Am I In Love?

Love... Lust... Like... The three L words may seem interchangeable, but renowned love guru Dr. Diana Kirschner says there are some vast differences between the three four-letter words. And if not recognized early on, you could be setting yourself up for some major heartache. In this MyDailyMoment exclusive, the author of Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide For Finding Your Own True Love offers up some tried-and-true guidelines to help women and men decipher if it's really love that they're feeling.

If anybody knows about love, it's Dr. Kirschner. The noted clinical psychologist, bestselling author and relationships expert has spent almost three decades lending a helping hand to singles, couples and families in the search for peace, harmony and true love. Did we mention she's also been happily married for 25 years? Her fan base goes beyond the thousands of people she's assisted - the media darling is a regular guest on The Today Show and has been featured on Oprah, Good Morning America, Nightline and Access Hollywood. She's the go-to girl for anyone seeking answers about dating, couples and family issues.

In her new book Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide For Finding Your Own True Love, Dr. Kirschner draws upon extensive research, clinical experience and first-hand knowledge to help women find "the one." Complete with step-by step instructions, checklists and homework assignments, her handbook to true love is a practical, proven approach to finding love the right way without bar-hopping, bed-hopping or falling into the other common dating pitfalls women so frequently encounter.

Could It Be I'm Falling In Love?
You see that handsome guy from across the crowded room. You make eye contact. You engage in conversation. You hit it off. Suddenly, you're on the phone half the night, getting to know each other. It's a whirlwind courtship of several dates, and before you know it, you'd swear you're in love. After all, what else could explain your racing heart, feelings of euphoria and burning desire to spend every waking moment with this special someone?

Not so fast, says Dr. Kirschner. It's just physical. While there are some signs that you may actually be falling in love, it's important to look at the big picture. After all, it may just be lust or even a serious case of like.

"When you're in love, what you have is a sense of being with your best friend with chemistry," Dr. Kirschner explains. "It's a relationship that is good for you and helps your self esteem. It helps you best the best that you can be. You have periods of euphoria, this really blissful romance where everything is perfect. Your partner is perfect. You are perfect for the moment. The sex is very good or you're working on making it very good. That's the healthy state of being in love."

The Look of Love
Dr. Kirschner spells out the signs of true love with this list that will help you decide if Cupid has put an arrow through your heart.

  • You're eager to see each other
  • You're reluctant to leave each other
  • You want regular consistent contact with each other
  • You're interested in each other's lives
  • You want to be helpful
  • You're verbally and physically affectionate
  • You text, email or call regularly
  • You feel like the other person is special and you don't really want to date other people
  • You're becoming more attentive and loving over time
  • You're becoming more open to sharing feelings and thoughts
  • You're becoming more open to sharing your living spaces
  • You're becoming more open to sharing social life with family members and friends
  • You're using the "L" word

Maybe the entire list doesn't apply to your relationship, but it should come pretty darn close, says Dr. Kirschner. Beyond the kissing and cuddling, a relationship needs to be made up of something substantial that will eventually evolve into something permanent in the future. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is jumping into bed with both feet first.

Addicted To Love?
Dr. Kirschner chalks the "fast and furious" behavior up to the body's chemistry, something which many people let consume them.

"When people start falling in love, a lot of dopamine is produced in the brain. A lot of physical changes take place. These create an addiction, an immediate physical addiction and craving for that person. What happens is the brain actually looks like an addict's brain. When you have the brain falling love, there is a sensation of intense longing or feeling that you need contact. There's the exhilaration and adrenaline boost where you spend hours talking together.

"The problem with that is that it can happen in just a short time before you even know the person, and that's where you get into trouble. If you allow chemistry to take over, you jump into bed too quickly. The body produces oxytocin which gets you in a state of dependence on a person who you don't know. You don't know if he's interested in you. You don't know if he's trustworthy. You're putting yourself at risk for being hurt."

The key is to fight that feeling with plenty of self-discipline. As tempting as it may be to get intimate with that special someone, Dr. Kirschner urges individuals to have at least two months of consistently improving contact before you decide whether to have sex with a person. Within in a couple of months, you should be seeing more openness and experiencing a majority of the tell-tale signs listed above.

The Dating Game
Dr. Kirschner also swears by her "dating of three" strategy. She recommends that women date three guys at the same time to avoid falling head over heels with any particular person before you really know him. It also happens to be a technique that prevents women from getting over-involved and too serious too soon. The one stipulation? No nookie.

"The dating program of three tends to stop you from getting over-involved with one guy to begin with. If there's one out of the three that you date for over two months that gets better, then consider dropping the other two. It's great to date three guys at the same time. Sure, there's a little kissing and canoodling, but you're not having sex with all three, so it really balances it out. You don't spend too much time with any one guy too soon and you're protecting yourself."

And while Dr. Kirschner might be a romantic, one theory she doesn't buy into is love at first sight. Call it lust or infatuation - but don't call it love. Even if you're completely smitten, it's important that you resist the urge to play deep.

Says Dr. Kirschner: "I would say protect yourself because you don't know who this person is, whether they like you, if they're into you for the long-term or what their goal is. Take things very slow and see two other people. Date others until you notice there is two months of consistently improving contact with this person. You don't know what you're dealing - he could be a player, a commitment-phobe or a narcissist. There are all types."

Where Is The Love?
In the heat of the moment, you may be seeing red... as in red flags. Dr. Kirschner says there are warning signs that indicate it's not love after all. It isn't love when...

  • You spend time with the person and you feel bad about yourself
  • You spend time with the person and you're fighting all of the time
  • You are contemptuous of each other
  • You feel like you can't go for your dream and that person doesn't support you in your dream
  • The relationship is not uplifting
  • It feels good when you have sex, but you feel bad afterwards when you talk to the person
  • You don't respect the person when you're interacting with them
  • There is no chemistry with the person

To get a copy of Dr. Kirschner's book, Love in 90 Days: The Essential Guide For Finding Your Own True Love, click here. To learn more about Dr. Kirschner, click here.