When Do I Know I am in Love? – Three Stages of Love

Love is an emotional bond and a powerful practice that can last forever. Love is also a group of behaviors and emotions characterized by intense intimacy, shared passion, commitment, and care. It typically involves emotional bonding, affection, trust, closeness, protection, attraction, and concern. Love can range from an initial attraction to love, to full-on passion that develops over time to deep emotional bonds. People fall in love not only with the person they are involved with physically, but also with a person’s personality and their sense of values and needs.

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We have all felt this at some point, whether as a teenager or a young adult: “I just want him/her to love me”. However, “romantic love” is not only about developing physical relationships. Romantic love is also often related to forming enduring relationships of any kind – family relationships, friendships, boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, or even work relationships. However, “romance” means more than lust; it also involves feelings, mutual respect, trust, safety, intimacy, appreciation, emotional fulfillment, communication, caring, respect, honesty, joy, freedom, pleasure, satisfaction and growth. When we talk about love, these are all components that truly encompass what we mean by romantic love.

In fact, it has been proven that “love” gives your brain chemicals that cause your heart to beat faster, blood flows to your extremities more rapidly, provides you with an increased amount of endorphins, causes your brain to release serotonin, and provides your brain with the feeling of well-being. As these brain chemicals are released, your body releases natural chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) that give you the “high” associated with love. Basically, love gives your brain the “high” it craves in order to overcome the “trivial” physical challenges of getting love on a “level”. So, in the beginning stages of a relationship, your brain is in a heightened state of excitement because it feels like your relationship is moving at a very fast pace – your hormones are raging and your brain is needing a high.

This feeling of excitement or “agape” experienced during this stage of the relationship, is actually very healthy for you because your brain realizes that your life has only just begun and you have not lived up to all of your relationship potential yet. Therefore, you should release any feelings of jealousy, anger, fear, or sadness because this is the stage when your soul-searching begins. During this storge, you should use all of your resources (such as, friends, family, and associates, who also love you unconditionally) to look inside yourself to determine what needs to be done in order to move forward. You will then know for certain that “you” is indeed perfect for your agape relationship. Now, it is time for your brain to set its limits and agape. Finally, you will have moved from the storge of love to the storge of friendship.

On the other hand, if you were in a relationship prior to moving into the romantic era, you might have been in a more companionate love type of environment. At this stage, your brain has decided that you are now more than enough on your own without the relationship. Your brain is letting go of the need to be needed by anyone else and realizing that you do not need anyone to complete you. As such, you are now at the first stage of “falling in love.” However, this does not mean that you are incapable of falling back into that loving relationship again – it just means that you are moving on from the “companionate love” phase to the ” romance” phase.

In both instances described above, your emotions are changing. Your emotions during the companionate love stage are more “safe” because your needs are not being met and you are not trying to create a romantic attachment to someone. Your “emotions” at this stage are more based on caring and compassion for your companion than they are on true romance.