The Science of Love
The Three Stages:
Stage 1: Lust
Lust is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen. Testosterone is not confined only to men. It has also been shown to play a major role in the sex drive of women. These hormones as Helen Fisher says “get you out looking for anything”.
Stage 2: Attraction
This is the truly love-struck phase. When people fall in love they can think of nothing else. They might even lose their appetite and need less sleep, preferring to spend hours at a time daydreaming about their new lover.
In the attraction stage, a group of neuro-transmitters called ‘monoamines’ play an important role:
- Dopamine - Also activated by cocaine and nicotine.
- Norepinephrine - Otherwise known as adrenalin. Starts us sweating and gets the heart racing.
- Serotonin - One of love’s most important chemicals and one that may actually send us temporarily insane.
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Stage 3: Attachment
This is what takes over after the attraction stage, if a relationship is going to last. People couldn’t possibly stay in the attraction stage forever, otherwise they’d never get any work done!
Attachment is a longer lasting commitment and is the bond that keeps couples together when they go on to have children. Important in this stage are two hormones released by the nervous system, which are thought to play a role in social attachments:
- Oxytocin - This is released by the hypothalamus gland during child birth and also helps the breast express milk. It helps cement the strong bond between mother and child. It is also released by both sexes during orgasm and it is thought that it promotes bonding when adults are intimate. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes
- Vasopressin - Another important chemical in the long-term commitment stage. It is an important controller of the kidney and its role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole
It is also suggested, that because of the chemicals involved in these stages, that ‘Love’ could be a Lot stronger in teenagers than adults.