Butterflies in your stomach is a common expression used to describe the nervous, excited feeling you get around someone you have strong feelings for. While butterflies can signify attraction and the beginnings of love, on their own they don’t necessarily mean you’re in love with the person.
What causes butterflies in your stomach?
Butterflies are caused by a surge of hormones and neurotransmitters released when you’re faced with a new, exciting relationship. Some of the key players are:
- Dopamine – This neurotransmitter stimulates desire and reward motivation. It’s responsible for the addictive, pleasurable feelings that come with infatuation.
- Norepinephrine – Also known as noradrenaline, this hormone creates the fight-or-flight response. It’s responsible for increased heart rate and nervous energy.
- Serotonin – This hormone is associated with happiness. It helps create the euphoric feeling of new love.
- Cortisol – The primary stress hormone causes some of the anxiety and nervousness of early attraction.
When you encounter someone you’re attracted to, this chemical cocktail gets released, creating the fluttery butterfly sensations in your stomach. From an evolutionary perspective, these hormones motivate you to pursue relationships that could lead to mating and reproduction.
Butterflies at different stages of a relationship
Butterflies can mean slightly different things at the various stages of a romantic relationship:
Butterflies are very common when you’ve first met someone you like. You get nervous and excited around them. It’s often one of the first signs of romantic interest. But at this early stage, the butterflies are more related to infatuation and physical attraction than true love.
The butterflies tend to continue during the dating and courting phase. You’re still getting to know the person, going on fun dates, and building physical and emotional intimacy. The person is new and exciting, which keeps those butterflies flapping. But you’re still not at the point of being in love.
Falling in love
As you fall deeper for someone, the giddy excitement might start to fade, but you get a new sense of comfort, closeness, and tenderness. While the earlier butterflies were anxiety-inducing, these feel more like a pleasant flutter in your heart. You miss the person when apart andlight up in their presence.
In a long-term partnership, those constant butterflies tend to mellow into a quiet sense of peace, warmth, and devotion. You might still get flutters of excitement during passionate moments, but the nervous anxiety is gone. Your love deepens beyond those initial hormones to a blend of commitment, friendship, and contentment.
Signs butterflies indicate more than attraction
While butterflies alone don’t equal love, if combined with some of these other signs it might indicate stronger feelings developing:
- You care deeply about the person’s happiness and wellbeing.
- You enjoy simple affection like cuddling, not just passionate sex.
- You picture a future together with this person.
- You’re interested in really getting to know them on a deeper level.
- You want them to get to know the real you too.
- You miss them when they’re not around and look forward to the next time you’ll see them.
- You feel emotionally safe and able to be vulnerable around them.
If it’s more than just physical attraction, the butterflies will often be accompanied by a sense of caring, tenderness, and desire for emotional intimacy. You’ll want to build something meaningful with this person.
How to know if you’re really in love
While butterflies are a common sign of being in love, some more definitive signs include:
- You care deeply about their happiness.
- You feel emotionally close and bonded.
- You trust each other and can be vulnerable.
- You’re interested in knowing their flaws too.
- You make compromises to nurture the relationship.
- Your moods tend to mirror each other.
- You think about your future together.
- You still feel affection after the honeymoon phase ends.
- Your lives are intertwined both practically and emotionally.
- You feel secure and committed to the relationship.
Being in love means moving beyond just chemistry and attraction to genuinely caring about the other person. You’ll feel emotionally invested in their wellbeing and the future of the relationship.
|Falling in Love
|Butterflies, lust, excitement
|Butterflies, desire for intimacy
|Comfort, closeness, tenderness
|Focus on physical attraction
|Focus on emotional connection
|Focus on complete bonding
|Getting to know each other deeply
|Knowing each other fully
|You’re obsessed with them
|You care about their inner world
|You feel unconditionally invested
|Mainly sexual chemistry
|Intellectual, social, sexual chemistry
|Complete comfort and chemistry
|Fear of losing them
|Wanting to build something
|A sense of security
Experiencing butterflies does signal you feel strong attraction and excitement around this person. It can indicate the initial stages of falling for someone when everything is new. But butterfly sensations on their own don’t necessarily mean you’re in true, lasting love. While the butterflies tend to come and go, real love runs deeper. When you genuinely care about someone’s wellbeing, feel emotionally connected, and are committed to building a future together, that’s likely the real thing.