Being in love is a powerful experience unlike anything else. It's an altered
state in which people think and act very differently than usual. Some people
never get to experience it, but many of us do at least once in a lifetime.
Those who have experienced it also know that the powerful rush doesn't last
forever. And when those feelings end, the relationship often ends, too. Yet
many couples manage to move on from that stage to keep their love affair
By Gretchen Voss
You'd never buy a car without test-driving it first, right? So why settle
into a lifelong marriage before trying one on for size?
"I'm just really not ready to be committed like this." That's what
Andi said to Tucker, her husband of 11 months, after she came home from a crazy
day at work two years ago with an overwhelming urge to quit her marriage.
Today. Right now. "This just isn't for me."
She spoke stoically — no tears, no histrionics. She had been imagining...
We used to turn to poets for insight on the mysteries of love, but now we
ask doctors and researchers. Science offers two basic ways of understanding
love affairs. One is to look for what many different people in different love
relationships tend to have in common. The other is to look at how chemicals in
the brain mix to make us feel various emotions related to sex and love.
But first things first. Just what is it that makes two people fall in love,
hard and fast?
Beginning in 1965, a psychologist named Dorothy Tennov began to study the
state of being in love as something different from other ways that people love
each other. In 1979, she published a book summing up her research, in which she
coined a new scientific term for "in love." She called it
"limerence." Based upon hundreds of interviews with people in love, she
came up with a general description of the condition.
In the beginning, we become very interested in another person.
If the other person seems interested in us, we become even more interested
in that person.
We feel a keen sense of longing for the other person's attention.
We become interested in only that person and no one else.
Our interest develops into an obsession: We can't stop thinking about the
other person even if we try to concentrate on other things.
We daydream and fantasize about the other person constantly.
The relationship causes euphoria -- an intense "high" or feeling of
joy and well-being.
We think about engaging in sexual activities with the other
Sometimes we feel an aching sensation or pain in the chest.
We fail to notice or refuse to acknowledge any faults in the other person,
and no logical argument can change our positive view.
This Is Your Brain on Love
Researchers have looked for changes in the brain that may go along with the
state of limerence. Studies show that the brain chemicals dopamine and
serotonin may be related to the peculiar feelings and behavior of people in
Dopamine is a feel-good brain chemical. When the brain is flooded with
dopamine, we feel various degrees of well-being, from contentment to euphoria.
High dopamine levels may be related to the "high" people experience
early in a love affair. People in love also tend to notice less need for sleep,
extra energy, and decreased appetite. Some scientists think it's no coincidence
that these are also common effects of amphetamines and cocaine, which alter the
mind mainly by raising dopamine levels.