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Brain in love and strengthening a long term relationship

Updated on October 15, 2014

The studies have revealed that married people are happier than singles. That is what has encouraged many to rush to the altar, though some may be disappointed due to different reasons. It has also been found that the marriage offers little benefits in terms of health, self-esteem and well being over simply living together without wedding rings. It is the relationship itself that offers these benefits rather than its official status. So, being in a romantic relationship, irrespective of its legal status, offers benefits over being single.

It has been revealed that persons passionately in love use the same system in the brain that gets activated when a person is addicted to drugs. In other words, falling passionately in love is like getting addicted to a drug.

Human brain has been wired to choose a mate; so, we are naturally motivated to win over a mate, sometimes going to extremes to seek their attention and affection. We can be quite happy when in love but can also feel anxious when the other person becomes a goal to be achieved in life. The feeling of happiness being around the intended mate is more intense than the urge for sex.

Biochemical changes in brain in love –

Physical attraction – It is brought on by a neurotransmitter, called phenyl ethylamine, which causes anxiety and stomach churn. It is followed by the release of hormone testosterone, which activates the senses in an order of vision, sound, smell and taste. Other symptoms include increased pulse, dilatation of pupils, salivation, penile erection and wet vagina.

Passionate romantic love - When madly in love, fMRI scanning of the brain of young paramours revealed that when they are focusing on the object of their affection, many parts of the brain start lighting up. The caudate nucleus – a part of the primitive brain – is highly active in these amorous individuals. This shows that romantic love is primitively inherent in humans. As expected, the brain areas associated with dopamine and nor epinephrine production light up. Both are brain chemicals associated with pleasurable activities and excitement. The dopamine producing areas in the brain are quite extensive. Dopamine is most chemically similar to nor-epinephrine.

Lovers talk all night, walk till dawn, cross continents to spend weekends or even die for one another due to the abundance of these bio-chemicals which give them focus, stamina, vigor and motivation. Dopamine is associated with drunk on love feeling, infatuation and blindness to other’s flaws.

Dopamine is also closely associated with feelings of hatred. If a romantic relationship deteriorates and there are too many negative feelings about the other person, an individual can reduce dopamine level by deliberately avoiding things, which increase it.

Attachment – More of pleasure hormone like endorphins, oxytocin in women and vasopressin in men are released during orgasms and exchanges of love. Then after a period of time, the brain’s neo-cortex, which is responsible for rational thinking, creates a need for stability in a relationship.

Long term love relationship – Oxytocin, also called cuddle hormone or love hormone, has long been known to play key role in long-term relationships. Its abundance in the presence of the opposite sex creates a long lasting preference to remain together and cuddle up together sparking the formation of a powerful social bond between them. In humans, oxytocin surges during sexual intercourse for both men and women, and, for women, during childbirth and lactation, which are pivotal interpersonal moments that stand to forge new social bonds or cement existing ones. There are many subtle ebb and flow of oxytocin during typical day to day activities such as playing with kids, knowing neighbor or striking a business deal with a new partner.

The simple act of sharing an important secret from one’s life with someone increases one’s naturally circulating levels of oxytocin. Under the influence of oxytocin, a person can attend more to people’s eyes and smiles. By paying closer attention to other’s eyes and smiles, a person can better judge other’s feelings. Oxytocin particularly sensitizes a person to words like love and kissing.

Oxytocin modulates the activity of the aymygdala – a subcortical structure deep within the brain – linked to emotional processing. It tunes the amygdala to positive social opportunities by producing negativity dampening effects. Thus, it helps one to glide through stressful situations like discussing a conflict ridden topic with the spouse or partner. Under the influence of oxytocin, when facing difficult situations, there is less of cortisol – a stress hormone – circulating in the blood. Generally, it promotes “calm and connect response”. It appears to calm fears that might keep one away from making connection even with the strangers.

