~ April 2021 ~ You’re in love, again. Not just a little bit in love, but an all-encompassing “I’ve met my soulmate” kind of love. This feels true and real for you, but your friends are giving you the side eye. Should you be worried if you fall in love so quickly?
Whereas some people are slow to open their hearts, others never hold back their emotions. The benefits of emotional vulnerability are many, but what if you don’t have many standards before giving away your heart? Falling in love quickly and often may place you at risk for unhealthy relationship experiences.
Different ways of falling in love
If you think about yourself and your friends, you probably notice differences in how quickly people dive into their relationships.
Some people approach love with reserve, thinking – as well as feeling – their way closer to a new potential partner. This doesn’t mean they are avoiding love or have strict safeguards in place, such as intentionally withholding their emotions, it simply means they are slower to developing romantic investments. They know who they are and they steadily hold on to themselves as they carefully open their self-concepts up to a new partner. Falling in love is still exhilarating, but it only occurs after a sufficient period of time and connection has already happened.
For others, falling in love happens quickly, easily, and they are “all in” right away. This emotional and behavioral pattern is captured by the term emophilia (Jones, 2011).
Emophilia means falling in too quickly and too easily
Emophilia describes the tendency to easily fall in love, a tendency that used to be captured by the term “emotional promiscuity.” People high in emophilia are eager to fall in love and feel themselves falling in love quite often. They might strongly endorse such statements as, “I feel romantic connections right away,” or “I tend to jump into relationships” (Jones, 2019).
Because falling in love changes you, people high in emophilia, who fall in love easily and often, may have an especially turbulent self-concept dynamic
Emophilia is different from attachment anxiety, although these constructs are often related (Jones & Curtis, 2017). Attachment anxiety is a chronic dispositional orientation that includes fear of abandonment and questions about one’s own self-worth; emophilia is a trait that plays out in the earliest moments of relationships, defining how quickly people give 100% of their emotional investment into a relationship.
Have you seen this in action? People high in emophilia might:
- spend every waking hour with a new romantic partner they just met
- say “I love you” on a first date
- feel like they’re deeply in love with multiple people at the same time
- have little recovery time between shifting emotional investment from an ex-partner to a new partner.
In the same way that people high in sociosexuality are open to engaging in sexual behavior outside of a committed relationship, people high in emophilia have low thresholds for what they need prior to falling in love (Jones, 2019).
Falling in love too easily can be dangerous
People high in emophilia often fail to see the obvious “red flags” that others might readily notice, and so they are at risk for falling in love with toxic partners. This includes people higher on the set of personality traits captured by the dark triad: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy (Lechuga & Jones, 2021). People high in emophilia show more romantic attraction to people with Dark Triad traits than people lower in emophilia; with attraction guiding behavior, this could mean that people high in emophilia find themselves, again and again, in unhealthy romantic relationships.
Whether you move quickly or slowly, falling in love is an exhilarating experience. You can’t stop thinking about your partner and you’re anxious, happy, excited, and full of energy… you’re on an emotional high. You feel your day-to-day life-changing as you reorient your world around your new partner. This re-centering is a critical part of building a new attachment and creating the “pair bond” that defines long-term relationships, but it is no casual experience: falling in love changes you.
Because falling in love changes you, people high in emophilia, who fall in love easily and often, may have an especially turbulent self-concept dynamic. Self concepts expand when we fall in love – people become more similar to their partners – , but then self-concepts constrict when we lose a relationship. People feel smaller and have questions like “who am I now?” (Aron et al., 1996; Slotter et al., 2010). If we dive in, and then dive out, again and again, we may begin to have an unstable sense of who we are. This is an area that warrants more empirical investigation.