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Friday, August 13, 2010

What Makes People Fall in Love A Psychologist Explains the Chemistry in Romantic Relationships Share Article | Jan 6, 2008 Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen Lovers throughout the ages have asked "Why doesn't he love me?" & "Can I make her love me?" Here's what makes people fall in love, from a psychologist's perspective. What makes people fall in love? This question is even tackled in movies: “But why doesn’t he love me?” sobbed Sally as she mopped up her tears and runny nose in When Harry Met Sally. She was heartbroken that her old boyfriend married someone else. Sally is not alone: most old and young lovers experience broken hearts and feelings of rejection in their lives. What makes people fall in love - the chemistry in romantic relationships - can seem like a mystery. Knowing why we fall in love may help ease feelings of rejection and heartbreak. If someone doesn’t fall in love with you, it’s not because you’re ugly, stupid or poor. Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t right. Why we fall in love has been researched extensively. What Makes People Fall in Love Psychologist Mark Kristal from the University of Buffalo explains the chemistry in romantic relationships. “There are several types of chemistry required in romantic relationships,” he says. “It seems like a variety of different neurochemical processes and external stimuli have to click in the right complex and right sequence for someone to fall in love.” The chemistry in romance requires certain elements of love. 1. Smell. We fall in love partly because of smell. The scent of a bouquet of red roses, for instance, is a cultural preference that boosts the chemistry in romantic relationships. Dr Kristal says, “Smell forms part of the framework that conforms to cultural attractiveness standards. For example, smelling like a strawberry instead of mildew [makes you attractive].” Smelling delicious could be part of why we fall in love. 2. Love pheromones. Invisible signals are part of what makes people fall in love. “Pheromones are unlearned, and perhaps unsmellable, signals that enter the brain through the olfactory system. They can function in sex, alarm, territoriality, aggression, and fear,” says Dr Kristal. He believes that we choose specific mates not solely due to pheromones, but for other reasons. Other sensory cues are better explanations for why we fall in love, such as touch, smell, and hearing. 3. The brain. We fall in love partly because of hormones. Oxytocin and vasopressin are present when people fall in love and stay together for a long time. Dopamine is also part of the chemistry in romantic relationships. So, when you’re wondering “Why doesn’t he love me?” you may have to look to brain chemistry as the answer. It’s not necessarily you, it’s just that your brain chemicals didn’t mesh. Lack of hormones could explain why we fall inlove. Can you make someone love you? Well, since the chemistry in romantic relationships is affected by smell, you could try approaching someone you like with a dozen roses or a mug of hot chocolate. And since the hormone oxytocin can be created by positive experiences, it might be smart to ensure all your interactions are pleasant ones. Just remember that the chemistry in romantic relationships doesn’t change who you are as a person. Sally in When Harry Met Sally was just as beautiful, smart and funny after her ex-boyfriend married someone else. Read more at Suite101: What Makes People Fall in Love: A Psychologist Explains the Chemistry in Romantic Relationships http://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/why_we_fall_in_love#ixzz0jgDucW0D The science of love When do you know if you fancy someone? What does love do to your brain chemicals, and is falling in love just nature's way to keep our species alive? We call it love. It feels like love. But the most exhilarating of all human emotions is probably nature’s beautiful way of keeping the human species alive and reproducing. With an irresistible cocktail of chemicals, our brain entices us to fall in love. We believe we’re choosing a partner. But we may merely be the happy victims of nature’s lovely plan. It’s not what you say... Psychologists have shown it takes between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if you fancy someone. Research has shown this has little to do with what is said, rather • 55% is through body language • 38% is the tone and speed of their voice • Only 7% is through what they say The 3 stages of love Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in the States has proposed 3 stages of love – lust, attraction and attachment. Each stage might be driven by different hormones and chemicals. Stage 1: Lust This is the first stage of love and is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen – in both men and women. Stage 2: Attraction This is the amazing time when you are truly love-struck and can think of little else. Scientists think that three main neurotransmitters are involved in this stage; adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. Adrenaline The initial stages of falling for someone activates your stress response, increasing your blood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This has the charming effect that when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat, your heart races and your mouth goes dry. Dopamine Helen Fisher asked newly ‘love struck’ couples to have their brains examined and discovered they have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine! Fisher suggests “couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship” . Serotonin And finally, serotonin. One of love's most important chemicals that may explain why when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts. Does love change the way you think? A landmark experiment in Pisa, Italy showed that early love (the attraction phase) really changes the way you think. Dr Donatella Marazziti, a psychiatrist at the University of Pisa advertised for twenty couples who'd been madly in love for less than six months. She wanted to see if the brain mechanisms that cause you to constantly think about your lover, were related to the brain mechanisms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. By analysing blood samples from the lovers, Dr Marazitti discovered that serotonin levels of new lovers were equivalent to the low serotonin levels of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder patients. Love needs to be blind Newly smitten lovers often idealise their partner, magnifying their virtues and explaining away their flaws says Ellen Berscheid, a leading researcher on the psychology of love. New couples also exalt the relationship itself. “It's very common to think they have a relationship that's closer and more special than anyone else's”. Psychologists