Are the Butterflies in Your Stomach Love or a Warning Sign?

Two young people sit on benches in park looking at each otherIt’s that feeling down in your belly that wiggles and burns, then jumps into your chest as you check your phone for the 10th time for a text from the object of your interest. Fireworks. Electricity. A burning flame. These are all descriptors that often describe passionate, romantic love.

We often hear people say they love someone so much it hurts or that a person can give them “butterflies” in the stomach if they’re in the same room. We think to ourselves, “This person works them up so much. They must really be into them!” The reality, however, is that pain and anxiety are not signs of passion. They are just pain and anxiety. Authentic love should not feel that way.

The Mixed Signals of Romance

In the beginning of a developing relationship, you may feel preoccupied with powerful feelings. Anxiety and excitement feel very similar. However, as a relationship builds, those unnerving feelings can be indicators the relationship is not truly serving you.

Anxiety can show up in a number of ways in relationships. Perhaps you worry excessively about what your significant other thinks or feel like you need to be perfect when they are around. You may have irrational thoughts that they might be angry or leave you. You may feel self-conscious around this person, or even panic when things go wrong. This is not how a person should feel in a secure, loving, and supportive relationship.

Are Your Needs Being Met?

It’s not uncommon for someone to become anxious about a relationship when a partner is not meeting their needs. When we feel ignored or not prioritized, it can be unsettling.

You probably have a friend who texts their significant other relentlessly every time they fail to answer the phone, asking where they are, what they’re doing, or instructing the person to call back right away. Your friend may be coming from a place of anxiety and might not feel secure about their partnership. Maybe your friend has reason not to trust their partner. Maybe they are carrying hurt and suspicion from a past breakup. Either way, those rapid-fire texts are not a sign of undying love—they may, instead, indicate anxiousness.

All that angst may feel like over-the-moon passion, but remember: above anything else, your relationship should feel calm and safe.Some degree of anxiety in a relationship is normal. But if you frequently feel nervous about where things stand with your significant other, you may want to pause and think about what’s causing you to feel that way.

Does your partner ignore you for long periods of time? Are they hypercritical or jealous? Maybe they make you feel guilty, give you ultimatums, or become passive-aggressive and irritable. Does your partner act overly flirtatious with others? These are all examples of unhealthy relationship dynamics that can leave people feeling panicky and unnerved. If any of these are behaviors are commonplace in your relationship, you may want to reach out to a couples counselor or rethink your commitment.

From Infatuation to Meaningful Connection

As a relationship develops and moves past the honeymoon phase, lust and novelty should be replaced by trust, commitment, and dependability. These are the true qualifiers of an authentic, long-term connection. A loving relationship should feel secure, reliable, and supportive. You should be able to feel relaxed and open about being accepted as your true self. You should be able to trust your partner to be loyal. You should feel like a priority. Everyone deserves this type of relationship.

All that angst may feel like over-the-moon passion, but remember: above anything else, your relationship should feel calm and safe.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Melissa G. Chosid, MS, PLMFT, therapist in Ballwin, Missouri

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Aimee

    Aimee

    July 31st, 2015 at 7:06 AM

    It’s all about love for me because I still feel that every day when I see my husband!

  • Scarlett

    Scarlett

    May 9th, 2017 at 3:41 PM

    This site really helped me solve all my love problems. I really fell in love with this guy and this made it easier. I love this guy that I am in love with. thank you who ever made this site.

  • gold

    gold

    July 13th, 2017 at 4:36 PM

    Do you still feel this way, asking for a friend.

  • Todd

    Todd

    July 31st, 2015 at 1:08 PM

    I have felt that way for both reasons, and you are right, there will be some relationships that can be so confusing to you that at first it can be hard to tell which one is causing all of the nervousness in your stomach. I think that if you are honest with yourself then you will see which one it is, but I know, being honest with yourself is sometimes a chore that none of like to face.

  • Lamenting in Oregon

    Lamenting in Oregon

    August 4th, 2015 at 6:05 PM

    Those butterfly’s are gods way of communicating with you. Spend time meditating and studying them, you will learn the positive from the negative version in a hurry. Sometimes it is simple anticipation of the Christmas morning presents, other times it is of the rod that was applied and not speed in childhood.

  • corinna

    corinna

    August 9th, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    Our body is always trying to tell us something, good or bad, but you have to get the brain involved too. You know deep inside whether this person is someone that you need to keep in your life or if they are going to end up being nothing but trouble. I think that many times we wait until we have gotten hurt before we understand what our body was really trying to say, but the bad part is that many of us still continue to stay long after we should have learned our lesson.

