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Health & Sex

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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 continued...

"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 control.

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 relationship arise.

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.

That was precisely the finding of a survey conducted by the Institute of American Values. In this study, researchers questioned hundreds of American couples who said they were very unhappy in their marriages. Five years later the experts re-examined the same couples to see how their relationships fared.

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