think we need this rose-tinted view. It makes us want to stay together to enter the next stage of love – attachment. Stage 3: Attachment Attachment is the bond that keeps couples together long enough for them to have and raise children. Scientists think there might be two major hormones involved in this feeling of attachment; oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin - The cuddle hormone Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm. It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes. Oxytocin also seems to help cement the strong bond between mum and baby and is released during childbirth. It is also responsible for a mum’s breast automatically releasing milk at the mere sight or sound of her young baby. Diane Witt, assistant professor of psychology from New York has showed that if you block the natural release of oxytocin in sheep and rats, they reject their own young. Conversely, injecting oxytocin into female rats who’ve never had sex, caused them to fawn over another female’s young, nuzzling the pups and protecting them as if they were their own. Vasopressin Vasopressin is another important hormone in the long-term commitment stage and is released after sex. Vasopressin (also called anti-diuretic hormone) works with your kidneys to control thirst. Its potential role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole. Prairie voles indulge in far more sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction. They also – like humans - form fairly stable pair-bonds. When male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond with their partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion and failed to protect their partner from new suitors. And finally … how to fall in love • Find a complete stranger. • Reveal to each other intimate details about your lives for half an hour. • Then, stare deeply into each other’s eyes without talking for four minutes. York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, has been studying why people fall in love. He asked his subjects to carry out the above 3 steps and found that many of his couples felt deeply attracted after the 34 minute experiment. Two of his subjects later got married. ……………………………. Why you fall in love As well as physical attraction, many people are drawn to someone who shares the same interests. Relationship psychotherapist Paula Hall explores why we fall in love with some people and not with others. In this article Unconscious fit Opposites attract Good or bad chemistry? Further help In some relationships, arguments always seem one sided - with one partner making all the noise as the other quietly calms the storm. It's possible they both have a problem expressing their feelings, but together they're able to reassure each other that emotions are being managed. Different couples will experience it in different ways, but that inexplicable feeling of wholeness you have when you're together is what Henry Dicks, a guru in relationship psychotherapy, called the 'unconscious fit'. Unconscious fit All of us carry with us a psychological blueprint, holding details about our life experiences and the marks they've left. It contains information we often haven't acknowledged about our fears and anxieties and our coping mechanisms and defences. Each of us has an unconscious capacity to scan another person's blueprint. The people we're most attracted to are those who have a blueprint that complements our own. We're looking for similarities of experience but, more significantly, we're also looking for differences. Opposites attract The purpose of this unconscious fit is to find someone who can complement our experiences. That might be someone who's the same as us, but most commonly we're looking for someone from whom we can learn; someone who has developed coping mechanisms that are different from our own. The ideal partner will be someone who has struggled with similar life issues, but has developed another way of managing it. It seems that our other half is often our best chance of becoming psychologically whole. Although no two relationships are ever the same, psychologists have noticed that there are some common types of unconscious fit. Do you recognise any of these? Parent and child - this type of couple often has shared issues with dependency and trust. One partner copes with those issues by behaving in a childlike way. Their hidden belief is that if they remain insecure, dependent and needy their partner will look after them. Their partner takes on the role of parent and by doing so is able to deny their own needs for dependency as they're acted out by the other. Master and slave - this couple has a problem with authority and control. One partner may feel very insecure if they're ever subordinate, so they're bossy and take charge of every household circumstance. Their partner, who fears responsibility, dutifully toes the line while smugly comparing what they describe as their laid-back attitude to their partner's control-freak attitude. Distancer and pursuer - both partners are afraid of intimacy but have found their perfect match. The unspoken agreement is that one of them will keep chasing and nagging the other one for more intimacy while the other runs away. Occasionally the chase will swap round. Idol and worshipper - when one partner insists on putting the other on a pedestal, this often indicates an issue with competition. To avoid any form of comparison, both partners unconsciously agree to play this game. There are two other common types of fit based on finding a partner who has a similar problem and a similar way of coping. Babes in the wood - you may have seen this couple around. They look alike and often wear matching sweaters. They share the same interests and, more importantly, they dislike the same things. They keep anything bad out of their perfect relationship by joining forces against the big, bad world outside. Cat and dog - on the surface these partners look as though they should never have even met. They argue incessantly over anything. They both avoid intimacy by living in a war zone. You may see elements of your relationship in all of these types. As we progress through our relationships, it's not uncommon to slip into a certain pattern of behaviour. For example, in a time of illness and vulnerability you may act out the parent and child model, while many couples become like babes in the wood following the birth of a child. Good or bad chemistry? All fits serve a psychological purpose designed to protect ourselves from discomfort. Most couples aren't aware of their fit until something happens to change it. We all grow and mature, our needs change and our relationships need to adapt to those changes. Problems may start when one or both partners feell they are no longer able to communicate their feelings and alter patterns of behaviour that are now outdated. If you think that may b