It can be so hard to tell, right?
Falling in lust is easy. A biochemical, hormonal response to someone you feel drawn to, attraction is a powerful evolutionary drive.
Intense passion, putting the other person on a pedestal, spending all of your time together …
Many people interpret these feelings and actions as love — and they are!
It may just be early-stage, short-term love, though. Passion and obsession can certainly set the stage for a different love to follow, but they are not indicators of long-term romantic love. Lasting love requires attachment, which takes time to develop.
Here are four indicators that suggest this love can last for you.
1. You made it past the honeymoon phase.
Fueled by a heady mix of hormones based on attraction, the honeymoon phase is intense. During this time, couples tend to have boundless energy, feel emotionally or even physically ill when they are apart, and place each other at the center of their universe. It is an exciting time, but ultimately unsustainable.
After a period of time, which is often six months to two years, the honeymoon phase comes to an end. While it could be a slow transition, for many couples, it is a dramatic crash and burn. Real life intrudes, human flaws become overwhelming, and the passion dissipates. It is as if a harsh light is turned on, suddenly illuminating everything that is wrong with the relationship.
Many couples break up at this point.
For those who remain together, however, the push and pull of the inevitable power struggle teaches both partners how to live with each other. They learn to fight in ways that allow both people to win, not to dismiss each other or overly criticize, and to support each other when things go well. They prove their commitment to each other and to working things out. Once this “real life” compatibility testing has started, then long-term attachment can begin.
If this all sounds familiar to you and your relationship has reached the attachment stage, odds are good that you are in love for the long term. You have made it through the intense feelings and the rough patch that followed, and now have the deeper commitment to your partner that lasting love demands.
2. You have each changed for the better.
Learning to compromise and work things out is the only way to successfully navigate the power struggle phase of your relationship. Therefore, simply by virtue of successfully completing that phase, you have both developed some powerful coping skills and learned to be better people.
Beyond that, though, people who are in a relationship are shaped by their shared experiences. Whether you take on your partner’s strong work ethic or he picks up your habit of being 15 minutes early for everything, your relationship can help you improve as a person.
It takes trust and a strong belief in the other person, however, to learn new habits rather than being threatened by them. If you can see personal growth since you started dating, chances are that you are in love.
3. You are part of each other’s worlds — but not each other's whole world.
If you are in love, you have met each other’s families or are making imminent plans to do so. You have mutual friends. Socially, you are considered a couple, and invitations typically go to both of you. You automatically check in with each other before making plans, and your partner is the go-to person when you get good or bad news.
What makes this different from the intense togetherness of the honeymoon phase is that you are no longer shutting out everyone else. You spend time pursuing your individual hobbies, friendships, and family relationships. You miss each other when you are apart, but you don’t feel the need to always be together.
You trust each other to live your own lives, confident that you will come back together soon. You encourage each other to pursue career, educational, and personal goals, even if that means spending time apart.
4. You can’t imagine a future apart.
When you think of where you want to be in 5, 10, or even 20 years, your partner is an important part of that plan. You are dedicated to finding compromises and ways of uniting both people’s individual long term goals.
You feel confident that you can overcome whatever challenges come your way as a couple, and you believe that you are stronger together than apart.
You are finished with the dating scene and ready to move forward as part of a strong and stable twosome.
Interested in the science of attraction and how it can help your relationship? We are neuroscientist Lucy L. Brown, PhD and biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD — and we are eager to help you put the Anatomy of Love to work in your life.
This article was originally published at The Anatomy Of Love. Reprinted with permission from the author.