Fri. Jan 17th, 2020

The chemistry of love: Part 1

Albert Einstein once said that to explain what we feel for that special person under the strict terms of the chemistry of love is to detract magic from the matter. However, whether we like it or not, there are processes such as attraction or the most obsessive passion where neurochemistry itself delimits a fascinating and very complex territory that also defines part of who we are.

Anthropologists explain to us that humanity seems to make use of three different brain "tendencies." The first is one where the sexual impulse guides much of our behaviors. The second refers to «romantic love», where relationships of dependency and high emotional and personal costs are generated. The third approach is the one that makes up healthy attachment, where the couple builds a meaningful complicity from which both members benefit.

Now, beyond understanding what guarantees stability and happiness in a couple, there is an aspect that interests us all. We talk about amorousness, we talk about the chemistry of love, that strange, intense and disconcerting process that sometimes makes us look, the mind and the heart on the least suitable person. Or, on the contrary, in the most successful.

Each of us has certain preferences, very deep, idiosyncratic and sometimes even unconscious. There is also clear evidence that we usually fall in love with people with similar characteristics to ours: similar degree of intelligence, similar sense of humor, same values ​​...

However, there is something striking at the same time fascinating in all this. We can be in a classroom with 30 people with similar characteristics to ours, similar tastes and similar values ​​and we will never fall in love with all of them. So… What other factors favor such a spell and what we understand as love chemistry?

The aroma of the genes

However, more than genes, the one that gives off a particular smell - that we are not aware of, but that guides our attraction behavior - is our immune system, and in particular MHC proteins.

These proteins have a very specific function in our body: they trigger the defensive function.

It is known for example that women are unconsciously more attracted to men with an immune system different from their own. It is the smell that guides them in this process, and if they prefer genetic profiles different from their own it is for a very simple reason: the offspring with that couple would give way to a child with a more varied genetic load.

Our biology guides us to find a compromise between equality and difference and we always find the perfect balance, not only when we choose faces and smells.

The drug of love: why is love addictive?

The chemistry of love is able to make you feel in full swing, make you suffer a downturn or make you feel the monkey for someone. That love is like a drug is totally true, and it has certain really curious side effects.

As a study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine points out, when love is broken, just like when a person is addicted to drugs, the consequences of addiction are so strong that they can lead to serious depressive and obsessive behaviors.

The chemical compounds and hormones that love generates

Love free dopamine, Serotonin y oxytocin, so when we fall in love we feel excited, full of energy and our perception of life is magnificent. But the neurochemicals of falling in love come to jets and after a while, just like when someone uses drugs for a long period of a long period, tolerance comes or what is commonly known as habituation.

When the chemical cascade descends, there are many people who interpret it as a loss of love (MacDonald & MacDonald, 2010). What really happens is that neuronal receptors have already become accustomed to this excess chemical flow and the lover needs to increase the dose to continue feeling the same. That can turn a natural fluctuation into a crisis, and the beautiful phrase may come: “I do not feel the same" But leaving a relationship is not always so simple.

The brain needs a recovery process to return to normal levels of chemical flow and it takes time to regain stability.

Oxytocin: a hug is worth a thousand words

The chemical cascade can make us lose our mind, but why does this happen?

Expert neurologists like Gareth Leng believe that oxytocin helps forge permanent bonds between lovers after the first wave of emotion. The hormone acts by "changing the connections" of the billions of neural circuits. This hormone is known as the neurotransmitter of trust or hugs and is released in large quantities during orgasm, childbirth, and in smaller amounts when they hold your hand. In addition to strengthening the bond between a mother and her baby

This same hormone is the explanation why women spend a lot of time with friends and why they like to be constantly hugged.

Oxytocin is an endogenous substance (secreted by the body) and acts as a drug (exogenous substance introduced into the body from the outside), releasing transmitters such as dopamine norepinephrine (norepirephrine) or the Serotonin. These neurotransmitters allow to flood the brain of phenylethylamine.


This substance (familiar of amphetamines) combined in turn with dopamine and serotonin, synthesizes the perfect recipe for a love of film, causing lovers can stay flirting for hours, making love or chatting without feeling tired or sleepy .

Phenylethylamine is like the sugar in a drink or the varnish we put on a canvas: everything makes it more intense. It is she who intensifies the action of dopamine and serotonin, she who constitutes the true chemistry of love to make us feel happy, fulfilled and incredibly motivated. It is like a biological device that seeks to "intensify" all our emotions.

It is a chemical compound with a powerful effect, so powerful that it can become addictive. Phenylethylamine dependents tend to jump from one romance to another, leaving their partner as soon as the initial chemical cocktail vanishes.

The effects of phenylethylamine disappear after two or three years, that is when we face the tremendous reality and, the defects that we did not see before occur. Over time the organism becomes resistant to the effects of these substances and all the madness of passion gradually fades, the phase of attraction does not last forever and then begins a second phase that we can call belonging giving way to a love more calm. It is a feeling of security, comfort and peace. This state is associated with another chemical shower. In this case it is the endorphins, which confer the common sense of security beginning a new stage, that of attachment. That is why we suffer so much by losing our loved one, we stop receiving the daily dose of narcotics.

As a curious fact, chocolate is rich in this compound, so it is common for excessive amounts to be consumed during "bad love".

To go to part 2 of the article, please click the following link: The chemistry of love: Part 2

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