Falling in Love at First - Just a Chemical Reaction!
Falling in love, as we all know, can be a heady and addictive experience.
We like to think love is an unexplained mystery. Science has proved otherwise. The process of falling in love is a complex triggering of chemicals in the limbic system of the brain. Understanding the reasons why we lose all common sense when we fall in love and feel so at a loss when love ends, allows us to be sympathetic to those in the grips of the first stages falling in love. Not to worry, it doesn't last forever and a lasting chemical free love eventually replaces the initial rush. Which may beg the question, that our very earliest ancestors rountinely fell in love, no matter how primitive they were. I am quite sure of it.
What are the First Signs of Being in Love?
Falling in love comes with some very distinct symptoms. Are you suffering from any of the following:
- Butterflies in the stomach?
- Lack of appetite?
- A pounding heart at the first sight of the object of affection?
- Adoring the sound of the loved one's voice?
- Eagerly waiting for a call or a message like it was the only important thing in your day?
- Playing over and over the moments together?
- Feeling disoriented and waiting to be together again as soon as you are apart?
If you have at least three of these symptoms; congratulations, you are now officially in love, or at least something that is a chemical reaction in your system, heralding the beginning of love. Oh yes, I know about it because I have been there!
Well, here's the surprise... apparently, the scientists say, this type of falling in love is a form of ....wait for this...
this type of falling in love is a form of temporary insanity....
That sensation and it is a sensation: of falling in love, could be called love at first sight. But is it really? Apparently it may not be so cut an dried. That sensation is also a chemical reaction in the brain!
According to scientific studies, falling love is an emotion; but, it is also a chemical reaction in ther limbic system of the brain. The limbic system controls life’s primitive urges. Darn those scientists! I don’t want to believe them!
So This is What Really Happens at Love at First Sight?
Studies claim ( the studies have been conducted by professors at more than one university) that when one falls in love, there is an increase of natural dopamine levels. Well, actually, at first, the body releases phenylethylamine which in turn acts like a stimulant to the body’s natural dopamine levels. One is on a natural drug high...no wonder we feel addicted to the object of our affection! We are.
Dopamine isn’t the only chemical floating around in the system. There is also a release of seratonin. It is quite a complex mix; neurotransmitters balancing the various natural chemicals. Cupid has more than bows and arrows at his disposal. Wow. I am gobsmacked - and sort of disappointed.
It is heartening to know that there really is a way to define love, because now we have the physical evidence of it happening in scientific terms. However, it brings up another question.
I wonder if the love that makes you feel like you are floating in the clouds is actually that good for you?
Why is that you ask?
That dump of chemicals is not without it's side effects.
Those affected can be unreasonable, prone to making impulsive decisions, causing one to daydream endlessly and forget to take care of what should be done. Like for instance, eating! In other words, if you fall in love, you basically become fairly useless until the love potion starts to wear off. Sort of "crazy".
Oh, by the way... that could take anywhere up to twelve months to two years. Sheesh!
Meanwhile, you don't care;you are smiling. You feel wonderful and love the world...it is so "beauutiful". You wonder why people are concerned about you. Who cares if your world is crumbling around you and your boss is getting edgy and your friends just shrug their shoulders. You are "IN LOVE"
The Flip Side
Then one day something unexpected happens...your love says or does something you never thought possible! That perfect someone shows a flaw! Something that bursts your bubble of happiness and "shangri-la-la land" waves good-bye, at least for a moment - reality peeks in.
All those feel-good chemicals dump out of your system and you are in serious love withdrawal...literally. The pathos, the pain, the tears, the absolute end of your world as you know it.
You don’t speak or see each other for days because you are so disappointed. The misery, you are overwhelmed. Life is like a cold dark day in February. You wonder if you will ever enjoy sunlight again or a sunrise or sunset for that matter. The world has all lost it’s beauty. Has anything really changed? Nope, except maybe the level of chemicals in your brain are unbalanced.
That is, until one of you makes a tentative step to patch things up and VOILA the chemicals fire up again and the world begins to shimmer in beauty. Life is good, Life is beautiful.
