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Understanding the Love Chemistry

Those who subscribe to the chemical and biological underpinnings of love tie their theory to four million years of evolution and the reproductive cycle. Instead of the undefined magic of romantic love that requires thoughtful nourishment in order to arrive at mature love and children, these scientists say chemicals are the basis from which adult love is established. The release of ample amounts of chemicals stimulates progress through the following sequence:

  • Attraction
  • Attachment
  • Mating
  • Birthing
  • Early childhood development
  • Detachment

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is the most prevalent hormone in the male and female bodies. It affects sex drive, sex appeal, and sexual performance. DHEA better be present to get the most out of that first glance! Not even social scientists deny the importance of sex. If forced to give a definition of love, Ellen Berschied, Ph.D., psychology professor at the University of Minnesota, said she would whisper, it’s about 90 percent sexual desire.

EA, or phenylethylamine, the love hormone, is released when one becomes aroused and causes a pleasurable sensation. This amphetamine-like high is associated with the stages of attraction in animals and infatuation in humans. Should you need to add a little of your own PEA to love’s elixir, it is found in chocolates, diet soft drinks, and artificial sweeteners. But no matter how delectable and delightful the pangs of attraction and mating are, for the most part the body does not want to maintain this heightened level of excitement and headiness associated with infatuation and sex play.

Endorphins and oxytocins create a desire to be close to a potential mate and promote attachment. In the very practical realm of mother-nature, the comfortable state of attachment lasts long enough to ensure procreation and the survival of offspring.

When chemicals associated with attachment dissipate and are not replenished by a resurgence of PEA, papa bear enters the detachment phase and trudges off through the forest. Monogamy is not a fact of nature. Just the opposite, three percent of mammals are monogamous. Primates, including humans, can boast a slightly higher rate of monogamy, coming in at around 12 percent. Birds tip the scale entirely in the other direction. Ninety percent of this species are monogamous.

Being monogamous means having one mate at a time. If a monkey seeks a sexual encounter with someone other than his or her mate, researchers call it extra pair copulation. You and I refer to it as cheating! Serial monogamy seems to be the prevalent pattern among humans these days. One mate at a time, true, more than one over a lifetime, yes.

Only a quarter of infatuations last. Strongly predicated upon sexual desire, infatuations hardly have a chance particularly for men in their 20s who are testosterone-driven during this decade. Furthermore, the entire cycle of attraction through detachment has generally been determined to last around three years, no more than four.

We know that romantic love is part attraction, part infatuation. We also know that there has to be more to love to make it last.

The technical term for the enduring love you want is companionate love. The formulation of this mature love is founded upon desire for companionship and intimacy. Love potions won’t do the job here. Still, for lasting love you must buck the biological timetable.

The most helpful model to explain what companionate love is, how it grows, and what keeps it going is the wheel theory. Created by sociologist Ira Reiss in 1960, it is still widely adhered to and amended by experts. There are four essential elements that must be developed in sequence and then repeated without end in order to sustain it. This spins the wheel of love and allows you to take charge of the destiny of your relationships.

Spinning clockwise will reach love.

  1. Rapport. Rapport is the development of a harmonious relationship that provides comfort and pleasure. Each individual brings something to the relationship and carries away something of the other person. Rapport is never one-sided. Both the man and the woman must feel they benefited from the connection.
  2. Self-disclosure. In order to create a feeling of closeness and a bond with another human being, you must begin to exchange information about yourself feelings, dreams, aspirations, fears, hopes, disappointments, and successes. This abets mutual understanding and appreciation. Without self-revelation, you would be hard-pressed to fulfill the requirements of the next element.
  3. Mutual dependence. If the seeds of lasting love are truly beginning to sprout, both a man and woman begin to enjoy fulfilling the needs of one another. Mutual dependence is not a state of dependence. Rather, mutual dependence is exhibited by engaging in mutually satisfying sex, being each other’s cheerleader and coach, and approaching the world as helpmates. Your happiness is enhanced by, and to a degree dependent upon, your partner sharing your life.
  4. Intimacy. If you are successful in building rapport, revealing your identity, and accepting and giving support, you will have arrived at a wonderful new juncture in a relationship. The secrets you exchange, the knowledge you have of one another, and the experiences you partake in together provide a familiarity that is luxuriously comfortable and pleasurable. A connection between the two of you arises that each wishes to keep because it is so satisfying.

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