“I have loved to the point of madness; that which is called madness, that which to me, is the only sensible way to love." -Françoise Sagan
We know that love is madness, that love is chaos, and that love is timeless. What you may not know is that love is actually pretty scientific. Have you ever wondered why you are able to fall in love so quickly with a person, seeing straight through all their flaws and rough edges? Have you wondered why your stomach flutters, why your heart beat races, and why your brain gets distracted so easily when you are first falling in love? To answer these questions, we look at studies conducted about love. Anthropologist Helen Fisher is one of the most well-known researchers and experts on love. Helen Fisher has appeared on TED talks, in countless publications, and has written her own books on the subject of love. She states that love comes in three scientific stages. By understanding these three stages, the science behind falling in love is a little easier to comprehend.
Stage 1: Lust
The first stage of love is lust. Lust is the strong sexual drive that draws humans together physically. Testosterone and oestrogen are the brain's fuel behind this lure. Lust is what gets people searching for love and satisfaction by creating a sex drive. This sex drive can be felt at any moment, in any setting, and doesn't specifically need another person to get the drive going. Lust is normally the initial step in love, but can come at any time during the process.
Stage 2: Attraction
Attraction can be known as obsessive love, or romantic passion, and is the stage in love that makes us do crazy things. Our brains release more chemicals during this stage of love: adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin being the main performers. This is the stage where we get fixated on a specific person and devote all our thoughts and energy to that one soul. Of course, lust hasn't gone away, but attraction does take over. You'll see brighter colors, think happier thoughts, feel high-like feelings because the chemicals in this stage of love are similar to that of actual drug use. One difference between a drug like cocaine and the brain's chemical reaction to love is that high of love lasts for days, weeks, or sometimes even months before wearing off.
Stage 3: Attachment
This stage of love is just as beautiful as the first two. This stage comes when the lust and attraction die down and a deeper love arises. The two chemicals your brain releases during this stage of the love process is vasopressin and oxytocin. Both of these chemicals are linked to helping nourish long-lasting relationships, as they both are chemicals that help bond love, and create a deeper sense of wholehearted love. Oxytocin is sometimes known as the "cuddle hormone" and is linked to couples being able to "read each others minds." This powerful hormone improves social connection and is found abundantly in a mother just after giving birth to her child.
So... what's the point?
Our bodies are obviously chemically and scientifically wired to fall in love for procreation purposes. Without these chemicals being released, there would be less sex, less yearn for a deeper love, and less reason to want to start a family. Understanding the complexity of falling in love can also help us understand the complexity of human relationships. As we stated above, our bodies reaction to love is similar to that of a drug-induced high. Have you ever been in a messy relationship that you kept coming back to, even when everyone you knew was telling you to let it go? We have to be able to understand the power that love's chemicals hold over our brains, and also understand that sometimes mixing these complex chemicals with our past experiences, emotions, and good intentions can sometimes lead us to places we don't want to be. Also, remember that even if you do everything right in your relationships, these chemicals may die down one day. Love can still be found in abundance even when it feels absent, you just have to put in some extra effort.