A well-known study has famously described three stages of what we sentimentalists call L-O-V-E: lust, attraction and attachment. Everyone gets that intense desire to be with someone and then, all they can do is think about them. Once those feelings taper off, people are left with two choices. Leave the relationship or become attached. We’ve taken a closer look at scientific love and noticed that hormones have pretty much everything to do with those feelings.
Ah, hormones. Those pesky little things that haunted your adolescent years follow you all of your life. Fortunately, after puberty, hormones don’t feel like such a nuisance. Hormones are the chemical messengers that travel throughout the body, coordinating the body’s complex processes. They direct growth, affect the immune system and alter behavior – like the behavior of you falling in love.
You’ve probably heard of oxytocin, the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone,” but there are many more chemical receptors that play a role in falling head over heels.
The sex hormones testosterone and estrogen are the two main hormones that drive lust in the first stage, but that stuff was covered in your sixth grade sex-ed class.
On to the next stage of love: attraction. This stage goes beyond the closed doors of a bedroom. This stage makes mature adults act like love-struck teenagers. Adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin are to blame.
Is the cause of sweaty hands, a racing heart and a dry mouth whenever your new love is around.
Is associated with states of euphoria, craving and addiction. This is responsible for triggering an intense rush of pleasure when you see or think about your new love. Some studies have shown that dopamine has similar effects on your brain as cocaine, like increased energy and focused attention.
Is partly responsible for idealizing a new love with a rose-tinted view and perhaps making new lovers slightly obsessed with their partner. You know that feeling where it seems like you can’t think of anything else? Studies have shown that people in this stage have similar serotonin levels to those diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Gives you something to think about it, doesn’t it? So, there actually is a reason why love-struck couples act obsessive! Once they get past their obsession, couples enter the last stage of love.
The final stage of love is attachment. This is where couples create a long-term bond. Research has shown that oxytocin and vasopressin are the main hormones responsible.
Has been shown to maintain societal bonds at many levels, but when this hormone is released during an orgasm, it creates a powerful emotional bond between the two lovers. An added benefit is that more sex means a deeper bond.
Another hormone released after an orgasm, produces behavior similar to oxytocin and helps partners maintain a long-term, monogamous relationship. In studies of monogamous rodents, when vasopressin was suppressed, the rodents would either leave their mate or be unresponsive when other suitors came around.
Some researchers suggest that oxytocin and vasopressin are dopamine inhibitors, which gives a plausible scientific reasoning why some couples eventually lose that intense passion. Are passion and excitement doomed to take a backseat to cuddling? Not necessarily.
It’s amazing what a healthy lifestyle can do for those moments in the bedroom. Because more sex means more of those good hormone feelings, there’s always a chance to spark up your love life. Try new things. If you’re having trouble with desire, look around at your life and see if there are any stressors that you can address. Take some natural supplements. Some studies have shown that ginkgo biloba and maca root have properties that effectively address bedroom concerns.
Now that you know a little of science behind all those feelings, you might be able to address them a little more rationally. If you’re past the obsessed, addicted phase, you know that despite what you might have heard, romance doesn’t have to lose its heat.
License: Royalty Free or iStock
Danielle Jackson wrote this article about the hormones responsible for love, and natural ways to keep attraction alive in a relationship.