If you think you are, you are. I believe there are different kinds of love and love goes through different stages. That first stage...where you can't stop thinking about the person and it takes away your appetite and makes you feel tingly and a little aroused when that memory of that one passionate kiss you shared recently, and the world looks beautiful simply because that person is in it, and you feel like you could survive on the streets with nothing as long as that person was by your side...I think that's the first stage of love. For me, I couldn't get to the next stages of love without going through that stage. After that stage is when love turns from something beautiful and simple to something you have to work at, something you have to compromise for. But that work brings you so much pleasure because you know you're working on building something together.
A lot of people don't think that first infatuation stage is really love. I don't know why. I look back on the people I was infatuated with and I can still recognize that I was in love. There's some kind of stigma over falling in love too quickly or being flippant with the word because it loses meaning or something. But I disagree. Love is the one thing that you can never run out of. It's a natural, never-ending resource. Like, when you have a child, your ability to love grows beyond what you thought possible--like that end scene in the The Grinch. And when you have a second child you worry that you don't have enough room to love the second child as much as the first, but then your heart grows again and you're overflowing with love. And then you realize that the love you have for your children is different than the love you have for your partner. And that's different than the love you have for your parents. And it's different than the love you have for avocados or cookies & cream ice cream.
Love is the one resource the world can never run out of, but it's the one resource that we're the most stingy with. Go ahead and be in love.
It's not about me, it's about you
You're in love when you actually care about how the other person feels, not how they make you feel. You're in love when you are willing to make sacrifices for that person's well-being and happiness because you care about them.
For those who fear commitment, this might be reassuring
I asked my dad this when I was dating my first girlfriend. [He said,] "You know you are in love when you can no longer imagine living your life without this person, and the idea of spending the rest of it with them is inviting, not terrifying."
It's not all fun and games
This probably sounds trite, but "love" is work. How hard you're willing or want to work on a relationship at it's worst is a good indication of if you're in love vs just infatuated with someone. Infatuation dies when things get hard, but love will want to keep working to persevere (oh man, this does sound trite...but it's true). Stick with me here, despite sounding like a self help book:
Being in love is being selfless, patient, and basically looking at the worst of someone along with the best and going "yep....that's for me." Infatuation feels a lot like love, especially with how media plays it out. Idealization and thinking someone is "perfect" isn't love. If you have someone who you can be 100% yourself around, and they have the freedom to do the same, you're getting closer. If you find your happiness in wanting to make the other person happy, it's a fairly good indication you really are in love. It's really mostly about wanting to put the other person first.
A simple answer
For me it was a quiet inner peace. A feeling that life would be life with her and something far more insignificant without. Just my 2 cents after 9 years.
Put those gloves on and get to work
"Love" doesn't really exist, at least in my estimation. It is an abstract notion. Relationships take work, and this idea of "true love" takes away from that, sometimes.
If you find someone attractive, compatible, and you relate and communicate well together whether times are good or bad, that is worth working on. After years, if you are diligent, you will just be ... happy with that person, loyal to them, and glad to be with them. That is probably "love."
If you don't work on the relationship, it WILL fail. And when it does, everything you have built while ignoring the relationship will totter, if not outright crumble.
I have my wonderful kids 4 days/week and am very happy with the relationship I am in now with a wonderful, compassionate woman, and am cordial enough with my ex, even though it was hard at first, having gone from a marriage to her leaving for someone else, blackmailing me out of $40k by scaring me that I couldn't have joint custody of the kids (I didn't know better and thought she could win that one; turns out she couldn't have, but whatever), and just being her narcissistic self.
She went from a wife to an enemy in just a matter of weeks. And I thought we were in love. Turns out she never loved me, by her own admission, 12 years after a relationship together. But we didn't work on the relationship, we worked on the kids, etc. And that was the downfall.
Love, whatever that is, doesn't sustain a relationship, elbow grease does.
It's not just about being "in" love
Being in love is breathlessness, it is excitement, it is the promulgation of promises of eternal passion... But that is not love. That is just being 'in love,' which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two. Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because that is what love is.
