You can’t stop thinking about them at work. When they’re not around, everything reminds you of them, and you count down the hours until you’ll see them again. Frankly, your friends are getting a little tired of hearing you talk about them all the time. If any of this sounds familiar, you definitely know what it feels like to fall in love — and what a joyful, complex rollercoaster ride it is! But how long does it take to fall in love? Do you need to get to know someone for weeks or months at a time, or can you fall head over heels in a mere matter of days — or even hours? I’ll get to the answer later, but I’ll tell you this much: you may be surprised at just how long it takes.
Here’s the thing. There’s no exact formula for how long it takes, because no two people are the same, nor are any two relationships. The pace at which you fall for someone might depend on the nature of how you met — for example, if you already knew each other through work or were childhood friends, you already had a baseline connection, which might allow you to emotionally bond much faster. It might also depend on your personality, age, emotional availability, and how often you see each other. Obviously, if you’re going on dates with someone multiple times a week, then you’re more likely to fall in love faster than if you’re only seeing each other a few times a month. For some people, having sex or being physically intimate accelerates their emotional attachment to someone. Even your dating history can come into play: if you were previously married, recently went through a bad breakup, or were betrayed by an ex, it might take you longer to fall for someone new because you’re unknowingly guarding your heart.
All that said, through my extensive experience as a matchmaker, I’ve noticed some patterns in terms of how long it generally takes someone to catch feelings. And there’s research to back up many of these observations, too. So, let’s answer this age-old question, shall we?
Is love at first sight real?
Ever heard someone say, “I knew I loved her from the moment I saw her,” or “I knew he was ‘the one’ sight on seen”? Some people insist they’ve experienced love at first sight, while others scoff at the prospect of this phenomenon.
A 2017 poll conducted by Harper’s Bazaar and Elite Singles found that 61% of women and 72% of men believe that love at first sight is legit. But just because the majority of people think it could happen doesn’t mean it actually does. Sure, people can have an instant attraction and chemistry with someone. As for love — well, true love requires knowing someone, which takes time.
Interestingly, according to a 2010 research paper published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, it only takes one-fifth of a second for people to produce the brain chemicals that ignite that sought-after “in-love” feeling.
The question is — is that feeling enough to sustain love? Falling in love and staying in love are two very different things, which explains why you can feel an immediate spark with someone that fades once you start to see different sides of them.
How long does it take men to fall in love?
There’s no real way to determine from a scientific standpoint how long it takes a guy to fall for someone. However, a study by YouGov for eharmony found that men take an average of 88 days to say “I love you.” Keep in mind that just because it takes them that many days to utter those three little words doesn’t mean that’s the exact amount of time it took them to feel love — they may very well have known they were falling for days or weeks prior to actually expressing it out loud. By the way — that survey found that a whopping 39% of men say ILY within the first month of seeing someone.
How long does it take women to fall in love?
As for ladies, women take an average of 134 days to tell their partner they love them, and only 23% say it within the first month of dating.
Surprised? I thought so. Many people assume that women are more in touch with their emotions, and therefore more likely to fall in love faster as well as express that love out loud. But this study totally squashes that gender stereotype. Another 2010 study of 172 college students published in The Journal of Social Psychology also revealed that men not only fall in love faster than women but are apt to say it more quickly.
Now, there could be many possible reasons for this. Are men more confident in their convictions, and therefore more likely to say ILY sooner? Do they feel pressure to “take the lead” and be the first one to say it? Or do they genuinely form attachments at a faster pace? Who knows. Either way, these statistics are definitely eye-opening.
Falling in love vs. being in love
Now that we’ve established that it takes most people three to four months to say “I love you,” it’s important to make the distinction between falling in love and being in love.
Falling in love is a rush — it’s intense, euphoric, and at times even overwhelming, anxiety-inducing or frightening. When you’re falling in love, you’ll know it, because you want to be around the object of your affection all the time, and when you’re not around them they consume your thoughts. You’ll feel those infamous butterflies everybody talks about.
When you’re in love with someone, however, the volume gets turned down somewhat. You’re not experiencing as many obsessive or intrusive thoughts. You don’t idealize your partner or put them on a pedestal because you’ve already seen their flaws and shortcomings. You’ll know you’re in love with someone when you’re down to take care of them when they’re sick, and you’ve bounced back from a real fight. You’ve been in the trenches together and made it out even stronger than before. Some psychologists refer to this as “companion love” and it differs from passionate love in that it’s more based on mutual acceptance and respect, which takes some time to build. But that doesn’t mean the two can’t exist: you can experience both types of love with one person (and it’s a magical thing).
The bottom line? Falling in love can happen relatively quickly — some say they feel it on a first date, while most agree it takes at least eight weeks. But you can fall out of love just as easily. Really and truly loving someone doesn’t happen right away, because it requires getting to know your partner in a wide variety of scenarios — witnessing their quirks, their fears, their annoying habits. Some things are well worth the wait, though — and being in love is one of them.