The Chemistry of Love
Being in love is fun… the butterflies in your stomache, the sweaty palms and the romantic dates. It’s a feeling we all know, but the truth is, it’s only the first stage of love. How does it all happen?
What’s Actually Going On?
Dr. Lucy Brown, a neuroscientist and clinical professor at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is a professional when it comes to the science of chemistry and love. According to Brown, love happens in three stages: lust, attraction and attachment. During each one of these stages, different chemicals and hormones are released.
During the lust stage, testosterone and oestrogen are released. In the honeymoon phase, our friend dopamine is released. When those feelings of “wow, you might be the one, I want to be with you” come around, oxytocin and vasopressin are released. So, is there some real science behind love? Maybe just a little.
Brown studies the brain through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). This measures brain activity by looking at blood flow. When people experience love, the sympathetic nervous system in their body is reacting. When you hear from or see the person you love, or talk about the person you love, the same part of your brain that responds when you finally give into that chocolate craving, or drink water after being extremely thirsty, fires up.
“It’s rewarding this system if they’re attracted to you,” Brown says. “They are going to begin to seek you out because they have this drive to be close to you.”
Because most of us don’t have access to an MRI machine to test out our life partners, there have got to be other ways to make sure it’s real, right?
It all kind of goes back to elementary school. If someone is into you, they’ll look at you a lot. They also might still get those sweaty palms or a shaky, trembling voice. But, the most sure-fire way to find out? Ask them this simple question: How much do you think about me during the day? If the answer is a lot, or all the time, your answer is clear. This might not be so rocket science-y, but it works.
Attraction can be Electric
Psychotherapist Joyce Marter, from Urban Balance, a Chicago counseling practice, also writes about chemistry and attraction. We’re all human and we all gravitate towards different types of people. So when it boils right down to it, who one person sees as beautiful, the next person may not.
“When there is powerful chemistry and attraction, the eye contact is electric. Think about when you first met your significant other; eye contact was a powerful, powerful thing, and you have probably not forgotten the color of their eyes.”
When there is attraction, breathing becomes rapid, shallow or seems to stop altogether. That whole “weak in the knees” thing, it’s real. You become lightheaded from irregular breathing causing you to be unstable.
Choosing “The One”
We are all attracted to what is familiar to us … According to romance and relationship author Ross Rosenberg, we all tend to fall in love with the same person, but a “different face.” When you begin dating, it’s important to make sure you are falling for a healthy life partner.
When two people with healthy emotional backgrounds meet, this sort of “love force” abounds and the two create a healthy, stable and reciprocal relationship. By recognizing our unconscious relationship patterns it can help us attract the kind of love each of us need and deserve.
So, Rocket Science?
Maybe falling in love isn’t rocket science, but the science and chemistry behind it is pretty fascinating. When it boils right down to it, we’re human. Our bodies and brains do amazing things every day. Our hearts beat and pump blood throughout our bodies, keeping us living, breathing, talking and walking on this earth. But, the heart also feels. It feels pain, sorrow, anxiousness and love.
The chemicals in our body that are responsible for our behavior in love and relationships are neurochemicals. In this case, norepinephrine, dopamine and phenylethylamine. So, next time you see your loved one, you can try to stumble those chemical names out. Or, simply say “I Love You.” (It’s sure to release some dopamine, so make sure to smile nice and big when you say it.)