Does it go on forever?
There are folks that claim that it can last forever. Maybe they are in denial because this would be very tiring and besides when do they go to work?
This "lovesickness" can last two years or so. When you get cured you get to find out if you have found "real" love. The honeymoon is over, as you decide to settle into the actual relationship. The love chemistry begins to wear off, leaving naturally. This is as nature designed it. So gradual you don't even notice.
That is when one fine day, you look over and really notice "who the person you love really is", rather than the dreamy projection you have held as an ideal image. No one is perfect. Face it.
They snore, scratch in places you never noticed before, they are rather sloppy, maybe rough around the edges and actually pretty grumpy in the morning and now you notice the last two years perhaps were all not so rosy after all. You never saw it even though it was right under your nose. Blame those brain-fogging levels of love-induced chemicals.
Decision time. Now if this is true love, you realize, those habits are just human and love the person as they are. If you do not like what you see...it is not love!
Crazy Love, Rejection and all That Jazz...
Because even Cupid isn't perfect; sometimes one falls in love and the emotion isn't reciprocated. Huge trouble, because the one in love is high on the love chemicals and the other is just being themselves.
One party is not functioning properly, ie daydreaming, picturing beautiful scenarios like white wedding dresses. They are deluded; not seeing what is going on. They do not want to believe the truth. They are, after all, in a drug-induced state!
It can work, if there really is substance to the relationship and both parties are committed to make a relationship. After all, going through the chemical craziness isn't necessary. Being compatible goes a long way to real love.
However, if the relationship isn't honest and the person, "not in the throes of love" leaves the relationship; the one "in love" is plunged into the depths of despair. The chemicals haven't had time to wear off naturally. Life becomes a huge black void.
Lovesickness is an actual physical condition chemically speaking. It has it's beginnings when one falls in love in that heady sort of way. When a relationship ends suddenly the emotional pain is real. The chemistry in the body goes completely out of whack. Some turn to alcohol, others to drugs, others become depressed. In actuality, they are suffering from withdrawal and need to take care of themselves accordingly until the hormones, neurotransmitters and chemical balance returns to normal. Symptoms can be severe. Telling someone to get over it just won’t cut it. The only cure for the dumped one is more of the one who has gone...but they are...er...gone. Duh!
It is a dark time. One thinks there will never be love again. Life is experienced in the depths of misery. Life sucks big time.
One needs to address this situation...even see a doctor if the symptoms are severe.
Who would have thought!
Since I have been in love in the real sense of a long term relationship beyond that two year high, I can attest life does return to normal. Life without the high of being in first rush of love is a relief. No longer expecting perfection, one can enjoy reality!
Insight Gives Empowerment Into Being Madly in Love
Now, I wish someone had told me this little nugget when I was younger. I would have appreciated the knowledge. Instead of thinking the only way to find true love was to have that high euphoric experience, I would have relaxed to know that isn’t necessarily needed to experience true love. I am talking about the love beyond the fairy-tale!
Long live that sensation of the first bloom of being in Love; may we all be fortunate to experience it. May we also be fortunate enough to survive it into a real love match that includes respect, love, equality.
The danger of "falling" in love is that the heady first moments are just an illusion, a fleeting, temporary fairy tale that is splendid and vivid, but made of fairy tale dust. After it fades, the real test begins. Alas that is life.
So if you have lost your love and you are crying into your pillow and can’t sleep and can’t think. Relax, you are in chemical withdrawal, this is your mind coping. Take heart and care of yourself. Get professional help if it is real bad and understand this is not a time to make any big decisions.
This too shall pass.
CBC.ca/news , In Depth Science , Relationships: "The Chemistry of Love" by Nicole Tomlinson CBC News
More by this Author
Photographs of vintage optical illusions and a brief description of what an optical illusion is and how the mind gets tricked to see on thing while looking at another!
Friendships, their quality and depth and how they nurture and provide "something" other casual day to day relationships do not. This is my unique perspective on how I made and kept friends over the years.
How to travel successfully with your cat. Ideas that have worked well for me and my cat who travels comfortably with me wherever I go by car.