  • Lady

    Lady

    August 15th, 2018 at 12:19 PM

    So true….the gut is so powerful that scientists are now calling it the second brain and yet we often ignore our gut instincts. Listen to them and you won’t get hurt.

  • Steph

    Steph

    August 9th, 2015 at 3:06 PM

    Can I just admit that when I was a teen I lived for the butterflies?
    I mean, for me when the butterflies went away, and they always do at some point, then I thought that it was time to move on.
    I never stopped to consider that maybe this just meant that the relationship was moving on to a different and maybe even better stage.
    I just thought about wanting to have that new feeling over and over again.

  • Kyle

    Kyle

    September 15th, 2016 at 8:48 PM

    Phillipins 3: 18-19

  • AJ

    AJ

    April 14th, 2018 at 12:24 AM

    That was a sweet comment Steph (if you are still being updated) and that’s how I want to feel always. I agree with the article too but I would like to add that the feeling of pain and anxiety in the beginning of a relationship is of a positive one because it passes as time goes on, or the relationship is developing into something more, but if you feel that, down the line a few more adjectives are added, such as controlling to the feeling of pain and anxiety then be warned that this could be turning into an abusive relationship.

  • Carlton

    Carlton

    August 10th, 2015 at 1:03 PM

    I can’t live my life always feeling like I have to worry constantly about what someone else thinks.
    That kind of anxiety isn’t what any of us need.
    The right person in your life will not make you feel like that.
    They will love you no matter what.

  • kaylyn

    kaylyn

    September 25th, 2016 at 3:46 PM

    My 4th week in high school, my crush said, “I’ve been waiting to do this” then he kissed me!!!!! I get butterflies just thinking of it.

  • Chloe g

    Chloe g

    November 30th, 2016 at 12:38 PM

    Just take a deep breath 2 or three time or if that does not go away drink a little bit of orange juice it should help a lot

  • Fifth Harmony

    Fifth Harmony

    December 21st, 2016 at 10:25 AM

    Camila left Fifth Harmony like wtf

  • Britney

    Britney

    January 20th, 2017 at 10:03 AM

    Really, I can’t believe it and I’m Camila Cabelo’s fan, but I mean it #1 fan.

  • kaylee

    kaylee

    February 23rd, 2017 at 10:34 AM

    i always have butterflys in my stomach all the time when i with my boyfriend or when im with him, or wheni see his face..

  • Hard Worker

    Hard Worker

    March 18th, 2017 at 7:55 PM

    I have really really BAD BUTTERFLIES in my stomach! I like this girl that has a Boyfriend I want to rip my stomach out it hurts soooo bad! What should I do?

  • Sophia L.

    Sophia L.

    April 1st, 2017 at 2:16 PM

    Omg same! My bf and I have only been together for about a month but last night something happened between us and I couldnt sleep because I couldnt stop thinking about him and I woke up with a ton of butterflies and now my stomach is sore and it feels like I am going to throw up, like that feeling in your throat right before you throw up is what it feels like for me rn.

  • Z

    Z

    April 12th, 2017 at 10:23 AM

    Hey Sophia,
    Thought I’d ask how things are now that it should been 10 days or so. How are you feeling? Have you talked to your boyfriend about that night? Deep breaths can be really helpful for the stomach wonkyness and I guess Oj might help as well. Spent some time with a partner who was always incredibly honest with me about how she was feeling and what she was thinking. It was so incredibly refreshing to not have to guess all the time and amazing how often we would realize that we were on the exact same page! Hope you’re doing well :)

  • E

    E

    April 12th, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    In a similar position myself friend, I’ve found that all I can do is work on myself and find what makes me feel good. Once you’re the best version of yourself your dream girl will be begging for a date brother. Try some deep breaths and some Oj for the stomach like one of the homies said above ^. The deep breaths were crazy helpful for me. Excercise is also a great way to clear your mind and help your body and soul feel gooood.

  • Zipho

    Zipho

    May 8th, 2017 at 7:13 AM

    I still feel that way after 6 months of dating this guy. At some stage I told him.

  • sarah

    sarah

    November 7th, 2017 at 10:07 AM

    What exactly did you tell him and what did he say, if you don’t mind my asking?

