WHY WE LOVE BEING IN LOVE

WHY WE LOVE BEING IN LOVE

CHEMISTRY, INFATUATION: THE NATURAL HIGH By Michael Gilbert

Yourheart’s pounding. Your palms are sweaty; your skin is flushed and warm.You’ve got butterflies in your stomach. Even though you’re havingtrouble sleeping, you’re full of energy. In fact, you’re on top of theworld, even euphoric. You feel this super powerful sense of connection.You daydream, fantasizing about an endless future. You’d be forgivenfor thinking you’re on drugs, or something, that you’re high. That’sbecause, in a way, you are. You’ve fallen in love.

Whenthat first giddy stage of romantic attraction erupts a potent cocktailof chemicals, neurotransmitters and hormones burst into action. Naturalamphetamines light up neural pleasure centers in your brain. The, uh,fun parts of your body are aroused. Some people even get addicted; wecall them “love junkies.” Why, you might wonder, does this happen tous? Why does a “hot” romantic prospect affect us in this extraordinaryway? And why do only certain people trigger this reaction?

Evolutionarythinkers believe this electric chain reaction has a lot to do with theimportance of reproduction in nature’s grand scheme where nothing ismore fundamental than the process of regeneration. All animals arealert to the opportunity to procreate. It’s often at the very center oftheir lives. Over the eons during which genetic hardwiring was fusedinto our bodies and brains, enticing rewards were to be had forfostering the next generation.

Chemistryand the scintillating pleasures of sexual intimacy are nature’s way ofencouraging the reproductive process. Although customs, tastes andtraditions vary, nearly all modern cultures try to massage the power ofromantic love into safe and secure vessels for raising the nextgeneration. Somewhere along the way nature placed a potent brew ofpheromones, chemicals and hormones into the hands of its very own conartist—The Trickster Called Love.

Mostof us have an idealized mate in mind, a fantasy of a perfect unionburied deep in subconscious desires to recreate ourselves. We visualizea lover, a partner, the other half of our potential offspring’s geneticinheritance. In so important a task we naturally command all of oursenses. We take in appearance, measuring symmetry, proportion andyouthfulness. Our primitive sense of smell is deployed to make sure ourpartner complements our immune system. Meanwhile our powers of mind arebusy sizing up personality, character and compatibility.

Theeffort to find a partner and the exhilaration of new found love claimsextraordinary amounts of our time and energy at the stages in life whenwe’re actively seeking a partner. In our single years, of course, andwhen love stumbles later in life, sending us back again to the searchfor intimacy. As it happens, modern fingertip technologies, enablingsocial networks and online dating siteslike Youand.me, provide us with imaginative ways to connect with anamazing array of online dating people. If we’re smart about it, andlucky enough, we get to experience all of love’s promise.


THE THREE STAGES OF LOVE

PASSION ERUPTS
Thisis chemistry at ground zero and we’ve all been there. As we fumblethrough adolescence its defining hormones propel sexual lust that canlast a lifetime. At this stage The Trickster Called Love stirs amagical brew of lusty potions: Brain cells are tickled; erotic desirefuses with intimacy. We can’t wait to see the other person. It’selectric!

ROMANCE BLOSSOMS
Wemove from mating to bonding. Sexuality deepens into a fuller embrace ofour partner. We spend more and more time together and we project deepinto a shared future. The joyful mist of passionate love envelopes ourpartner. This is The Trickster at work again, seducing us on nature’sbehalf, nudging romance into the kind of love that may last a lifetimeas it gently blinds us to our partner’s faults.

ATTACHMENT TAKES HOLD
Thisis the love of commitment. The bond intensifies. Sexual intimacybroadens into the larger realms of relationship as we plan together forthe future, envisioning a life spent in each other’s company. Modernsocieties encourage commitment and seek sturdy families for the lengthyand demanding task of raising human offspring. Forged in the stagesthat preceded it, this enduring kind of love will be tested: After all,it will likely be called upon to survive The Trickster’s last magicact—the one where it disappears. For not even nature’s wily conjurercan keep us enthralled with love forever.

Whetherlove lasts a lifetime or just a fleeting interlude, we crave itswondrous charms. It often disappoints us yet we’re driven to seek itsjoyful embrace. Because, in the end, it’s love that brings real meaninginto our lives. It embodies our hopes for the future.

Michael Gilbert is Youand.me’s relationship consulting editor and author of the award winning bestseller, Disposable Male: Sex, Love and Money—Your World through Darwin‘s Eyes. (www.thedisposablemale.com) He explores gender and relationship issues at the University of Southern California.