What Is Romantic Love?

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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.

We were built to fall in love.  Are YOU in love?

Click Here to take the Passionate Love Quiz yourself!

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
  • Craving
  • Intense motivation for emotional union
  • Possessive
  • Intrusive thinking


 

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18 Comments

Daniel Mattheeuws

Hallo
I understand the 3 Drives (Lust-Attraction-Attachment). However I am wondering:
– how and why (only) the second Drive is associated with the term/word of “Love” and not the other or all three ?
– What’s make attraction, focus or selection more appropriate with “Love”?
– Is it the same with things/animals/God instead of persons/humans ?
Regards

Reply
Timothy

Ive taken the test, but how are results interpreted in terms of getting a 7 out of 7, or a 4.3 out of 7, or a 1 out of 7. Something like ranges to let you know you have a good LOVE relationship or not? Like a 1 out of 7 means the relationship is in trouble and not working or on the high side is great and you have a loving relationship?

Reply
Lucy Brown

Which test did you take? Helen Fisher’s Love Test? The Passionate Love Scale? If you go all the way through it, all the pages, and click through to the end, it tells you on the very last page! Maybe try it again?

Reply
Paul

To Romance

Can I compare you to a perfect state? No ! Perhaps a putrid Stench , that fills my nostrils with intent . I desire not , your presence and remain fixed firm , alone and no one .
Paul mc Gorian 14/02 /16

Reply
Dr David Perl

Nothing mentioned about replaying old unconscious aberrant patterns of behaviour from our primary caregivers and hoping for a better outcome. Its amazing how we can choose partners that behaviourally can mimic one parent or the other, or both so well and often in an instant.

Reply
Lucy Brown

Good point. It is an amazing phenomenon. I wish we could study the brain systems that are involved in that phenomenon.

Reply
Cheyenne

Hi Um I was wanting to know cause when I saw this guy I instantly fell in love with him and I haven’t even talked to him but when he’s now around his friends he seems so sweet and kind and I feel weird when I see him or even think about him and I don’t why I am feeling this or how I am cause when I look up I see him looking in my direction and his friend is behind me but I don’t know if he is smiling at him or me cause I don’t look behind me to see if his friend is looking up or not when he’s looking up cause when I loom up I see him smiling and I instantly smile back then go back to looking down at my work and I look up every minute to see what he is doing and sometimes I see him looking in my direction and smiling again and sometimes I see him doing his work but I don’t know if he likes me or not and I’m having trouble figuring out if I like him or not can you all help please thank you

Reply
Lucy Brown

If he is returning your gaze, sounds like he likes you! Take the passionate love scale here on our website, and the other quizzes! What happened?

Reply
Gregory Boyce

How can one know what love is with the thinking brain. Love is felt with the heart not the brain. I feel from the heart and in that way it is emotional intelligence. To believe love doesn’t exist is like thinking electricity doesn’t exist. Love is the highest energy in the universe. Maybe that doesn’t make sense to others. But we can’t see electricity yet we believe in it. I feel- don’t think it.

Reply
Lucy Brown

Electricity: Nice way of thinking about love– you don’t see it but you feel it. Many of us don’t understand electricity, either. We were built by nature to feel love, and to be driven toward the person we love. Do you agree?

Reply

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