Everyone should be lucky enough to experience falling in love at least once in their lifetime. There’s just no other feeling in the world like it.
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It’s exhilarating yet scary. It can turn a fiercely independent person into a longing mess. It can even propel you to become the best possible version of yourself. But have you ever wondered why your body seems to react to love in its own unique way?
For instance, why do you always get butterflies in your stomach whenever you think of your new S.O.? Or why does being around them make your heart beat just a tad faster? You were perfectly fine before you met them, but now that they’re in your life it’s like you never want to let them go.
It’s not just you. As it turns out, you’re pretty much hardwired to feel all of the above.
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“When you fall in love, your physiology changes quite a bit,” David Bennett, relationship coach and certified counselor, tells AwesomenessTV. “That’s generally the result of brain chemistry changes.”
According to Bennett, your dopamine levels increase, which leads to those feelings of excitement, happiness, and overall euphoria whenever you’re with your partner. If you’ve ever felt like you’re “addicted” to your partner, it’s all thanks to dopamine.
The downside to all that dopamine is that if your partner stops reciprocating attention (i.e. they don’t text back right away, or can’t see you one weekend), that can cause your dopamine levels to drop. When that happens, anxiety and nervousness about your relationship can start to kick in.
Another chemical that can get affected is norepinephrine. Like dopamine, falling in love can increase the levels of norepinephrine in your brain. This chemical is related to adrenaline, which can cause you stay in an excited and alert state. This is why falling in love can make going to sleep feel impossible sometimes.
“If you’re not staying up late into the night spending time with your partner, you’re at least staying up late thinking about them,” Bennett says. An increase in norepinephrine is also why you keep staying up even though you’re exhausted.
Thirdly, your serotonin levels go down. “One study found that when people are in love, their serotonin levels drop to those found in individuals with OCD,” Bennett says. “This might explain why being in love will make you want to spend time with your partner almost obsessively to the point that you jealously guard your time with them.”
As you probably know (or have experienced), these chemical highs and lows don’t stay a certain way forever. The rush of adrenaline and dopamine that you get in the beginning stages of your relationship wears off as time goes on. Same goes for your levels of serotonin. As this happens, you might start realizing that your relationship has become a little too comfortable to the point that it’s almost routine and maybe even boring.
But don’t worry. There are chemicals in your brain that can help keep you and your partner together if you actively work on maintaining their levels.
There are two other super important love chemicals to be aware of: oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin, which is commonly known as “the love hormone,” can help you bond with your partner and create those feelings of attachment. Levels of oxytocin can be increased through simple acts like cuddling and kissing.
Vasopressin is also associated with attachment. But more specifically, it plays a significant role in producing long-term monogamous relationships. So once the hot, passionate rush of adrenaline and dopamine fades, there’s always oxytocin and vasopressin to fall back on as these hormones can help you find contentment in stability.
The big takeaway here is that falling in love is pretty much out of your control. You can’t really help the way you act when you first fall for someone because your body chemicals just naturally react. But if you want to keep those feelings alive, you need to actively work on it. So, good to know. Thanks, science.