- Helen Fisher is a biological anthropologist who studies love and relationships.
- She’s found that there are certain universal behaviors that suggest a person is falling in love.
- Those behaviors include not being able to stop thinking about the object of your affection and feeling incredibly energetic.
One of the greatest things about new love is that it really feels new. As in, you’re the first person ever to find it difficult to sleep, eat, work, and generally do anything that doesn’t involve thinking or talking about the object of your affection.
Tell this to a scientist and they’ll laugh. Current evidence suggests that romantic love unfolds in more or less the same way in everyone – both in the way they behave and in the way their brain reacts.
In fact, the Daily Mail recently reported that, by 2028, couples will be able to take a kind of “love test,” for which they’ll get their brain scanned to see if they’re really smitten with their partner.
But when I asked Helen Fisher, who is a biological anthropologist and the chief scientific advisor to dating site Match, whether she believed that such a love test would be available within a decade, she said, “I wouldn’t count on it.” The brain in love is a combination of multiple systems working together, she added, so it would be hard to isolate just one chemical that indicates a person is in love.
That said, Fisher has studied and written about the universal traits and behaviors associated with romantic love – ones that don’t require a brain scan to see. In her book “The Anatomy of Love,” which she revised and re-published in 2016, Fisher describes many of those key signs. Some are drawn from research done by Dorothy Tennov, author of the book “Love and Limerence.”
Some of those indicators are listed below – and there’s a solid chance you’ve experienced at least one before.
The person is suddenly at the center of your world
- Wikimedia Commons
Fisher says that the person you’re falling for has begun to take on “special meaning.” As one participant in Tennov’s study said, “My whole world had been transformed. It had a new center and that center was Marilyn.”
You can’t stop thinking about the person
Fisher calls this “intrusive thinking.”
She writes: “Thoughts of the ‘love object’ begin to invade your mind. … You wonder what your beloved would think of the book you are reading, the movie you just saw, or the problem you are facing at the office.” Similarly, you mentally review all the time you’ve spent together.
Many people say these thoughts are distracting to the point that they can’t focus fully on work or school.
You feel incredibly energetic
“Hypomania” is a term for intense energy, and it’s associated with the beginnings of romantic love.
Fisher writes that you might experience “trembling, pallor, flushing, a general weakness, overwhelming sensations of awkwardness and stammering.” Or, you might find that you’re sweating, that your heart is beating wildly, that you’ve got butterflies in your stomach, or that you can’t eat or sleep.
You become jealous easily
- Paramount Pictures
Scientists who study non-human animals use the term “mate guarding” to describe the extreme lengths to which those animals will go to protect their new relationship. Fisher says it applies to humans as well.
You might be terrified of rejection and experience an “intense motivation to win this special person,” Fisher writes.
You desperately crave being with the person again
- REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
Fisher says participants in Tennov’s study described experiencing craving, hope, and uncertainty.
Fisher writes: “If the cherished person gave the slightest positive response, the besotted partner would replay these precious fragments in reverie for days. If he or she rebuffed one’s overtures, uncertainty might turn to despair and listlessness.”
You can’t stand to be apart from the person
- Georgie Pauwels/Flickr
It’s a kind of “separation anxiety,” Fisher says.
In fact, any obstacle that stands between you two only serves to increase the romantic passion and craving. Fisher calls this pattern “frustration attraction.”
It seems like your obsession with the person is uncontrollable
The biggest commonality among Tennov’s participants, Fisher writes, was “the feeling of helplessness, the sense that this obsession was irrational, involuntary, unplanned, uncontrollable.”
As one survey respondent who was involved in an affair with someone from work put it: “This attraction for Emily is a kind of biological, instinct-like action that is not under voluntary or logical control. … It directs me.”