Thursday, December 14, 2006
Addicted to Love ... For Real!
Robert Palmer knew a thing or two about love. Sing it with me now everyone!
Your lights are on, but you're not home
Your mind is not your own
Your heart sweats, your body shakes
Another kiss is what it takes
You can't sleep, you can't eat
There's no doubt, you're in deep
Your throat is tight, you can't breathe
Another kiss is all you need
Whoa, you like to think that you're immune to the stuff, oh yeah
It's closer to the truth to say you can't get enough
You know you're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to love.
We all remember those heady days of infatuation, don't we? Maybe you're in the midst of them now, or you are trying desperately to recapture that heart-throbbing, stay-up-all-night feeling.
It's common knowledge that the pure excitement phase does not last forever. Long-term relationships settle down into a comfortable co-existence, pleasurable to be sure, but not the same as those early days. And thank goodness. Could we survive the exhaustion if the rest of our days were filled with that much adrenaline and energy?
We humans like to think of ourselves as cranial creatures. We choose our mates and value such characteristics as intelligence. It turns out, though, that the chemistry in our bodies has a lot to do with those feelings of attraction.
When you meet someone and say, "There was this immediate chemistry between us," you are probably referring to dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that, in the right proportions, is linked to those feelings of excitement, focused attention and high-energy euphoria. According to sources like this WebMD article, dopamine is part of the reason that new lovers feel bold and are willing to stay up all night to pursue a new relationship.
And you thought it was because you liked his dimples.
This also explains some of our typical dating behavior. Young people on a first date are more likely to hop on the thrill rides at the amusement park than they are to visit an art museum. (I know, I know, some of you went to the museum, but hear me out...) The thrill rides stimulate dopamine production, which make it more likely that you will feel attracted to your companion.
I can see all the guys out there scurrying to buy tickets.
The research shows that chemistry also plays a role in long-term attraction. Oxytocin is produced when you see your spouse or hug your child. It is part of the internal chemical cocktail that keeps us feeling that strong attraction over many years. Want to keep that lovin' feeling? Have pleasurable sex together, and often. Apparently massages and orgasms trigger oxytocin production.
Of course, the same researchers found that love and obsessive-compulsive disorder have a similar chemical profile, so you might as well face it, baby; you're addicted to love. We all are.