“Nothing can bring a real sense of security into the home except true love.” – Billy Graham
Did you know that neuroscientists have observed three phases of love within the human brain? The three phases– lust, attraction, and attachment – in that order, involves the release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurochemical responses are entrenched within nearly every human brain.
What does this activity look like? Let’s compare the initial phase (“lust”) with the last phase, (“attachment”).
Brain activity throughout the “lust” phase is significantly different than the other two. Upon meeting someone you liked, did you experience feelings of intense desire? Probably. Did your palms get sweaty or did your heart beat a bit fast? This feeling is very common, as well.
Well, what we experience as “lust” is created by the brain chemical dopamine. The sweaty palms/beating heart are caused by the chemicals adrenaline and norepinephrine. All three brain chemicals course through the body, creating these sensations.
Contrast the “lust” phase with the “attachment” phase, when two people have been in love for some time. Attachment is a wonderful, beautiful thing – in many ways better than the lust phase. Instead of the brain releasing a flood of “pleasure hormones,” attachment releases oxytocin and vasopressin – the “love and well-being” hormones – the brain chemicals responsible for an enduring, fulfilling relationship.
Why does this brain stuff matter? Depending on your perspective, it may not matter much – but it maybe should.
This brain system provides science-based clues to what you and your partner are feeling. Love and relationships, as we all know by now, can be a mysterious thing.
This latest research makes it possible to understand– at least from a biological standpoint – when we’re in love and when this love is mutual. What we do with this knowledge is up to us – it can be used as a tool or discarded. There is no “right” or “wrong” way of interpreting love; it’s merely a guide.
Here are ten signs that someone truly loves their partner:
1. They create feelings of euphoria
During the early stages of romantic love, we constantly think about the object of our affection. It’s common at this juncture to obsess about the future and plan your free time around your love.
These feelings result from activity within the “primitive neural systems” of the brain; the systems responsible for feelings of euphoria, drive and reward recognition. This system “helps us form pair-bonds” in the survival area of our gray matter.
“We were built to experience the magic of love and to be driven toward another,” says neuroscientist Lucy Brown.
2. Their uniqueness captivates you
Everything about the person is perceived as novel and interesting, and their subtle peculiarities are taken in via our senses and cherished. There’s often a rush of energy, which mirrors the “lust phase,” and we experience a profound emotional craving for the person.
Most of the pleasurable symptoms experienced at this phase result from the influx of dopamine on the multiple areas of the brain.
3. Bond and commitment grows
Feelings of love or affection are necessary for the brain to bring forth any underlying desire for human connection. We humans, as mentioned countless times, are very social creatures – and the innate desire for an intimate relationship illustrates this fact.
True love has a strong social correlation. The love we feel for our partner advances the relationship from casual to intimate and suppresses the desire to act out of self-interest or selfishness.
4. They show an “urge to care”
Human beings possess a remarkable amount of empathy for people we love. These intense feelings of affection, devotion, and fondness for our loved ones are evident in the urge to care. These feelings are the result of survival, protectionist mechanisms of the brain.
While we may all have varying levels of awareness and empathy, humans – almost without exception – instinctively demonstrate their love and care for their partner in some way.
5. Adversity strengthens the relationship
For individuals primed to establish and maintain a romantic relationship, stressful situations have been shown to intensify romantic attraction. When two people remain at each other’s side regardless of circumstance, it indicates the strength of the couple’s bond and commitment to one another.
Scientists attribute this behavior to dopamine activity in the midbrain, as delaying a “reward” has been shown to produce higher levels of the chemical following the event.
6. Their priorities shift for the better
It’s common for people in love to rearrange their priorities. While we mostly associate a change in priorities as a positive thing, it can also be something less admirable. It is important to observe how a person rearranges their lifestyle. Are they making changes out of genuine desire, or as a way to mask their true identity?
Neuroscientists believe that “brain-chemical” opposites are more likely to make changes for the better. For example, an “Alpha” personality has more incentive to improve themselves if they love a person with a laid-back, nourishing type of character.
7. They push their partner to become better
Nobody likes to see a person they love not live up to their potential. Of course, this includes two people in love with one another. The odds are that if your partner is gently pushing you to become your best self, they themselves are self-motivated.
When your partner attempts to motivate you, this means the all-important reward pathways of the brain are still at work. Ironically, when your partner’s frustration about your lack of progress goes away, it’s a good idea to inquire how they’re feeling.
8. They’re comfortable in their partner’s presence
During the initial stages of a partnership, it’s common for a couple to “get out and about.” As a relationship progresses, however, staying home and enjoying each other’s company becomes much more appealing.
The brain desires novelty, but it’s also content with routine. If you enjoy each other, regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, it’s a good sign.
9. “Shortcomings” are not viewed as such
In the movie Good Will Hunting, the late, great Robin Williams plays a therapist who’s haunted by the passing of his wife. In one moving scene, Williams gives love advice to Matt Damon’s character:
“My wife used to fart when she was nervous. She had all sorts of wonderful little idiosyncrasies. She used to fart in her sleep. One night it was so loud it woke the dog up…I didn’t have the heart to tell her…(She’s) been dead for two years, and that the **** I remember. Wonderful stuff you know? The little idiosyncrasies that only I know about: that’s what made her my wife…Ah, that’s the good stuff.”
10. They give you their devotion
There is no “sciencey” stuff in this last item. The word devotion cannot be rationalized through words, but feelings. It’s fair to make a similar argument for love.
Relatedly, the brain, while it may give us clues to what love is from a biological standpoint, may not be the only component. Love is mutual sharing of the soul – something that may never be answerable by science because there is no “answer.”
Devotion is full love and something that can only be felt – not explained.
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