Setting Good Expectations
Are you looking for love but finding disappointment? You may be asking for too much too soon. Five experts shed some light on what to expect from romance.
The Biology of Love
"When a man and woman fall for each other, it is in our biological best
interest to become a little bit obsessed with each other. There are changes
that occur in our brain chemistry to make that happen," says psychologist
Dennis Sugrue, PhD, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the
University of Michigan Medical School and co-author of Sex Matters for
Those changes, he says, not only help drive the mating process, they are
also responsible for that "honeymoon high."
"It's also why sex can seem so incredible and occur so much more
frequently at the start of a relationship than it ever will later on," says
The bad news is this surge of delicious brain chemistry doesn't last.
Fortunately, however, while all this passion is stirring in our brain, a
slightly different state of mind is brewing elsewhere in our psyche -- a purely
psychological phenomenon that experts call "bonding."
"When the initial brain chemistry involved in the 'honeymoon' phase is
over -- which it eventually is -- the bonding kicks in, a feeling of closeness
and 'coupling' that actually helps keep the man and the woman together over
time," says Sugrue.
In fact, at least one aspect of this tantalizing chemistry lesson was
recently proven by a group of Italian researchers. In this study, doctors
looked at three groups: The first was patients diagnosed but not yet treated
for obsessive compulsive disorder
(OCD); the second group was couples who were newly in love; the third group was
composed of "normal' people.
Using a series of blood tests, researchers screened all three groups for
levels of a chemical that shuttles the mood regulating neurotransmitter
serotonin in and out of brain cells. It was already known that serotonin levels
drop in folks who have OCD. It's part of what drives their obsessive behavior.
So, it was no surprise to find a low level of the transport chemical in this
group. And, by comparison the group of normal folks had normal levels.
But what was exciting and new: The discovery that couples who were newly in
love had the same low level of this serotonin-related chemical as people with
OCD. This, say experts, could mean that what we feel for our partner at the
very early stages of love -- and to some extent the headiness of being in love
-- may be hard wired into our brain chemistry, and pretty much out of our
Working It Out When That Loving Feeling Goes
But while the exhilarating feeling of new love may fade as time goes by,
Lowe says that's not a reason to run for the hills the minute problems in the
In fact, Lowe tells WebMD that couples who stay together and work through
their difficulties often find that happiness -- and a good deal of the passion
-- returns in the long run.