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The Science of Love

Published: 
Sunday, November 4, 2012

It’s that gooey feeling that gets us all warm and fuzzy inside. Love. It is said to be the highest form of attraction and even the feeling that makes the world go round.

 
This emotion which knows no limits, has been encapsulated in poetry and paintings and remains one of life’s greatest mysteries of all time. Tried and true, love has driven many to their death and has even kept couples together for decades. Love is indeed unexplainable, but what is known is that every human being needs it, yearns it, and some may spend their entire lives looking for it.
 
For such a vast emotion, it is inconceivable to believe that this “thing” can be quantified or scientifically measured. It will be surprising to discover however, that love indeed has its roots anchored in science and has three distinct stages that define it.
 
According to a BBC report, supported by the findings of Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in New Jersey, there are three phases that one passes through when one falls in love. 
 
STAGE ONE: LUST
This is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen, testosterone is not only limited to men, its plays a significant role in the sex drive in women.
 
STAGE TWO: ATTRACTION
In this stage, all we do is think about the person. According to Fisher, one can even lose his appetite or sleep and in this stage, neuro-transmitters called 'monoamines' are released. These are:
Dopamine - Also activated by cocaine and nicotine. 
Norepinephrine - Otherwise known as adrenalin. Starts us sweating and gets the heart racing. 
Serotonin - One of love's most important chemicals and one that may actually send us temporarily insane. 
 
STAGE THREE: ATTACHMENT
It is said to that it is impossible to stay at the attraction stage permanently, therefore, one progresses to the attachment phase where couples tend to stay together and go on to have children and build a family. In this stage, hormones are also released, the main one being Oxytocin or “The Love Hormone”.
 
Oxytocin/ Love Hormone- This is released by the hypothalamus gland during child birth and also helps the breast express milk. It helps cement the strong bond between mother and child. It is also released by both sexes during orgasm and it is thought that it promotes bonding when adults are intimate. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes. This love hormone can be increased through more physical contact such as massaging or hugging.
 
Vasopressin- Another important chemical in the long-term commitment stage. It is an important controller of the kidney and its role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole (South American mammal).  Researchers indicate that some AVP may also be released directly into the brain, and accumulating evidence suggests it plays an important role in social behaviour, bonding, and maternal responses to stress.
 
Such research gives us an opportunity to actually pin point the different stages, and perhaps gives us a better understanding of where we have reached in our own relationships.
 
Tips for keeping the love tank full
Four tips on how to have a quality conversation with your spouse:
 
1. Maintain eye contact when your spouse is talking.
2. Don’t listen to your spouse and do something else at the same time.
3. Listen for feelings. Ask yourself, “What emotion is my spouse experiencing?”
4. Refuse to interrupt. Such interruptions indicate, “I don’t care what you are saying; listen to me.”
 
Such active listening will fill the love tank of the person whose primary love language is quality time.
 
Excerpt taken from The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman.