Ever been in love? Ever felt the butterflies in your stomach every time you see a person? Well, if we take the materialistic view, love is nothing but chemical reactions and hormonal releases within your body that give rise to particular sensations and experiences. So the beautiful, otherworldly feelings commonly associated with romance and love are nothing but the result of chemical changes and hormonal releases!
Without taking anything away from love and its beauty, let us see, in summary, scientific nuggets, what happens when you fall in love:
- Lust: Love usually starts with lust. This means becoming crazy for a person. This can be seen mostly in movies where the hero and heroine dance around singing cheesy lines. That is lust. It is instigated by sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. These are hormones primarily responsible for sex drive. There can also be a drop in serotonin level, a chemical naturally produced by the brain that usually makes one feel calmer and less intense. Therefore, a drop in serotonin translates into a state of heightened activity. This is why you may feel jittery and on-edge when you start to develop feelings for someone.
- Connection: Adrenaline secreted from adrenal gland heightens your awareness. Neurotransmitter dopamine spikes in your brain, resulting in pleasurable sensations. This is why you feel “so good” when you see your crush after a long day or have a chat with him/her over the phone. This is the “pleasure” response associated with an increase in dopamine level.
- Return to stability: After the intense lovey-dovey days (or months, or years, we are not making judgments here), comes the time to be stable. It is the period when you and your lover lapse into a more settled and regulated form of love. You no longer have to text each other every minute or do crazy stuff for one another, like standing outside each other’s windows at 1 in the morning. While it is not as “fun” as lust, it is also likely to transform to a more permanent, “true” form of love. If you are married or in a relationship, vasopressin is released in large quantities after intercourse, which leads to pair-bonding and setting of romantic preferences.
- Attachment: This is the part of love that can grow to become what we call a lifetime companionship. A man and a woman loving each other till their dying days. This is love which is praised throughout generations across many countries in their literature, music and other art forms. It is usually associated with the release of oxytocin, a “bonding” hormone. Oxytocin makes you feel close to a person and makes you want to hug and take care of that person. It does not necessarily have to be love for a sexual partner. It might even be the love a mother has for her child. So oxytocin helps in forming a bonding that is not based on lust.
That is pretty much the short of it when it comes to the science of love. Of course, to only describe love as a result of some chemical reactions, neurotransmitters, and hormonal switch-ups is far too simplistic. Just as with any other emotion, the mysteries of love are yet to be fully revealed. The best thing to do is to keep on loving!