  • Zipho

    Zipho

    May 11th, 2018 at 5:29 AM

    I just told him what it is that I experience when I meet him, see his calls or messages. Its long now cant remember his exact response, but he was happy to hear that.

  • Laura

    Laura

    May 29th, 2017 at 5:45 PM

    Hey wounding if I can get some advise I had what you call teenage love and we didn’t last long iam now young lady and with some one else but every time I see a new pic or his name all the feeling I had wen I was Teager come rushing back what do I do

  • June

    June

    August 24th, 2017 at 1:17 PM

    The butterflies are a warning signal, no initial butterflies with a man I dated, further down the line I felt unnerved, I had no actual evidence, i felt guilty about not trusting & remained in the relationship, the butterflies proved to be right in due course. Don’t ignore them remove yourself carefully.

  • Sean E

    Sean E

    November 30th, 2017 at 6:19 PM

    This really nerve-racking stuff for me, I mean, I never knew even having butterflies in your stomach until this year. I still wish it hadn’t so long since last saw my semi-girlfriend, though.

  • Zipho

    Zipho

    May 11th, 2018 at 5:35 AM

    Good to hear that guys also experience the butterflies, I thought it was only us as ladies, even to this day I still do. I sometimes think that there is something wrong with me!!

  • morgan

    morgan

    March 19th, 2018 at 2:13 PM

    the way I feel is that every time I think of that person kissing me or anything my stomach kind of hurts they say its just butterflies but I feel its something else

  • Sona

    Sona

    April 2nd, 2018 at 2:34 AM

    yes..I feels butterflies in my stomach when I imagine kiss , holding his hand and hug..this is awesome feeling

  • Eddie

    Eddie

    June 2nd, 2018 at 7:57 PM

    I feel this when I hear any girl with a French accent

  • Laurelle

    Laurelle

    July 27th, 2019 at 6:58 AM

    Now that I’m 39, I can tell you that the “butterflies” on a first date is not good. I RUN from the butterflies. If I’m on a date and I get this feeling of over intoxication, like I’m high on some warm substance running through my body, then I know it’s “love.” I have to have that calm intoxicated feeling. The “butterflies” are my way of knowing that I should run. Last time I had them, it turned out the guy was married. That lasted 3 dates. So….. Maybe it was good when I was 16, but after years of dating, marriage, and children, I think I can discern how real love feels.

  • Megan D

    Megan D

    September 27th, 2019 at 10:34 AM

    I have had this weird phenomenon happen and could use some direction. I started seeing this guy I’ve been friends with for about a year. It felt good being around him but not like butterflies as much as I was just happy to be in his presence. When he asked me out I was ecstatic but I immediately felt nervous in a way I hadnt before with him. My last ex cheated and since then I kept pushing guys away over and over to protect myself when they got too close for comfort. Since that day My stomach turned over and I’ve felt sort of sick and stressed out since. This is going on a month now. (I’ve had a lot of things happen since as well. passing of a good friend, school, and stressful work environment all on top of this new relationship.). I notice this feeling comes up when I think primarely about his ex of 5 years and how I could see them getting back together in the future though he declares his feelings for her are gone. When he is around I dont feel this way. And realistically I dont always feel this way except for when those insecure thoughts creep in that make me worry about what hes doing and so on…. I dont know. I lost trust in myself and my intuition after my ex cheated because I had forced myself to believe he wasnt when he in fact was.

  • E

    E

    September 30th, 2019 at 6:04 PM

    I think self fulfilling prophesies are quite real on one hand but intuition is as well. You sound quite in tune and intelligent. Just the understanding that you have these feelings but don’t trust yourself the way you used to is an impressive self realization. I imagine this new guy really digs you and is sincere in his feelings. That being said with your past experience and with the knowledge that he was in a long term relationship like your own I think it’s completely fair for you to be somewhat paranoid of lingering feelings between his ex and him. My advice is to be honest and open with him. Tell him about your past if he doesn’t know everything and let him know you’re anxious because you like him a lot but that if he’s not looking for a serious relationship then you’d rather know sooner than later. Trust that you’re still smart and intuitive with infinite potential as a person and partner. Falling asleep to relaxing positive affirmations (Sunny Dawn Johnston’s are my favorite) on repeat is a great and proven way to aid in improving your self image. It sounds like you’re doing great and accomplishing a lot, keep up the hard work and try and do things that help you feel confident and manage your stress. You’re doing great, and as long as you’re asking for help you will find it :)

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