Love is involuntary. Brain science tells us it's a drive like thirst. It's a craving for a specific person. It's normal, natural to "lose control" in the early stage of romance. Love, like thirst, will make you do strange things, But knowledge is power. It's a natural addiction and treating it like an addiction can help you.
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The ancient Greeks called love “the madness of the gods.” Modern psychologists define it as it the strong desire for emotional union with another person. But what, actually, is love. It means so many different things to different people. Songwriters have described it, “Whenever you’re near, I hear a symphony.” Shakespeare said, “Love is blind and lovers cannot see.” Aristotle said, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
THE OVERALL HYPOTHESIS
But we think that romance is one of three basic brain systems that evolved for mating and reproduction:
The sex drive or lust—the craving for sexual gratification--evolved to enable you to seek a range of potential mating partners. After all, you can have sex with someone you aren’t in love with. You can even feel the sex drive when you are driving in your car, reading a magazine or watching a movie. Lust is not necessarily focused on a particular individual.
Romantic love, or attraction—the obsessive thinking about and craving for a particular person--evolved to enable you to focus your mating energy on just one individual at a time. As Kabir, the Indian poet put it: “The lane of love is narrow; there is room for only one.”
Attachment--the feeling of deep union with a long-term partner--evolved to enable you to remain with a mate at least long enough to rear a single child through infancy together as a team—although many of us remain together much longer, and enjoy the benefits of life with a partner even when there is no goal to have children.
These three brain systems--and feelings--interact in many ways to create our myriad forms of loving.
We began our studies with attraction. Whether it’s called romantic love, obsessive love, passionate love, or infatuation, men and women of every era and every culture have been affected by this irresistible power.
The intensity of romantic love tends to last somewhere from six months to two years before turning into attachment in most relationships. Romance is where love begins, and it seems to have the most extreme effect on human behavior.
Behavioral traits of early stage romantic love:
- Special meaning: the romantic partner is the center of the world, and you like anything they like
- Intense energy and it’s hard to sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Separation anxiety
- Intense motivation for emotional union
- Intrusive thinking