The Chemistry of Love
What is love?
Some would say it’s an evolutionary fluke, derived from hormones unique to humans or at least mammals. Other’s claim it’s a learned social phenomenon, not necessary for survival. And others hold that love is something beyond the physical world.
On the other hand, what love does to us has been the subject of many recent studies. Whether chemicals cause love, or love causes chemicals is not understood—a rather chicken vs egg phenomenon—and it’s up to each person and each relationship to decide how much of each is needed.
Sometimes thought of as the very “natural” or “biological” form of love, primal love is the attraction of opposites to mate. For some this is the first step in love, while for others it is associated with “lust” and is undesirable.
This state is related to the release of sex hormones. Testosterone drives men to seek out women as well as to be attractive to women. Estrogen plays the same role for women.
Because it is very difficult for a relationship (at least a romantic one) to begin without these hormones, many supplements, natural male enhancements and hormonal replacements have been created to help those with hormonal imbalances or deficiencies.
Written about in the ancient epics and modern stories alike, spanning history, society and fantasy, romance is the most desired, derided and perplexing idea on the human conscious. Often synonymous with love itself, romantic love is defined as a fire, a desire or something to acquire.
Whether it’s “birds of a feather” or “opposites attract”, romantic love is associated with the release of pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These chemicals are what give romantic love its addictive, oft painful, drug-like effect.
These chemicals stimulate the brain’s pleasure center and lead to side effects such as an increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement. It’s no wonder love is so powerful!
While the effects of primal love are not specific and those of romantic love wear off after a while, it takes permanent love to establish a lasting relationship. This is the love that can exist between husband & wife and parents & children.
Permanent love takes commitment and often needs things to bind it together. In a way “birds of a feather flock together”. Whether it’s a lifetime passion, a familial bond or just Breakfast at Tiffany’s, permanent love is a bond that lasts longer than just “infatuation”.
Permanent love releases oxytocin and vasopressin, reward and pleasure inducing hormones. Actions that are associated with love release these chemicals, which drive the doer to repeat those actions.
What is Love?
In the end, love is personal choice. We are biologically and socially given parameters, and we have experiences that shape our understanding, but we and our relationships define love.
And the chemistry of love can be different for different people, but somehow love is the most universal experience we know of. Yet somehow, it is also the most personal and individual experience as well…