Why do we Fall in Love?

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Why do we Fall in Love?

Have you ever wondered how much of love is biology and how much is psychology? If you’ve ever wondered if chemistry just happens or can be created, if love at first sight is real and all other things about love, you are living in a wondrous time. Why do we fall in love? Science has some answers. There are three different systems in the brain, that when brought together spell the emotional and biological phenomenon we call love. First is the sex drive created to ensure the perpetuation of our species. The feeling of romantic love helps you focus on one person making sure you don’t waste any time or energy. The last part is the comfort and security you feel when with a long term partner, giving you time to raise children together.

Love feels fantastic because the pleasure centers of the brain are activated when we fall for someone. Dopamine, the chemical that makes you feel euphoric, enthralled, and sleepless mirrors other experiences, such as being high on cocaine. Love at first sight does occur, though more to men than to women. Men are visual creatures. Whereas women fall in love in terms of who a person is, their charm, status or power rather than their physicality. Love at first sight may be an evolutionary advantage, producing offspring in a short amount of time rather than the long, drawn out process we go through today with society as our backdrop.

Timing of course is just as important in falling in love as it is with everything else in life. If you’re too busy with work or focusing on your responsibilities you may not notice the perfect person for you, when they’re just inches away. But with a little free time and the right mindset, a sort of openness, not necessarily looking for it, love can hit you like a lightning bolt. If you want someone to fall in love with you, do exciting things together with them. This releases dopamine and norepinephrine into the brain, mimicking romantic love. There is a difference between love and lust. You can feel love for one person. But lust dissipates after sex. And you can feel attracted to someone without being compatible, or jealous if they are into someone else.

How do you keep the spark alive? By trying new and exciting things together, and doing the things you did when you were first dating. Perhaps someday all of our questions on love will be explained. Will that kill the romance? Or will it give us a finer appreciation of the nuances of love? Only time and intrepid scientists will give us the answers. For more on this topic read, Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love by Helen Fisher.

What Science Says About Love

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What Science Says About Love

Religious leaders, philosophers, and artists, poets, musicians and writers have been illustrating phenomenon and helping to shape our ideas on love for thousands of years. Science has been studying love for only a handful in comparison. But with the miracle breakthroughs of so many technologies and with advanced techniques for studying humans, science has now taken the lead on how we view love. Here are a wide range of scientists studying the subject and what they say about love. According to Albert Einstein College of Medicine neuroscientist Lucy Brown, love is like a thirst. When in the throes of an early romance, our mind is consumed with plans and thoughts of our beloved. How we express our love by being distant, clingy, or warm and nurturing depends upon the person. But all people feel it the same. We feel a euphoria and a magnetic pull toward the person we love.

Brown says that the key things for her are “Driven toward one person” and “euphoric.” FMRI or brain scans have shown that when a person is thinking about their lover or shown a picture of their beloved, all people have ancient areas firing in their brain, the places where euphoria, drive and reward dwell. Romantic love then, thought to be the arena to itself, our highest emotion, is in fact connected to our survival mechanisms such as hunger and thirst. Love also makes people pair-bond which increased survival. As Brown puts it, “We were built to experience the magic of love and to be driven toward another.”

According to biological anthropologist at Rutgers University Helen Fisher, love isn’t one phenomenon but, “…there are three basic types of love: sex drive; romantic love; and feelings of deep attachment for a partner.” Fisher and her colleagues used an FMRI to investigate what happens when someone falls in love. 60 participants of both genders from 18 to 57 years of age took part. “Special meaning” is the first stage. This is where everything the person does is incredibly special, the music they like, the way they dress, where they live, everything. Some people get there more quickly than others.

According to research Fisher did in tandem with Match.com, 44% of women and 54% of men have experienced love at first site. People in love are elated. But they are also easily crestfallen such as when a lover doesn’t call or text. Butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms and a pounding heart are all physical symptoms. We are also sexually possessive of those we love, what is known to animal behaviorists as “mate guarding.” According to Dr. Fisher, romantic love has reproduction at its root. It helped our ancestors get together and consummate their relationships, bearing offspring. As Plato famously wrote, “The god of love lives in a state of need.” This need to be with the lover, a drive to be with one’s one and only is, in an evolutionary sense, winning a partner for mating and what psychologists call pair-bonding. To find out more about love’s scientific roots read, The Science of Love by Robin Dunbar.

Gender Difference Myths Affect Dating and Relationships

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Gender Difference Myths Affect Dating and Relationships

It seems that everyone knows someone who has it all figured out. They have an opinion on everything; men and women, how the sexes operate, dating and relationships. You would think they would all be in the throes of some powerful romantic relationship. But the best armchair philosophers often dine alone. Some people operate on the myths our culture perpetuates and get tripped up by them. A lot of these hangers on are not the individual’s fault. They are passed down by word of mouth for generations.

Other misconceptions that cause slipups happen due to an individual’s own past experiences. But experience is myopic. Cultural myths may be wrong, and personal experience, though valuable, is also shortsighted. One person’s experience does not necessarily mean it is everyone’s. In fact that situation, though real to them, may have been an anomaly. So does research support commonly understood beliefs about the sexes? Or are these myths just standing in the way of our happiness? Psychologists tell us that presumed gender differences and the myths that surround them actually affect dating and relationships. Men and women think they are supposed to act a certain way, or their partner feels a certain way due to their gender, and these expectations get in the way of reality, and make us less flexible in mitigating it.