How to strengthen the long term relationship –

  • Make a conscious effort to make eye contact with the partner throughout day. Smile often when making eye contacts. Try to flirt by winking to the partner. You will, thus, boost circulating oxytocin in both and strengthen the bond with your partner.
  • Give and exchange affectionate touch or hug. Often say words of affection to each other. This will give boost to the oxytocin.
  • Exchanges kisses frequently as this will too boost oxytocin, resulting in better bonding.
  • Share with each other what important events had happened during the day. This too will boost oxytocin and, therefore, will promote bonding.
  • Exercise with the partner or alone because exercise boosts oxytocin production.
  • Eat meals together. Enjoy high protein food. Tyrosine, an amino acid, found in animal and other proteins is a precursor to dopamine.
  • Have sex more often because sexual intercourse releases chemicals like oxytocin and vasopressin. Vasopressin contributes to a sense of bonding for men.
  • Spend leisure time and relax together often because it releases endorphins, which are associated with pleasure and feeling of love.
  • It can happen sometimes that the romantic relationship may deteriorate after some time because one of the partners may develop negative feelings due to wrong habits of the other or something else. Under such situations, the partners should stop doing the things that boost dopamine production so that they can reduce their bitterness or hatred for each other. This will give them a chance to review the situation rationally to make a decision, after which they can connect again if they want.

Conclusion –

All the states of a love relationship are mediated through biochemicals released in the brain. Most of us have experienced intense infatuation and physical attraction toward a member of the opposite sex sometime in life and we know how overwhelming the feeling is. The different states have releases of different biochemicals but oxytocin plays a predominant role in love relationships. There always occur ebb and flow in the levels of the biochemical resulting in changes in the relationships. One may be unaware of how these biochemicals acts in the body in love relationships but if one wants, one can influence their levels by consciously doing things that release them so as to improve the relationship in many ways. A higher level of oxytocin not only cements the existing bond between the partners but also makes them sail through difficult times smoothly.

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    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 2 years ago

      Voted up and interesting!

      "It is the relationship itself that offers these benefits rather than its official status. So, being in a romantic relationship, irrespective of its legal status, offers benefits over being single." - Amen!

      I've been explaining this to people for years. If someone is "in love" with you they aren't going to love you more because your title has changed from girlfriend to wife or from boyfriend to husband.

      There is nothing "magical" that happens after saying "I do". Both people are the same people they were twenty-four hours prior. I'm not anti-marriage after all I am married. However what I find disturbing is how many people especially women believe marriage means commitment.

      The truth is commitment comes BEFORE the marriage! Not many people would choose to marry someone who they knew were cheating on them or were constantly breaking up with them, or they never talked about a life together for the long-term. You marry someone who is (already committed) to you.

      When it comes to "oxytocin" I've often read about it in connection with women and cheating. Some people actually believe it causes women to bond with a man during sex and therefore explains why women don't cheat as much as men. However the reality is anyone who has watched an episode of "Cheaters", "Paternity Court", or "Maury Povich" AKA "You are NOT the father! is well aware that neither gender is exactly standing on holy ground when it comes to cheating. Even lesbians have been known to complain about their partners cheating!

      Prostitutes, porn stars, and escorts also manage to have sex with multiple men without falling in love or bonding due to "oxytocin".

      Without a doubt I do believe in (chemistry) between individuals. It clearly explains why we often say "yes" to one person and "no" to another even though (on paper) they have all the traits we say we want!

      This also explains why some people choose to stay in toxic relationships or have a hard time "moving on" from those who they know are bad for them on so many levels. I heard someone say there are some people you simply can't let go of because they've left their footprints on your heart and soul. It must be a combination of metal and chemical activity.

      You can close your eyes and kiss two people in the same way for the same exact amount of time (feel) completely different. Two people can tell a joke and yet we might find one to be funnier than the other.

      My point is I don't believe we manufacture oxytocin or chemistry with anyone we choose to simply by spending time and doing various things together. There's something invisible which causes us feel differently about individuals even if we're duplicating activities.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 2 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Good post, nice research.

      You mention exercising together. I've been telling people that for years.

      The deal is that exercise increases testosterone in both men and women. Neither can have sex without the right amount of testosterone in their bodies. In men, it's a ration about 10-1 parts testosterone to estrogen. And for women, the ratio is 1-10, testosterone to estrogen. So men, too, cannot have sex without some estrogen circulating in their blood.

      We also must emphasize that life experiences increase or decrease one's propensities to have these neurotransmitters and hormones, that you mention, circulating in their bodies and brains. Thus, one has a LOVE STYLE when they approach an available partner that determines which of the physiological systems you mention dampen or light up within themselves. Thus, we can have people who do not bond from having sex or do not fall in love--but rather have a need to hurt someone by pretending to be enthralled by them, looking them in the eyes and every thing. And then dumping them.

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image
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      Dr Pran Rangan 2 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for your views about the topic which I support fully.

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