Are you in love? And have you ever tried to ask yourself whether love has become an addiction? Scientists are discovering that the same chemical process that takes place with addiction actually takes place when we fall in love. Love is, infact, a chemical state of mind that is a part of our genes.
Love is very critical for the continuation of our species. In the absence of romantic love, our society would have been similar to some of those social circles in the animal kingdom. The chemicals that race around in our brain when we are in love serve several purposes, and the primary goal is the continuation of our species. Those are the chemicals that make us want to have a family and have children. Once we have children, those chemicals transform and encourage us to stay together to raise those children. So in a sense, love really is a chemical addiction that takes place to keep us reproducing.
Our subconscious mind contains a template for the ideal partner. It is this love map that directs us to that person in a crowded room. Many researchers believed that we tend to fall for someone of the opposite sex who reminds us of our parents. Psychologist David Perrett, at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, did an experiment in which he morphed a digitized photo of the subject’s own face into a face of the opposite sex. Then the subject was allowed to select from a series of photos, the one he or she found most attractive. According to Dr. Perrett, his subjects always preferred the morphed version of their own face (and they didn’t recognize it as their own).
The concept of human pheromones is largely debated but still holds some credibility in the field of love research. The word “pheromone” comes from the Greek words pherein and hormone, meaning “excitement carrier”. In the animal world, pheromones are individual scent “prints” found in urine or sweat that dictate sexual behavior and attract the opposite sex. They help animals identify each other and choose a mate with an immune system different enough from their own to ensure healthy offspring.
The existence of human pheromones was discovered in 1986 by scientists at the Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and its counterpart in France. They found these chemicals in human sweat. There is still evidence that smell is an important aspect of love (note the booming perfume industry). An experiment was conducted where a group of females smelled the unwashed tee shirts of a group of sweaty males, and each had to select the one to whom she was most “attracted.” Just like in the animal world, the majority of the females chose a shirt from the male whose immune system was the most different from their own.
Love has three stages – lust, attraction and attachment and when all three of these happen with the same person, you have a very strong bond. Sometimes, however, the one we lust after is not the one we actually love.
When we are in our teens, just after puberty, estrogen and testosterone become active in our bodies for the first time and create the desire to experience “love”. This desire is lust. Sexologist John Money draws the line between love and lust in this way: “Love exists above the belt, lust below. Love is lyrical. Lust is lewd.” It is lust that helps us find out that special someone. But, while lust keeps us “looking around,” it is our desire for romance that leads us to attraction.
In the stage of attraction, we often lose our ability to think rationally – at least when it comes to the object of our attraction. The old saying “love is blind” is really accurate in this stage. In this stage we overlook any major flaw our partner might have. We just can’t get them off our minds. It is our biological system that makes our mind preoccupied with it.
From the stage of attachment you are entering into real love. This stage of love has to be strong enough to withstand many problems and distractions. Studies by University of Minnesota researcher Ellen Berscheid and others have shown that the more we idealize the one we love, the stronger the relationship during the attachment stage.
A number of chemicals are racing around in our body when we are in love. Estrogen and testosterone play a role in the sex drive area but without these chemicals we might never venture into “real love” arena.