When people start a new relationship, most of our attraction is thanks to an irresistible cocktail of chemicals. Unbeknown to us, our brain entices us to crave affection. But how?
Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in New Jersey has been conducting research on the brain chemistry of what she calls ‘the emotion systems associated with mating, reproduction,and parenting.’ Helen suggests that the three emotional systems (or ‘stages of love’) —lust, attraction, and attachment—“ are somewhat disconnected in human beings…” But the situation is not hopeless. Fisher argues; “the role of the prefrontal cortex in humans is to control and direct these emotions—if we so choose.”
As for love these days, let’s talk statistics. The divorce rate in the United States is expected to reach 67 percent before the end of the decade. Currently, some 80 percent of divorced men and 72 percent of divorced women remarry; but 54 percent and 61 percent, respectively, divorce again. High divorce and remarriage rates are seen in many other cultures, as well.
When it comes to animosity in relationships, at least 25 percent of homicides in the United States involve spouses, sexual partners, or sexual rivals.
Each year, some one million American women are followed and harassed by rejected lovers; 370,000 men are stalked by former partners; and approximately 1.8 million wives in the United States are beaten by their husbands. In fact, male sexual jealousy is the foremost cause of wife battering in cultures worldwide.
Husbands, although to a lesser degree, are physically abused by wives. Men and women in societies everywhere can experience clinical depression when a love relationship fails; and psychologists say that a sign? I cant think of the percentage of those who commit suicide because they have been rejected by a beloved.
But WHY? Could our brain chemicals be driving some people to act in an extreme way? It’s highly possible!
The 3 Stages of Love
Stage 1: Lust
This is the first stage of love and is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen – in both men and women.
Stage 2: Attraction
This is the amazing time when you are truly love-struck and can think of little else. Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved in this stage; adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin.
Adrenaline – The initial stages of falling for someone activates your stress response, increasing your blood levels of adrenaline and cortisol. This has the charming effect that when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat, your heart races and your mouth goes dry.
Dopamine – Fisher asked newly ‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined and discovered they have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine!
Fisher suggests “couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” .
Serotonin – One of love’s most important chemicals that may explain why when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts.
Stage 3: Attachment-
Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise children.
Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin.
So, the thought is, if we can be mindful of these 3 steps, can you choose to fall in love? Maybe! Or at least it’s very possible, says New York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, who has been studying why people fall in love.
He asked his subjects to carry out the above 3 above mentioned steps and found that many of his couples felt deeply attracted after the 34 minute experiment. Two of his subjects even got married after the experiment!
Want to know more? Check out his experiment!