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What does "Falling in Love" Mean?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Falling in love may be a common expression in much of the Western world but it isn’t used much elsewhere. The phrase may be connected to the idea of "falling head over heels," which was used in the 1300s, and is another term for being struck suddenly by great romantic attraction to someone else. Even with this connection, it can be hard to get a beat on what falling in love means, or what it feels like. Each person may define this experience somewhat differently.

Generally, when a person falls in love they have heightened romantic interest in someone else, and this doesn’t necessarily have to occur at first sight. Many people are friends first and find over time their feelings change to those more romantic in nature. They might want more from a relationship than just friendship and they may cherish more than friendly feelings for the person with whom they're in love with.

The word fall suggests that there’s a certain helplessness about these feelings of attraction, and they’re not necessarily within the control of the person stricken suddenly with great affection. It is true that people can’t always determine who or what attracts them, but they don’t have to be helpless in this regard. People can make choices about whether to act on romantic feelings. However, for those experiencing falling in love for the first few times, the feelings can seems so powerful that there seems little choice but to act upon them. Some people have challenges maturing out of this impulse, which can make forming lasting romantic relationships very difficult.

It would be hard to dispute that initial feelings of attraction and the “falling in love” state are powerful. For centuries, writers and poets have sung both the agonies and joys of discovering passionate feelings for someone else. Chaucer called this early “love” state the “dredful joye” representing both the pitfalls and ecstasy. Infatuation and romantic interest especially at the onset of a relationship can be both painful and exciting.

People have verifiable physiological reactions when in this early love state. A sight of the object of their affection may cause the pulse to race and the body to sweat. Certain neurotransmitters in the brain tend to be produced in greater volume, which can promote happiness and some anxiety. Yet most social scientists would agree that the reaction is not entirely a chemical one and involves the thinking brain and the emotions on numerous levels.

Another point on which most psychologists would agree is that falling in love is most certainly not the same as maintaining a sustained love relationship. It tends to be easy at the beginning, but remaining in love with a person can be difficult. The rush of feelings accompanied with the flush of early love make it hard to judge exactly how viable a relationship might be in the future. For this reason, it’s not recommended that people make quick decisions or lifelong commitments while in this early stage. Getting to know someone after the roller coaster ride of falling in love with him or her may be a fantastic way to determine if the initial fall into love leads to lasting love.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon931010 — On Feb 06, 2014

I am currently in the throes of this most unique experience and I want to thank you for the clarity here. I need it.

By anon353969 — On Nov 04, 2013

Well, you become stupid, crazy, cold, warm, thirsty, sleepless, speechless, silent, lost of appetite and continues. You can't choose where and when it will happen.

Source: Experience and my current state.

By Babalaas — On Aug 08, 2010

@ Parmnparsley- That is a great falling in love quote!

By parmnparsley — On Aug 08, 2010

"Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your heart, or burn down your house, you can never tell."

-Joan Crawford

By Babalaas — On Aug 08, 2010

This is just my opinion, but I think there are different ways to fall in love. The two most distinct ways to fall in love are to fall madly in love with someone; or to fall in love with someone over a period of time to the point where you cannot picture yourself without that person. I find the second is easier to maintain, while the first is usually a shorter more intense relationship.

I guess you can consider yourself lucky if you can say you have experienced both. However, if you have experienced both, then you also know what heartbreak feels like.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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