Falling in Love, scientifically

Emma writes:

After lengthy discussions and a four-part series dissecting what it means for us to fall in love and the three stages of love, I wondered the impact of this knowledge on the actual act of falling in love. Are we less-likely to ‘fall’ head-over-heels if we are hyper-aware of what is happening in our bodies? Does our knowledge prohibit us from experiencing the naïve bliss of love? Or, could understanding the estrogen and serotonin rush in some way enrich the experience?  From a woman’s point of view, how important are these scientific phases?  

While lust is the physical attraction that triggers a relationship, it can be fleeting. For women and men alike, the lust phase can start full-throttle and then quickly fizzle out. Sometimes people are so caught up in the physical that they forget to bring the rest of their amazing attributes to the table so the relationship can seamlessly transition into the next phase. For instance, over the summer I dated a guy with whom I had a steamy physical relationship. We let ourselves get caught up in the physical and didn’t lay the groundwork for a solid transition into attraction. Sure we talked about work and some trivial preferences, but amidst the touching, kissing and public flirtation, we didn’t go much deeper. It was too quick, too lust-filled, too soon.  

In lust, this is when understanding the scientific reasoning behind your physical madness is both helpful and important. Sure we can’t stop the flowing estrogen or testosterone, but we can use the self-knowledge to pause for a moment and realize what was happening. In this pause, we might make some slightly different choices. For us, we might have made more of an effort to get to know one another in a deeper way. We may have said, “Sure I want to rip off your clothes, but I also want to know who you are as a person.” In the absence of substance, the lust phase can be a downward spiral. For us, everything fizzled out in a matter of weeks. Empowered with the awareness of what is happening in your mind and body, you have the self-control to pull the reigns just enough to make intentional choices that will propel your relationship forward. Plus, a bit of delayed gratification can make the whole physical experience even better.  

For women, attraction is the most-important phase of falling in love. Attraction is when we are reassured that, ‘yes,’ you like us for more than just our physical appearance. You are genuinely interested in our lives, our friends, our work and our families. During attraction, we are obsessed with you! But, we are also collecting some data about the way you treat us, the way you treat other people, the kind of life you lead, your goals and your aspirations. In the midst of rapid-firing monoamine neurotransmitters, we are also really trying to get to know one another. For women, this is the crucial time to make sure we feel special, assured and important.  

I recently started dating a guy who makes a concentrated effort to understand my job. For me, this is very important because I love my job and it is both my social circle and my lifestyle. There are a lot of company idiosyncrasies, buzzwords and such that might not make sense to the average person. He asks me what they mean and inquires further into the structure and culture of my work environment. He is curious because he knows it is important to me. Everyone has something that they spend most of their time doing and/or are most-passionate about. Getting to know her on this level during the attraction phase will ensure that you have a strong structure for attachment. Similarly, share some of your greatest interests with her. Allow her space to ask questions so that the getting to know each other is reciprocal. Women also feel assured when their partners share with them. Mutual sharing creates bonds that make each other feel recognized and special. Relationships seem one-sided when one person shares more than the other and imbalance can create insecurity. If you are indeed falling in love, the last thing you want is for your partner to feel insecure. Sharing creates security.  

Falling in love is like living in a bubble. You are so engrossed by the other person that you may rearrange your life or disappear from your friends and family. Monoamines are firing so hard you cannot believe that you ever lived life without her. (Recall, this is the attraction phase.) In fact, your brain is so doused in these pleasure-creating neurotransmitters that most people do not realize it is happening, but YOU do. Knowledge is power, and with the knowledge of what is happening, you can make sure not to make the classic mistakes that many relationships succumb to – too physical in the absence of substance, failure to reassure her, lack of a deeper, trust-creating connection. Don’t worry! You will still be in the love bubble and unable to eat, sleep or think of anyone else. Pausing for a moment to pull your head out of the clouds, realizing what is going on and making choices to propel it in the right direction is not going to taint the pure ecstasy of falling in love. You still can spend the other twenty-three hours of every day with your head in the clouds.    –Emma 

I welcome your thoughts, ideas and feedback via email at [email protected]

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