I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Amy Winehouse, one of my favorite artist of the time. If you haven’t heard Amy, listen to Back in Black, a song I write to often.
Wikipedia tells me that “In romantic relationships, “falling in love” is mainly a Western term used to describe the process of moving from a feeling of neutrality towards a person to one of love. The use of the term “fall” implies that the process is in some way inevitable, uncontrollable, risky, irreversible, or that it puts the lover in a state of vulnerability, in the same way the word “fall” is used in the phrase “to fall ill” or “to fall into a trap”. The term is generally used to describe an (eventual) love that is strong, although not necessarily permanent.”
Wow, what a bummer. Not permanent? Although Dr. Phil disagrees with the 51% divorce rate in the US, I don’t…. It’s a lot of people. Falling in love just ain’t what it used to be…or is it?
According to http://www.youramazingbrain.org.uk, ” there is a since to falling in love. (Source: www.youramazingbrain.org.uk)
The Science of Love
When do you know if you fancy someone? What does love do to your brain chemicals, and is falling in love just nature’s way to keep our species alive?
We call it love. It feels like love. But the most exhilarating of all human emotions is probably nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and reproducing. With an irresistible cocktail of chemicals, our brain entices us to fall in love. We believe we’re choosing a partner. But we may merely be the happy victims of nature’s lovely plan.
It’s not what you say. Psychologists have shown it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you fancy someone. Research has shown this has little to do with what is said, rather:
55% is through body language
38% is the tone and speed of their voice
Only 7% is through what they say
The 3 stages of Love
Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in the States has proposed 3 stages of love – lust, attraction and attachment. Each stage might be driven by different hormones and chemicals.
Stage 1: Lust
Worth visiting over and over again in your relationship, lust in one of those things that have to be kept alive by both people in the relationship. It’s a misnomer to think that your partner has to become “the old cow.” It’s an amazing thing to have out there sex with the person that you love and trust most in the world. My hubster and I are working our way through the Karma Sutra, and regularly have those in the moment sessions against a wall in “normal” places. It’s all part of the love that we feel for one another. Still, this is the first stage of love and is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen – in both men and women.
Stage 2: Attraction
This is the amazing time when you are truly love-struck and can think of little else. Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved in this stage; adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. i’s possible to maintain if you both…I repeat both…into it. Relationships are what you make them.
The initial stages of falling for someone activates your stress response, increasing your blood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This has the charming effect that when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat, your heart races and your mouth goes dry.
Helen Fisher asked newly ‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined and discovered they have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine!
Fisher suggests “couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” .
And finally, serotonin. One of love’s most important chemicals that may explain why when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts.
Does love change the way you think? A landmark experiment in Pisa, Italy showed that early love (the attraction phase) really changes the way you think. Dr Donatella Marazziti, a psychiatrist at the University of Pisa advertised for twenty couples who’d been madly in love for less than six months. She wanted to see if the brain mechanisms that cause you to constantly think about your lover, were related to the brain mechanisms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
By analyzing blood samples from the lovers, Dr Marazitti discovered that serotonin levels of new lovers were equivalent to the low serotonin levels of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder patients.
Love Needs to be Blind
Newly smitten lovers often idealize their partner, magnifying their virtues and explaining away their flaws says Ellen Berscheid, a leading researcher on the psychology of love.
New couples also exalt the relationship itself. “It’s very common to think they have a relationship that’s closer and more special than anyone else’s”. Psychologists think we need this rose-tinted view. It makes us want to stay together to enter the next stage of love – attachment.
It’s not uncommon in long term relationships to see that type of raising up of one another. My husband is my hero, my lover, my naughty man that comes in the night like a thief. he’s all those things and more…but I also trust that he’s investing our money wisely, that he takes care of his family and that he mows the grass. There are certain trade offs.
Stage 3: Attachment
Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise children. Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin.
Oxytocin – The cuddle hormone
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm. This is that thing that makes girly girls act like girls and the rest of the women fake it most of the time. It’s the number one reason for finger nail polish, make up and slutty lingerie, which I happen to prefer. It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex, or at least that thing that makes you want to be like me and do it again, and again…… The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.
