Think of the last time you felt like there's a butterfly in your stomach. Or the time you ran into someone you find attractive. You may have stuttered; your palms may have sweated; you may have said something incredibly awkward. Chances are, your heart was thudding in your chest. It's no surprise that, for centuries, people thought love arose from the heart.
Contrary to popular belief, love is not rooted in the heart. People do not fall in love at first sight. They feel lust instead. According to Dr Helen Fisher at Rutgers, romantic love can be broken down into three phases: lust, attraction, and attachment. The organ responsible for this is the brain. Our brain is the largest sex organ in our body.
Have you ever heard about the formula of love?
How it starts
Men pair widely, while women pair wisely. What does it mean? In a study, men tend to focus on visual stimuli. In other words, a woman’s youth and beauty. On the other hand, women focus more on attention, emotion, and effort.
Let's get chemicals!
The two sex hormones released by the brain: Testosterone and estrogen “usually drive this stage.” These hormones are responsible for seeking out a sexual relationship with someone. It is where a woman sees a man (or woman) and believes him/her to be attractive. The brain secretes the sex hormones which intensify the "crush" feeling towards the other person.
The stage wherein we have fallen into the trap of lust, and we tend to level up the feeling. This stage is where we feel like we seem to think or believe that we are in love.
It is where we go on dates, have a late-night conversation, and even a phone call that lasts for hours to try to get to know more about the person we got attracted to.
Eventually, in this stage, you start to get good feelings around the person, and your brain starts to release a chemical called "dopamine". It is also known as "happy feelings." It is the feeling of acing a test, accomplishing a task, or simply spending time with a family, friend, or significant other.
Have you ever had sweaty pants when you talk to your crush, or your heart beating fast like a running horse when you are with someone you're attracted to? That is because of the hormone adrenaline. Another hormone in the attraction stage responsible for making our heart beats fast; hence, giving us tons of energy. Perhaps, this is the reason why we associate the feeling of love with the heart.
Finally, the attraction seems to lead to a hormone called serotonin. Have you ever experienced having a hard time getting the person out of your mind that made you smile like an idiot? Well, blame the serotonin for that!
Attachment is the last stage, the stage of having strong feelings of connection. It is where loyalty comes into play. It is associated with other complex behaviors that include being protective and caring to your partner that maintains a relationship.
Even in this stage, hormones are still responsible for your feelings and actions. These are oxytocin and vasopressin.
Oxytocin is often called a "cuddle hormone" which affects our long term relationship with someone, including friendship and family ties. Acts such as sexual intercourse, childbirth, and breastfeeding mainly produce these hormones.
In theory, it deepens the feelings of attachment and makes the couple closer physically and emotionally to one another after. This hormone is also one of the main reasons mothers seem to be attached to their babies in their early stages of motherhood.
Oxytocin gives the feeling of ease and relaxation that we connect with love. This hormone helps us to feel safe and comfortable with our significant other. It somehow gives us the feeling of "settling in" into our partner.
The other hormone is vasopressin. It is responsible for maintaining the relationship. It is more on promoting actions. This type of feeling happens when your loved ones or partner support you in all aspects of life, making you feel love even more.
Love is not only made up of positive feelings. Negativities like jealousy, irrationality, uneasiness, insecurities, and even stress also accompany love. Our relationship with all the hormones released from the first stage up to the last is responsible for these feelings.
Dopamine helps us enjoy food, exciting events, and relationships, but too much dopamine in a relationship can cause unhealthy emotional dependence on our partners. And while healthy oxytocin levels help us bond and feel relaxed towards our partners, increased oxytocin can also fuel prejudice. Too much is bad.
The emotions and feelings produced by the hormones due to our body’s chemical reactions are probably nature's beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and surviving. All the hormones are not the ones that make love complicated, but it is the idea of love that makes it complex and inexplicable.
In the end, there is no definite formula or definition for love. Or maybe you just need to find the right person to explain what real love is.
Love can be both the best and worst thing for you – it can be the thing that gets us up in the morning, or what makes us never want to wake up again.