What is Love?
Love is an emotion of personal attachment and strong affection and is a large part of many religions. Love may be described as actions towards the self or others. Love has a spectrum of feelings, attitudes, and states that range from pleasure to passionate desire, intimacy, and interpersonal attraction.
Love may also be described as part of the survival instinct - keeping us together against foes and ensuring the propagation of our species.
Biological Part of Love:
Love, often described as an "addiction," has been proven to actually be an addiction. The chemical process that occurs with addiction also occurs when humans fall in love. Love is, in fact, a chemical state of mind, partly composed of our genes and our upbringing. Humans are wired to love and romance, as we must eventually become loving parents who diligently care for our helpless offspring.
What IS Love?
Poets have long-since extolled it's virtue. Singers croon about it. Humans seek it out. But what IS love?
As mentioned about, romantic love is crucial to the propagation of our species. The chemicals that mimic addiction when we are in love are what make us want to settle down and have families.
Chemicals of Love:
Chemicals of The Sex: estrogen and testosterone contribute to the sexual nature of love, which sets the stage for real love.
Chemicals of Love:
- Dopamine - the pleasure chemical that produces a feeling of euphoria.
- Norepinephrine - produces racing heart and excitement.
The combination of dopamine and norepinephrine produces elation, extreme energy, craving, loss of appetite, intensely focused attention, and sleeplessness.
Chemical Bonds In Romantic Love?
Oxytocin is released when two people have sex, which helps to bond the relationship. Oxytocin has been associated with the ability to maintain healthy relationships and develop healthy boundaries with other people. So the more a couple has sex, the greater the bond.
Endorphins, also known as the body's painkillers, play a role in long-term commitments, as they produce a sense of well-being - feeling safe, peaceful, and secure. Endorphins are released during sexual activity, as well as during physical contact.
Vasopressin, an antidiuretic, is associated with the formation of long-term, monogamous relationships.
Why Do We Fall In Love?
Our ideal partner is ingrained in our subconscious as a sort of template. Here are parts of how our template is created:
Pheromones: In animals, pheromones are individual scent fingerprints secreted in either urine or sweat that dictate sexual behavior and attract the other sex. These pheromones aid animals in identifying each other and choosing an immune system uniquely different to their own to ensure the healthiest possible offspring. Some animals have in their noses an organ called the vomeronasal organ that detects these odorless pheromones.
Human pheromones were discovered to be in human sweat. A human version of the vomeronasal organ is also present in certain individuals. There is evidence, though, that even without the vomeronasal organ, smell is an important part of love. An experiment in which women had to smell the unwashed shirts of a man and choose which one was most attractive to her proved that, most of the time, women chose the shirt from a man whose immune system was most dissimilar to hers.
Appearance: Researchers have speculated that people tend to fall in love with those of the opposite sex who remind us of our parents. Other researchers discovered that humans may be attracted to those who remind us of ourselves. One researcher morphed photographs of the test subject's face into a face of the opposite sex. The test subjects - none of whom recognized themselves in the digitally enhanced photos - all found their own faces to be the most attractive.
Personality: Humans tend to form preferences for those who remind us of those with whom we were close during childhood - like our parents. This includes sense of humor, personality, and likes and dislikes.
Three Stages of Love:
Once a human has experienced the following three stages with the same person, a very strong bond has usually been formed.
- Lust - Lust and romantic love are two different things caused by different underlying substrates. Lust evolved for mating purposes, whereas romantic love evolved due to the need for infant/child bonding. Humans often experience lust for their romantic partner but sometimes do not, which is okay. It is also normal for humans to lust after someone else.
- Attraction - While initial feelings toward a romantic partner may come from lust, if the relationship is to continue, attraction must happen. When attraction, also known as romantic passion, comes into a relationship, humans may lose their ability to think or act rationally when it comes to the object of romantic attraction. During this stage of love, couples spend much time getting to know one another.
- Attachment - This stage, otherwise known as commitment, is love for the duration. Fantasy love has left the building and what remains is real love. Commitment must be strong enough to withstand problems and distractions. Research has shown that the more we idealize the one we love, the stronger the relationship becomes.
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