability to fall in love. And often, says relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, L.C.S.W., a slow burn often indicates a brighter future.
“There’s no one answer or time frame, but I generally find that when people say they are in love after four weeks or even after eight weeks, they are talking about lust! We can have lust and passion at first sight, but it takes longer than that to really get to know someone and figure out who they are and how the two of you connect. Love is definitely something longer term,” she says.
Patience is a virtue when it comes to assessing a budding relationship, and Hartstein says each person deserves feel free to fall at their own pace. “Even if the person you are dating proclaims their love early on, that’s no reason for you to start questioning yourself and your feelings. Everyone is different.”
Though we can’t pin down exactly when someone will become aware of their feelings, there are some factors that can make people fall in love quickly, on average. Or, at least think they have. Here are some things that can affect influence how long it takes to love someone:
1. Positive Thinkers Can Fall In Love Faster
Generally, positive people might find it easier to talk themselves into a more optimistic mindset, and that includes their feelings toward someone else.
“Positive thinking can increase how much love you have for your partner for several reasons,” psychologist Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., tells Bustle. “First of all, if you are already thinking positively in general, you are much more likely to notice and appreciate those qualities in your partner that you love rather than take these characteristics for granted or overlook them. Also, if you typically tend to engage in positive thinking, you are likely to be a more open-hearted person in general, as well as towards your partner, than someone who tends to be more of a negative or even neutral kind of thinker.”
If you tend to look on the positive side of everything, that’s going to translate to how you look at relationships.
2. Men Might Fall In Love Faster Than Women
It may go against every gender stereotype ever — but that’s exactly why gender stereotypes are total BS. According to a 2011 study published in The Journal of Social Psychology, men fall in love faster than women. The study also found that they expressed it sooner — but some experts think this might be more to do with men being more secure in their convictions rather than actually falling in love faster.
“Generally, men are seen as less emotional and may not question their emotions as much as women do,” Rachel Needle, Psy.D., licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist, tells Bustle. “On the other hand, women are often more likely to analyze their feelings and hesitate before saying ‘I love you.’ Thus, a man might not actually be in love, but will say it when the feelings are strong and believes that he is. Despite what rom-coms of the ‘90s may suggest, many men do desire meaningful connections and relationships. They might sometimes fall harder faster, but there is no telling how long that feeling will last.”
3. Your Relationship With Your Parents Matters
Though the link between your romantic partner and your parents might not be obvious, you might have already be looking for that connection. Depending on what kind of relationship you had with that parent, you might be more or less eager to fall in love with them. “The primary trigger for falling in love and selecting a particular person stems from the quality of relationships with your caretakers during childhood,” says relationship expert Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.
If you didn’t have a great relationship with your caretakers during your childhood, you might be more likely to fall in love with someone quickly, hoping to resolve the issues with your caretakers with your romantic partners. “Our unconscious mind wants to restore that original connection,” he says.
But while it might look like love at first sight, psychologist Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D., says it’s mostly fleeting brain hormones. “People experience an intense attraction that floods them with endorphins and dopamine, and they try to attach to that person. That psychologically restores connection from childhood they feel fully alive and joyfully relaxed.” The problem with this kind of “love” is that it signs your partner up for a role they’re not aware of, and aren’t responsible for. Hunt says it’s important to be conscious of the expectations you’re putting on a new partner and look for signs that you’re putting too much pressure on them.
4. Your Parents’ Relationship With Each Other Matters
While your relationship with your parents can affect your relationship with your partners, licensed psychotherapist Terri Cole, L.C.S.W., tells Bustle that your parents’ relationship with each other can also impact your openness to fall in love quickly.
“We all have what I refer to as a Downloaded Love Blueprint in our unconscious minds. This is made of what you observed and experienced in childhood regarding romantic love. These influences include your country, culture, family of origin, extended family, and societal norms among others,” Cole says. If your parents fought a lot, you might unconsciously seek out a partner that you have tension with, because it recreates the model you grew up with, Cole says. Conversely, you might consciously seek partners who you have no tension with, so as to avoid repeating the negative model you had as a child.
5. Can You Train Yourself To Fall In Love?
How long does it take to fall in love? It might take less time if you put the effort in, experts say. If you really, really want to fall in love, there is some proof that you can basically train yourself to do it — like Arthur Aron’s 36 Questions experiment. In the experiment, two people asked each other increasingly personal questions over a 45-minute period — and finished with staring into each other’s eyes. Did it work? Well, six months after the experiment, one of the pairs got married, so it seemed like something definitely happened. The key is sharing personal information in an environment where you feel trust and support.
“Reciprocal escalating self-disclosure is kind of a long, fancy term that social scientists use. Once we’ve each reveals some vulnerabilities to one another, if it all went well, you feel comfortable and you can reveal even more vulnerability,” Margaret Clark, PhD, a psychology professor at Yale University, tells Bustle. “Feeling understood, feeling validated is something that people like.” And they like it so much, it might even lead to love.
Harrison, Marissa A. and Shortall, Jennifer C. (2010) Women and Men in Love: Who Really Feels It and Says It First? The Journal of Social Psychology. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00224545.2010.522626?src=recsys
Aron, Arthur. (1997) The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0146167297234003
Aimee Hartstein, L.C.S.W., relationship therapist
Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D., psychologist
Rachel Needle, Psy.D., psychologist and sex therapist
Margaret Clark, Ph.D., professor of psychology, Yale University
Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., psychologist and founder of Safe Conversations
Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D., psychologist and founder of Safe Conversations
Terri Cole, L.C.S.W., psychotherapist