Article written by Maya Vukovska

The word “love” appears 2,146 times in Shakespeare’s works, which, I guess, makes him an expert in matters of the heart. Alas, the genius playwright is long dead and is not available for personal love advice. But through his undying verses, he still can help you recognize love when it taps you on the shoulder.

‘What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.
(Romeo and Juliet, Act 1)’

You certainly know the sensations upon falling for a new guy - the butterflies in the stomach, the fire in the balls. But after some time, the butterflies fly away, and you feel like your normal, unemotional self again whenever you text him, go out with him, or have sex with him. Does it mean that love has gone, or that it’s never been there in the first place?

Love is supposed to feel like sickness, even like madness, as Shakespeare puts it. Especially in the early stages. Unlike sexual attraction, romantic love will turn you into a tangled ball of emotions, good AND bad. You know you’re experiencing love and not just lust when you display symptoms commonly associated with anxiety, like fast heart rate, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, or an inability to fall asleep, sweaty palms. These all are caused by the elevated levels of norepinephrine, the stress hormone. So, yes, my friend, you know you are in love when you literally fall lovesick.

‘Love is like a child, that longs for everything it can come by’
(The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 3)

When in love, one is not only extra vulnerable, just like a child, but also extra greedy… just like a child. A clear sign that you are not only attracted to this person, but you are actually falling in love with them, is that you want to be all over them all the time. Whether it’s having an intense make-out session, holding hands for three hours while watching the latest Batman, or simply shopping for fresh veggies and fish at the Farmers’ Market, you just can’t have enough of him. The desire or better say the physical need to spend every minute with your love interest, makes the time without him an agony. And not only do you seek his physical presence all the time, but you also feel miserable and jealous when he is with other people. Just like a child!

‘Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind’
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act 1, Scene 1)

Before you met this guy, you’d find flaws in every one of your lovers - too muscular, too skinny, too needy, too much into avocado smoothies… But with this one, it’s a different story. All his irritating traits seem somehow attractive. He’s a neat freak, or tucks his T-shirt too deep into his jeans - you see no problem with that. For the first time in your life you find someone’s quirks endearing. That’s because now you see the person not with your eyes but with your heart, and the heart tells you that this one is good for you. What’s more, you’ve started seeing him as an extension of yourself, which makes you capable of feeling their joy, pain, excitement… This newly developed empathy towards your partner makes you do all kinds of small, cute gestures, like walking ten blocks just to get him a cappuccino from his favorite coffee shop or skipping the happy hour after work with your colleagues to accompany him to some boring event. Small sacrifices like these are easy to do when they are for the one you love.

‘I do love nothing in the world so well as you—is not that strange?’
(Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4)

If you have zero desire to explore the other fish in the sea, that means that you’ve locked your heart and your “chastity cage” for other people, even the very attractive ones! The realization that the days of swiping right on the dating app are gone is another sign that you are ready to commit to only one person. And commitment is what love is essentially about.

April 07, 2022 — Andrew Christian