by Marie-Claude Boisvert, Chief Editor
With a glass of Chardonnay in one hand, my chopsticks in the other, waiting for my salmon makis to be served; my friend Justine and I could not stop listening to the girl at the table next to us talking about her new relationship. After all, they were talking SO LOUDLY, it was impossible not to hear that “ROBERT AND HER WERE MADE FOR EACH OTHER!”. This girl seemed so in love that I could practically see the butterflies in her stomach, even without an X-ray machine. I have to admit that it was pretty cute.
On our side of the restaurant, I was still a hardened bachelor that was constantly looking for these exact butterflies. My friend Justine, who has been in a relationship since the dawn of time is satisfied with a good dose of stability.
– Hey Justine, do you still feel those butterflies in your stomach?
– Yes and no, definitely not when I wash his dirty boxer shorts. But yes, I still feel it to a certain extent. Let’s say that I love him so much for who he really is that the passion is different. Sometimes I wish I could get back to the butterflies, but I can’t complain. It’s just different.
Love… Oh love, so complex, so brutal, so passionate; this rollercoaster of emotions that invades your life but is still so addictive. Several experts on the subject have articulated different theories regarding different stages of love, all of which lead substantially to the same theory of the three stages: Sex drive, Romatic love and Tender-Love. According to Arthur Aaron, PhD in social psychology, these three stages would in some way be steps. For Helen Fisher, Anthropologist, it is rather about different types of love that may be evolving, but not necessarily. According to her, it is when the three systems are aligned that this “cosmic connection” is felt.
Sex Drive: This feeling of strong attraction can often be felt for more than one person at a time. Psychologists have shown that it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to know if you fantasize about someone. 55% of this reaction is stimulated by body language, 38% by tone of voice and only 7% by what the person actually says. It is also proven that attraction is at the highest level when the body is already stimulated. We associate the excitement and adrenaline we are feeling with the other person. It is not for nothing that music festivals or bars are classic meeting places.
I should suggest to the girl next to us to take “the handsome Robert” to the amusement park. The adrenaline will hit its maximum on the rollercoaster and they will live happily ever after.
Romantic Love: the butterflies flying everywhere: This strong sensation is associated with the secretion of dopamine, the hormone of passion. This hormone leads us to focus on a particular person. Romatic-Love is also associated with a low level of serotonin, a level comparable to people suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder. In addition to a low level of serotonin, the lymphatic part of the brain (linked to pleasure) is stimulated, which as a whole makes us see life more positively. Life seems all around improved, more simple. In addition, the amygda, part of the brain associated with the hypothalamus, shuts down. We know that this part of the brain is responsible for judgment and confidence, the expression “love is blind” suddenly makes sense. Dopamine and serotonin lead us to think of “THE ONE” day and night, idealizing our partner, constantly wanting to be in their presence and even completely obsessed. We also tend to fall for someone mysterious since being curious increases our level of dopamine.
This is perhaps why I am still single. Me… THE OPEN BOOK!
Like any drug, our bodies become accustomed to this sensation, it feels less powerful. Some say that romantic-love lasts only 3 months to 3 years, hence the famous “3 year itch”. Yet, according to others like Helen Fisher, there is not really any time limit. Some say they even continuously feel those little butterflies way after.
Tender-Love, or attachment: This feeling of safety and calm, this cocoon of love that we build with that special person. Tender-love is linked to the oxytocin hormone, the hormone of love, often related to deep intimacy, it tends to last longer than dopamine (passion). According to Dr. Aaron, this deep attachment is much more likely to happen when we feel appreciated by the other. According to him, that little thing – being paid attention to – has a great impact on attachment. Dopamine hormone intensifies in deeper attachments, such as marriage, a common love for a child etc. This is accompanied with the hormone vasopressin which is associated with monogamy.
Attention, this does not mean that a marriage or a child is a pledge of eternal love. On the other hand, we must constantly renew ourselves in order to still feel all these hormones, passion, attachment and all that makes love this marvelous little thing. Moreover, the feeling of tenderness does not stop the limbic system from remaining active and the secretion of dopamine from creating passion for your partner.
I looked Justine in the eyes and could not help but comment on our new favorite table neighbor.
– Who knows what will happen or if she will spend the rest of her days with Robert. But for the moment, she is so in love and it’s cute to see.
-Yes, I know, we should never stop loving anyway…
We are constantly searching for Love with a capital L. We crave the effect of beauty and pleasure created by these different hormones. Yet even if we better understand what happens in our bodies when we are in love, the experts have still not found why we can feel strong feelings for such and such a person and not for another. Of course, there is evidence that there is a tendency to fall for someone with common interests, the same level of intelligence, a similar level of physical characteristics, the same socioeconomic bracket… but why one person more than another? We have no idea and that is the beauty of it. We still do not know why the girl next to us fell in love at first sight, why her heart melted for ROBERT and not for his twin brother (yes, I’ve learned a lot about Robert’s life), but we certainly hope they work out together, at least for a while.