The Science of Love

I rarely write about my dating life anymore, but suffice it to say that I'm happy. Really happy.

I'm with a man who is kind, communicative and loyal. I haven't always (often?) been able to say that I'm dating a good man, but I can now. And, that's perfect for this stage in my life.

My heart races a bit when I see him, and I feel this rush when he hugs me. When we're not together, I find myself daydreaming a lot and having trouble concentrating.

One of my Sexuality and Social Media students, Gabrielle, might tell me that it's the dopamine talking. For her class research project, Gabrielle is:

Comparing and contrasting the chemical processes that occur within the human body during online dating and face-to-face relationships.  There is a rise in the chemical Oxytocin when social media users meet a love interest online as well as during a physical relationship.  However, Pheromones are chemicals physically given off by the body and spark attraction within a romantic partner.  Does dating through social media hinder the chemical processes of love or have our brains adapted to this modern way of life?

This post that Gabrielle wrote about the chemistry of love had me thinking about my own life:

Dopamine is first released (Newman 9).  It is what makes a person want to spend more time with his or her love interest and gives them the initial “butterflies” (9).  This neurotransmitter is also released when someone drinks or does drugs like caffeine, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine (Tomlinson).  The chemical process of love actually induces addictive like behavior, “which explains the feeling of being addicted to your partner” (Newman, 9).  A dopamine release also increases a person’s heart rate and energy, as well as restlessness (Tomlinson).

Dopamine is also the high a person feels when she or he takes a risk like skydiving or snowboarding down a half-pipe (Park).  The unknown of a new relationship also has the same effect within the brain and this is why he or she often feels so exciting.  The high in a relationship caused by dopamine may diminish over time (2).  This can be caused by parenting and couples often find it difficult to hold on to romance (Blum, 3).  All is not lost however.  Dopamine has been shown to return and add a new spark to a long term relationship (3).  Dopamine also comes back to influence attraction for people who have lost a partner, “Among the couples that Fisher is studying are newly met partners in nursing homes, people in their 70s and 80s, whose infatuation is just as intense as that shared by 20-year-old lovers” (3).

Years ago, one of my friends claimed that the best feeling in the world is falling in love.

Maybe she's right. Or, is it just the dopamine talking again? Read more about the chemical processes of love here.

What do you think about the science behind attraction and love?

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