The Science of Lust and Love

Published: 06th May 2007
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Copyright (c) 2007 Ainsley Laing

Lust? Love? Is there a difference?

Thinking back to the last time you were newly in love, it will come as no surprise to you that the chemicals released into the blood when you were in the attraction stage are very different than those released later in the relationship. After all, if you had stayed in that new love stage, you wouldn't be unable to accomplish anything except to spend your days pining away for your lover.

Scientists are beginning to identify not only the chemicals involved with "being in love" but also the parts of the brain that are activated. It seems to be an explanation for the anecdotal seven year itch. Well, actually it's anywhere from 4 to 7, depending on the scientist or journal you are reading.

According to researchers, lust, is the sensation that causes us to go out looking for a mate. It's the chemicals estrogen and testosterone that are at work here.

Then there's attraction or being "love struck" . This is the part where you lose your appetite, can't sleep, get sweaty palms and higher heart rate etc. This keeps us going back for more of this person. The love chemicals at this stage are mostly the same ones that are increased whenever we have a new adventure or excitement: the monoamines. These include dopamine, norepinephidrine, phenylethylamine (PEA) and serotonin. Basically, these affect us as if taking amphetamines, stimulants and painkillers!

Dopamine makes us feel happy while serotonin and norepinephidrine make us feel more excited. PEA is the big player here which excites us and helps the transition from lust to love. It's this chemical rush caused by PEA that creates the addiction to being in love we here so much about (Isn't there a song title of the same name?).

Some people jump from relationship to relationship just for the high of the in love feeling. No doubt, the in love chemicals are HARD and addictive drugs.

Alas, after a couple of years of the excitement stage, comes the attachment stage. These processes overlap one another in that the in love chemicals don't just disappear but lessen over time and are replaced with other chemicals.

At this stage, oxytocin,, the same chemical involved in childbirth and bonding to the infant, shows up in the blood of both men and women . This stage is often referred to as the attachment stage. Oxytocin is released during orgasm in both men and women. It has been postulated that the more sex the couple has, the more bonded they will become. That's a good tick by nature, don't you think?

Vasopressin, also called the monogamy hormone, comes into play during the attachment phase as well. Vasopressin seems to keep us protective of our mates.

Other chemicals, called endorphins are released during and after sex. These give us that "feel good feeling" similar to the feeling after a hard exercise session (endorphins are also released during exercise).

An observation: the in love chemicals take about 2 to 3 years to fade out and be replaced by the bonding chemicals. Have you noticed that this is the time when many people start to find their mates not as interesting or exciting as they once did? Has this happened to you? The person hasn't changed. The chemicals that attracted you to them have faded. Many people, however, find that the attachment feel good chemicals are much more fulfilling than the attraction chemicals.

Pheromones are the smell chemicals that signal sexual attraction or repulsion. No matter how much you like someone, if they do not smell good to you, the sexual attraction just doesn't work. It's said that women on birth control pills will subconsciously seek out men who smell like good protectors and fathers ?because the pill simulates pregnancy. But sometimes when these women go off the pill, they suddenly find their mate doesn't smell attractive anymore. Bummer!

In conclusion: the attraction chemicals fade at about 2 to 3 years and are replaced by the bonding chemicals. The bonding chemicals actually interfere with the exciting "in love" chemicals and create a more "comfortable" bonding love which lasts another few years.

Evolutionarily, the theory is that the couple stays together long enough to raise a child out of infancy. Then both men and women (yes, women are not built for monogamy either) move on and repeat the process. It's good for the gene pool.

So, if you are addicted to the love/lust chemical high, it's very important to keep your sexual and romantic life exciting and new. How to do that? Well, that's a good question for a relationship/marriage counselor!

Resources: ?The Chemistry of Love" by Dr. Susan Block http://www.counterpunch.org/block02122005.html "The Science of Love ? Cupid's Chemistry" by Claire McLoughlin http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/articles/article/clairemcloughlincolumn1.htm/ Labels: chemistry, love, relationships, self-improvement, sexuality


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About the Author:
Ainsley Laing, MSc. has been a Fitness Trainer for 25 years and writes exclusively Body for Mind eZine. She holds certifications in Group Exercise, Sports Nutrition and Personal Fitness Training. To see more articles by Ainsley visit http://www.bodyformind.com or the blog at http://www.bodyformind.blogspot.com


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