It settles into a routine eventually
When all the new wears off, you don't have butterflies every time they call or text or you know you're going to see them, you're not getting all giddy about "firsts" in your relationship, you're no longer both on your best behavior, you can see their faults and let them see yours, you've survived a few disagreements, you're not boning every time you catch some alone time, the sex isn't mind-blowing every single time. And after all that, they're still your favorite person. You still do things for each other, for the simple joy of making them happy. The absence of the rose colored glasses of new lust hasn't been replaced with resentment, it has evolved into comfort, stability, and security with that person.
When two become one
I know I'm starting to fall in love when it's not just about the person being attractive or making me happy or anything like that, but rather I couldn't stand the thought to see her afraid or in pain. Like her pain becomes mine, if that makes sense.
This is true love
I was the "other man" for a while. A girl I worked with was flirting pretty heavily with me and we went out, things were going pretty well until she told me she had a boyfriend.
I didn't wanna be that guy so I said we couldn't see each other, she goes on to explain how they are gonna break up and he's not good to her and all this. Temptation gave in and we kept dating for a while until one day she tells me about how she had a bad night.
Apparently, she has this condition where it is really hard for her to poop and it causes her a lot of pain, the boyfriend helped her by pushing on her stomach while she pooped and it made her feel better somehow.
I was like whoa that boy loves you, I wouldn't do that. I mean like I'd ask from the other side of the door if you needed anything from the pharmacy but I'd never push on your stomach while you poop.
All of a sudden it got real to me that he loved her and I was a [jerk] for being the other man. You know you are in love when you will help them poop.
Basically you're just one soul in two bodies
When you start treating the other person like your "second-self." Their needs and wants are just as, if not more, important than your own.
To each their own
A girl at work asked a bunch of us guys a question like this once. I think the exact question was, "When did you know you were going to marry your wife?"
My answer was when I realized that my wife is the first woman I've dated that I actually missed when I wasn't with them, that was when I knew I wanted to be with her forever. And then, after about a year of that feeling not changing our going away, I asked her to marry me.
Another guy I work with said he saw his wife destroy the fattest loaded burger, down her Texas cheese fries, and then gulp down her beer before ordering another. That was his clue. I guess love comes to each of us differently.
Sometimes you just know
I just found out I was truly in love yesterday afternoon. My S/O and I had been at the beach cabana all day enjoying a gorgeous South Florida day when naturally a cat 1 hurricane decided to form in the distance. We decided to wait out the storm instead of driving through it so we took showers and settled in for the wait.
I was sitting on the beach chair having a beer and it starts to drizzle. S/O starts yelling, its raining lets go lets go. I'm all like wtf are you talking about. Suddenly he says "I want to kiss you in the rain, come on get up" .. I started laughing really hard because I thought he was [messing] with me. He was sooo serious and grabbed me, pulled me out into the rain and started kissing me. He goes, "I remember the first time we ever kissed. It was on the bus on the way home from grad night 10 years ago. I'll never forget that and I'll always kiss you, forever in rain or shine!" It was ridiculous and amazingly sweet and at that moment I knew I was totally in love and completely happy! Like finally truly in love when I felt that feeling.
I guess you'll know when something so silly and stupid happens that really reminds you that somewhere deep inside you can let go and let love in! (if that makes any sense at all)
It's more than just infatuation
I thought I was in love a lot, growing up. I'd feel in love with people after talking to them for a day. I fell in love with everybody; I loved every girl I met and half the boys.
But as I got older, and got hurt, and hurt people, I realized that love isn't that tingly feeling, or acting like an idiot, or wanting to be around someone all the time.
Love is a quiet trust, it is affection built out of familiarity. Love is really, really, really knowing someone -- and wanting a life that has them in it, not because of what they can do, but because of what they are.
It's actually hard to describe
I'd like to take a step back from the romanticist "love". That's a beautiful, passionate thing but those butterflies aren't really love and the feeling does fade over time. Love is a far deeper, permeating feeling. It comes with subtlety and time and experience, rather than as a burst of emotion or sudden infatuation. Which is why, sadly, I think a lot of the Western world has trouble understanding it fully. And to be honest, despite being with my fiance for 5 years, I couldn't tell you how to recognize it. It's so quiet, yet fills your heart with rich undertone, you really have to feel it to know.