One of the first such myths we come across is that men tend to be straightforward and pragmatic, while women are mysterious and romantic. Although with some couples this is true, psychologists say there are many men who are more romantic than the women they are with. There is a metric used to measure romantic sentiment called the Romantic Beliefs Scale. Men generally outscore women in this. Statements on the scale include: “If I love someone, I know I can make the relationship work, despite any obstacles” and “There will only be one real love for me”. Men also believe in love at first sight far more often than women do. Another commonly quoted myth is that men and women approach conflict differently. Actually, research suggests the opposite. Men and women generally approach conflict in a similar way. There are some couples however who engage in what is called the “demand/withdraw” style of argument. Here one person makes demands while the other avoids the subject being discussed. Here the demander makes more and more demands, while the withdrawer finds more and more ways to elude them. Both end up being angry and perplexed. In this scenario, the woman is often the one communicating demands. But of course, not always.

Some psychologists say power dynamics have more to do with an irreconcilable conflict pattern than anything else. In studies it is the role rather than the gender which is important. For instance, whoever wants change in the relationship, be they man or woman, becomes the demander in the demand/withdraw pattern. Researchers have found that both men and women can play both roles. Then there is the common myth that men only care about looks, while women care about who the person is on the inside. A study wanted to test this myth. In it researchers had both men and women rate the qualities they most desired in a mate. Both sexes put appearance on the list. Men rated it fourth most important, women sixth. So looks are important to both men and women. They are more important to men, but not significantly more.

Although men and woman are portrayed completely differently in the media, psychologists say the real life differences are relatively slight. If you want a physical metaphor to illustrate the point, women are generally shorter than men. But there are some women who are taller than some men, and that doesn’t surprise us. Personality differences are even less pronounced, psychologists say. In this case, it’s really up to the individual you are dating or are with. Find out what they are like, what you are like and how you can resolve your differences without worrying about preconceived notions of gender. If you want to strip away the myths and really communicate with your partner read the scholarly work, Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships by Laura K. Guerrero.

Abolish Subliminal Romantic Messages

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Abolish Subliminal Romantic Messages

There are romantic messages in movies, TV, fairy tales and pretty much every other media in our culture. David Sbarra, Ph.D., relationship expert at Youbeauty.com, recently said, “We get messages about happy endings, soul mates and destiny. In this way, pop culture ideas—while fun to engage in and with for a bit—can cast a huge shadow over real-life relationships.” Movies make it okay to give one word answers for explanations. So in Jerry McGuire when she says “You had me at ‘hello’,” you know that wouldn’t fly in the real world, especially from how he treated her in the beginning. In the real world, anyone who’s been in a relationship knows that that’s just not going to fly. The idea of completing a person, while in the movie world sounds so romantic, in the real world is not psychologically healthy. Classic Disney films like “Sleeping Beauty” show little girls that they need a handsome prince to come and rescue them. Yet, many a lady waits her whole life for a prince that never comes. She exports her problems, her power, and her happiness to some ideal male other. We all know this doesn’t and shouldn’t happen in real life. Every person should be in charge of their own happiness. Relationships should merely enhance that happiness. Let’s make sure that little girls are raised to be more like Merida from “Brave”; self-reliant, capable and free.

Do you remember the famous film “Love Story?” Their tagline was “Love never means having to say you’re sorry.” What a lot of hooey that is. Apologizing for transgressions in relationships is dutifully important. But you should never apologize for who you are, only for the missteps you do. Also compromise is key. Of this Sbarra said, “Even the happiest and most successful couples fight and sometimes quite a lot, but they’re fighting for their relationship. If we see a fight as a sign that things aren’t ‘meant to be,’ we’re only ever engaging a fantasy relationship.” Romantic comedy’s themselves are written to look as though love is so easy that it just falls into place. Take “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” where Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson can’t seem to ditch one another, though they each swear they don’t want  a relationship and keep trying to sabotage theirs from forming. Beyond that, the problems they unearth and solve are done in a snap, making it even easier for the couple to end up together. The messages we cull from romantic comedies “…cause(s) two problems,” says Sbarra. “First, we come to think we’re defective if things don’t work out. And second, we come to see the hard work of making a relationship successful as indicators that something is wrong.” Don’t take mass media as a model for your relationship. Take it for what it is, entertainment. For more on this topic pick up a copy of, Sex, Love, and Romance in the Mass Media: Analysis and Criticism of Unrealistic Portrayals and Their Influence by Mary-Lou Galician.

What Causes Love at First Sight?

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What Causes Love at First Sight?

Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Ever wonder what causes it? Scientists may have a clue. New research claims that biology is behind the love at first sight phenomenon. Researchers state that people often form a quick opinion of someone. Some scientists believe that people know in as little as three minutes whether or not the person they are evaluating is a potential love interest. Same was true when it came to close friendships. Folks who enjoyed each other’s company within the first few minutes of meeting had a close friendship after nine weeks. But what causes love at first sight? It may have more to do with our bodies than our minds. Research reveals that humans, like other animals seek out mates that they are compatible with genetically. Some scientists believe that our genes program us to be able to recognize the most compatible mate genetically.

This genetic predisposition is an element of evolution. Nature wanted us to have the best chance at creating healthy offspring. Still, it seems a little more sophisticated than all of that. 50% of Americans believe in love at first sight. It doesn’t happen to everyone, and it doesn’t occur in the sexes equally. Research has found that men were more likely to be hit by cupid’s arrow than women were. Some scientists believe that this is due to men being more likely to respond to visual cues than women are. Women gradually develop trust with men. Younger folks are more apt to believe in love at first sight than their elders. People over 50 experience instant love far less often than younger people, according to a Gallup poll. This may be due to an older person’s experience with relationships. To learn about the chances of someone experiencing love at first sight, among other things, read The Book of Odds: From Lightning Strikes to Love at First Sight, The Odds of Everyday Life by Amram Shapiro, Louise Firth Campbell and Rosalind Wright.