We like to think of love as something mystical, magical, unexpected, and completely unpredictable. But there is actually some real science behind attraction. Who we love, how we love, patterns we follow when we love – these are science-based and have little to do with Cupid shooting his arrow randomly.
There’s a new book out by author Laura Mucha, entitled Love Factually, that sets about to explain the science behind love. Let’s have a look at what she’s discovered.
1. Those wonderful feelings you have when you first fall in love?
What we’d like to think of as uncontrollable passion is actually our brain flooding with the feel-good chemicals known as dopamine, noradrenaline, and cortisol. All three of these chemicals go into mass production when we are attracted to someone, and they provide us with that rush we get in the early days of a passionate relationship.
- Dopamine is also produced when cocaine is ingested, and you can see the similarities between wanting to spend all your free time with your new crush, and the addictive quality of cocaine.
- Noradrenaline is the same chemical released when we experience the fight or flight response—and in the case of early love, it energizes us.
- Cortisol, paradoxically, is a stress hormone. But in this case, it produces that insomnia we can have when in the early throes of a love affair, when we can’t even sleep lest we miss a moment thinking about our beloved.
2. Love at first sight is a myth
Oh, we’d all like to think that we can glance across the room and “just know” that he is the one for us. But this is merely our brain tricking us into believing that there is a soulmate out there (80% of 20 year-olds think this), or that destiny will play a part in getting us to the perfect relationship.
These myths are enforced by Hollywood and fairytales and, while lovely to believe, have no basis in reality.
An example of how our brain tricks us in the early days of a relationship? We think that everything our beloved does is just so cute, even his little quirks and odd habits. Our brain, awash in feel good hormones, ignores all those horrible sounds he makes when he chews, or the fact he never puts his coffee cup in the sink after he finishes his morning joe.
Flash forward two years into the relationship, when those hormones have ceased to coat your brain cells, and you can trust that all those funny little things you found so adorable early on will be sources of irritation each time you get into a fight with your beloved.
3. Myth: If you no longer feel that all-consuming romantic love for your partner
This is probably the source of so many premature breakups. Sadly, many people believe that true love means feeling passionate 100% of the time, and if your partner stops sending you those little love texts everyday, you should seek a new one.
Love factually – Those crazy love-infused feelings you feel at the beginning? They aren’t going to last, nor should they. (You’d never get anything done!) Those hormones will wear off, or at least diminish, in one year. After that, companionate love will surface. And that’s when you get the good stuff!
Now, what is companionate love?
Companionate love is the next stage when you are growing a healthy relationship.
If you haven’t jumped ship when the passionate love hormones have worn off, you will be rewarded with a love that is filled with tenderness, empathy, kindness, and concern for your partner. You will still have those days of lust, don’t worry, they will just not be non-stop as in the early days.
Science tells us that now, instead of producing dopamine, noradrenaline, and cortisol, our brains are making hormones that have us bond, such as vasopressin and oxytocin. Isn’t nature smart? She wants to keep us together for any offspring that may result from this increasingly long term relationship!
4. Research proves it: you really can die of a broken heart
And you thought it was only heroines in 19th-century novels that died of heartbreak.
But broken-hearted people can develop stress related cardiomyopathy, changing the shape of the heart’s left ventricle, weakening the heart structure.
5. Research shows a rise in cougar attractiveness
Single women in their 50s know this from their own dating experiences that there is a vast majority of younger men who love older women. It is no longer abnormal to see women happily ensconced in relationships with men 10 or 20 years younger than them.
Look at Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, who has been married to one woman his entire life, and she is 26 years older than him! Science is showing us that men in their 20s are very open to dating women in their 40s.
But men in their 40s prefer dating women five years younger than them.
6. Ruled by our hormones
Scientists were curious to watch the behavior of women during the ovulation part of their hormonal cycle. Guess what they found?
Women who were ovulating were more likely to wear sexier clothing, more likely to say no to sitting at home and watching Netflix (they wanted to be out and about), and consumed fewer calories than at other times in their cycle.
All of this to get them ready to indulge in behavior that would help our species reproduce!