Not to get Freudian, but imagine how you feel love toward family. They may infuriate you, you may not like parts of them, but you would hurt so deeply if they were gone, you cherish the time you've had, and you just... Love them. That's a lot like what romantic love is.
It's selflessness at its core
I dunno but I'll tell you about when I took my girlfriend out to eat for her birthday. It was a fondue place and I felt super out of my element. She loved every second of it. I hated the food. She loved it. I hated the drinks. She loved it. I hated the atmosphere. She loved it. But I loved every second of the evening because she did. I got such great joy from her experiencing her time that I had a great time too. I truly love this woman and me being happy because she was happy showed me.
Bursting with feelings!
When after few minutes you were thinking about something else you suddenly remember about your SO and you get that feeling of a bottle of champagne popping in your chest and throat.
"Forgiveness. Respect. Compromise"
A lot of these answers describe infatuation. Love - you just kind of know. You're yourself. You don't use one of those fakey "boyfriend/girlfriend voices". When you're completely vulnerable, yet comfortable.
I've been married 10 years this coming December. I know how I show love and how my wife shows me love. Forgiveness. Respect. Compromise. Love is holding her hair when she pukes. Not going to bed angry - talking and working through troubles and arguments no matter how difficult the topic. That is key to "waking up happy". Not storming off in the middle of an argument. Accepting you're wrong. Undying respect, no matter what. You may be super mad at the other person for something entirely their fault; never lose respect. Forgiveness. Compromise. Doing things the other person enjoys because they enjoy it, and doing it with a smile on your face. Taking risks together. Accepting there are just some things the other person won't do. Compromise. Forgiveness. Respect.
Love is not chemical imbalances or physiological changes in your body. Love is the feeling and joy you get when doing things FOR the other person.
Got that little bounce in your step
When you get up and you instantly have a good feeling. This sign never fails.
Yep, that pretty much sums it up
I was in a class in college called "Human Sexuality". At one point we were talking about love vs. lust vs. obsession. The professor asks what the real difference between love and lust is. A bunch of different people have opinions, and we have a pretty good discussion for about 15-20 minutes.
It's starting to die down a bit, but before the professor can move on, this one kid in the back, who had not participated so far in the class, just says: "You sleep in the wet spot."
The Professor asks him for more details. "After sex. If you're in love you sleep in the wet spot." The class pretty much unanimously agreed his was the best answer.
Just being yourself
When a person can make your day by simply existing. How, when you're with them, time seems to stop. When you realize no one has ever made you feel happier, safer, or more complete.
It's not about winning the fight, it's getting through it together
Man, I found real love for the first time in my life last year. I'll try to explain it. I knew instantly that there was something special between us. Literally, the first time we went out, it was like we had been together for 10 years.
All I wanted to do was be around this person. It didn't matter what else I was doing, I simply couldn't get enough. You feel like if you could just stay with them forever, that life would be pretty great.
I'm a pretty argumentative person, but in love, I don't fight. Because I don't care if I win. I just want things to be exactly how they are. So I don't yell and I don't get angry. I might get hurt, but never angry.
It was very obvious I was in love because the honeymoon phase of the relationship never wore off. A year later and it's just as amazing if not more so than when we first started. I have no doubt that is will stay that way forever. She's just.. my other half. I don't want to ever date again. This is the one and I couldn't be happier. She might not be perfect but she's perfect for me.
Got me there ;)
When you start to ask questions like "How do you know when you're in love". Dead giveaway.
You don't know what you've got til it's gone
I don't think you really know until they are gone and not with you anymore. Does it pain you to think about that special someone having sex with someone else after you've broken up? Or, do you get a pit in your stomach/lump in your throat when someone mentions his or her name to you years after you've broken up?
That's love. That's when you really know.
I've had exes I didn't give a crap about and I feel normal when I see them, and then I've exes where it would be too painful to even be in the same room with them because the feelings are too intense even years later.
Note: Comments have been edited for clarity.