Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Chemistry of Love
I was recently discussing the chemistry of love with a writer friend of mine, then later talked about it to my husband who is out of town on business. I was whining to him on the phone about how much I miss him. I was wondering how after seven years together, he can still make my heart race, my breath catch with one look. Don't even ask what his touch does. Why is it that I can't stay mad at him for very long? After seven years and three kids and believe me, we've had our rough times just like any couple but still, our bond is so strong. Unbreakable. I wanted to know why. I've been married before and never felt as I do now. I was only friends with my ex but I thought we were in love. Now I know. And wow...what a DIFFERENCE. Read on to learn what the experts have to say.
(The following text was copied from Wikkipedia with sources sited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love)(Photos courtesy of Photo Bucket except for my personal photo.)
Biological models of sex tend to view love as a mammalian drive, much like hunger or thirst. Helen Fisher, a leading expert in the topic of love, divides the experience of love into three partly overlapping stages: lust, attraction, and attachment. Lust exposes people to others; romantic attraction encourages people to focus their energy on mating; and attachment involves tolerating the spouse (or indeed the child) long enough to rear a child into infancy.
Lust is the initial passionate sexual desire that promotes mating, and involves the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and estrogen. These effects rarely last more than a few weeks or months. Attraction is the more individualized and romantic desire for a specific candidate for mating, which develops out of lust as commitment to an individual mate forms. Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act in a manner similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain's pleasure center and leading to side effects such as increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement. Research has indicated that this stage generally lasts from one and a half to three years.
Since the lust and attraction stages are both considered temporary, a third stage is needed to account for long-term relationships. Attachment is the bonding that promotes relationships lasting for many years and even decades. Attachment is generally based on commitments such as marriage and children, or on mutual friendship based on things like shared interests. It has been linked to higher levels of the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin to a greater degree than short-term relationships have.
Enzo Emanuele and coworkers reported the protein molecule known as the nerve growth factor (NGF) has high levels when people first fall in love, but these return to previous levels after one year.
Psychology depicts love as a cognitive and social phenomenon. Psychologist Robert Sternberg formulated a triangular theory of love and argued that love has three different components: intimacy, commitment, and passion. Intimacy is a form in which two people share confidences and various details of their personal lives, and is usually shown in friendships and romantic love affairs. Commitment, on the other hand, is the expectation that the relationship is permanent. The last and most common form of love is sexual attraction and passion. Passionate love is shown in infatuation as well as romantic love. All forms of love are viewed as varying combinations of these three components. American psychologist Zick Rubin seeks to define love by psychometrics. His work states that three factors constitute love: attachment, caring, and intimacy.
Following developments in electrical theories such as Coulomb's law, which showed that positive and negative charges attract, analogs in human life were developed, such as "opposites attract." Over the last century, research on the nature of human mating has generally found this not to be true when it comes to character and personality—people tend to like people similar to themselves. However, in a few unusual and specific domains, such as immune systems, it seems that humans prefer others who are unlike themselves (e.g., with an orthogonal immune system), since this will lead to a baby that has the best of both worlds. In recent years, various human bonding theories have been developed, described in terms of attachments, ties, bonds, and affinities.
Some Western authorities disaggregate into two main components, the altruistic and the narcissistic. This view is represented in the works of Scott Peck, whose work in the field of applied psychology explored the definitions of love and evil. Peck maintains that love is a combination of the "concern for the spiritual growth of another," and simple narcissism. In combination, love is an activity, not simply a feeling.
Companionate love or Passionate Love?
Biological models of love tend to see it as a mammalian drive, similar to hunger or thirst. Psychology sees love as more of a social and cultural phenomenon. There are probably elements of truth in both views. Certainly love is influenced by hormones (such as oxytocin), neurotrophins (such as NGF), and pheromones, and how people think and behave in love is influenced by their conceptions of love. The conventional view in biology is that there are two major drives in love: sexual attraction and attachment. Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the same principles that lead an infant to become attached to its mother. The traditional psychological view sees love as being a combination of companionate love and passionate love. Passionate love is intense longing, and is often accompanied by physiological arousal (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate); companionate love is affection and a feeling of intimacy not accompanied by physiological arousal.
Studies have shown that brain scans of those infatuated by love display a resemblance to those with a mental illness. Love creates activity in the same area of the brain where hunger, thirst, and drug cravings create activity. New love, therefore, could possibly be more physical than emotional. Over time, this reaction to love mellows, and different areas of the brain are activated, primarily ones involving long-term commitments.
What Alisha Gets From All This
After reading all this I can see that my husband and I have an intricate combination of companionate and passionate love. I suspect our special blend of chemicals, emotions and time together has formed an unbreakable bond. I agree with everything I read in the above theories. If love produces effects similar to certain drugs, no wonder we act the fools when we first fall in love. Good Lord, when I first met my husband, I would leave my secretary job at lunch and drive thirty minutes to his work just so I could spend ten minutes kissing him, then speed like a maniac to get back to work. And then I'd spend the rest of the day fantasizing about the feel of his lips, his hands on my hips, the way he swaggered up to me and whistled when he saw me...his tool belt, his hard hat...I could go on and on. Get this all you wicked bloggers...he lived next door to me for two years before we spoke. And when we did...it was all over. Thank God his car broke down. He needed me to drive him to an auto parts store. I still love Autozone to this day. He brought me a bottle of wine to thank me a week later and asked me out on a date for the next weekend. Here's what he said. "So how long do I get you? For one night out or all weekend?" He wanted to spend days with me? This had never happened. I was in shock. SHOCK! It was the best weekend of my life. Six weeks later, he took me to our favorite spot at a nearby creek. He bent down on one knee and held a little velvet box out. I never thought I'd find true love but I did. What comforts me most is that we can weather any storm. Love is just the coolest thing ever.
Have a Love Filled Week!