Oxytocin also seems to help cement the strong bond between mum and baby and is released during childbirth. It is also responsible for a mum’s breast automatically releasing milk at the mere sight or sound of her young baby.
Diane Witt, assistant professor of psychology from New York has showed that if you block the natural release of oxytocin in sheep and rats, they reject their own young.
Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex. Vasopressin (also called anti-diuretic hormone) works with your kidneys to control thirst. Its potential role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole.
Prairie voles indulge in far more sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction. They also – like humans – form fairly stable pair-bonds. Not that is what I am talking about.
When male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond with their partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion and failed to protect their partner from new suitors.York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, has been studying why people fall in love. He asked his subjects to carry out the above 3 steps and found that many of his couples felt deeply attracted after the 34 minute experiment. Two of his subjects later got married.
Signs that you’re falling in love? From our friends at Modern Mom here are 15 sure ’nuff signs that you’re a gonner…..
“Many individuals eagerly anticipate falling in love, because they have never experienced love or don’t really know what being in love feels like. These romantic novices know that love is a euphoric emotion that they want to experience firsthand, and they may even go out of their way to hunt love out. If you think that the feelings you have for your current partner may be advancing from mere affection to full-fledged love, consider some common signs of love.
Happiness: Being in love is almost universally euphoria-inducing. If you find yourself a little more cheery as of late, you may be entering the throes of love.
Connection: Most people reserve emotional connections for family members or individuals of major importance in their lives. If you feel an unexplainable strong emotional connection to your new partner, you are likely entering a love affair.
Concern: Concern for the ones we love is only natural. If you find yourself concerned about your partner’s physical and emotional well-being even when there is no reason to think that he is not fine, you are likely in love with the new man in your life.
Tingling: The fabled tingling that has long been associated with falling in love may be more than just a myth, according to Psychology Today. According to its study, many individuals falling in love actually do experience a palpable tingling sensation.
Constant togetherness: Individuals falling in love often want to be with the object of their affection at all times. If you find that your new partner is oxygen to you, you likely more than just “like” the individual.
Regular communication: According to Glamour magazine, individuals entering a hot and heavy romance often engage in almost constant communication, including rapid texting. A desire to pick up the phone and make contact with your new gal may mean that you are already falling head over heels.
Professing love: Some people wait ages to finally tell a partner that they love him. Individuals commonly engage in this play-it-safe waiting game to ensure that they don’t end up getting hurt by someone who doesn’t return their feelings. However, if you are truly falling in love, you may find it impossible not to profess these emotions, regardless of how illogical the profession may be.
Want to help: When someone is in love, they detest seeing their romantic partner in need. A constant desire to help your partner overcome any difficulties he may face is a sure-fire sign that you are serious about this new dude.
Daydreaming: Many lovers find their mind wandering even during important tasks and find themselves daydreaming about their new lover and their potential future life together.
Easy communication: Many individuals falling in love are amazed by the ease with which they communicate with their new partner. According to Psychology Today, the ability to communicate easily with a potential mate likely means that you trust the person and are, at least in partly, in love with him.
Bragging: Smitten kittens commonly brag about their partner to anyone who will hang around long enough to listen. According to Glamour magazine, if you can’t help but make boastful statements about your newest partner, love is likely on the horizon.
Pampering: If you are willing to rub your new man’s tired feet or give him a three-hour back massage, you are likely motivated by the budding love that you feel for your newest heartthrob.
Hobby hopping: If you find yourself willing to trade in your scrapbooking materials for a set of golf clubs or season tickets to the Lakers, you are likely more than just a little into your current partner.
Compromise: Compromising is necessary in any relationship, but many people still resist giving in to these give-and-take arrangements. If you feel like you actually want to make compromises, you may just be falling in love.
Changing: To make a relationship work, at least small amounts of change are commonly necessary. If you find yourself not loathing but instead looking forward to making these life modifications, you are likely in love.
And finally … how to fall in love
Find a complete stranger.
Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour.
Then, stare deeply into each others eyes without talking for four minutes.