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Blame It On Your Brain: The Psychology of Love

Last Updated: October 25, 2023By

Most of us have been in a position where we feel our hearts are over-ruling our brains when it comes to our decisions in Love. But science disagrees. Research indicates that we don’t love from our hearts at all- that it is our brain that is actually in charge.  And the most primitive parts of our brain get the most say in how and who we love.  Biological Anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher is an oft quoted expert in Romantic Love. Her research supports the idea that Romantic Love has three stages; Lust, Romance, and Attachment. And our brain is in charge of all of them.

LUST

Lust is considered the first stage towards romantic love. You’ve felt butterflies in your stomach when the object of your affection approaches? The sensation is actually caused by chemicals going off in your hypothalamus.  This is the part of the brain responsible for basic needs such as hunger and thirst. Testosterone initiates our physical reactions, including the desire to reproduce. Neurotransmitters ,including dopamine, increase our energy, focus, and, wait for it- obsessions.  When we are interacting with love interests the neural machinery responsible for critical thinking and assessments of others is shut down. (Is anyone surprised by this?) This means the poets were not far off when they purport “Love is Blind.”

ROMANCE

The second stage of love has been labeled romance. Any great Romcom includes some love-crazed human engaged in dramatic displays of affection. I would walk one hundred miles….. and other seemingly insane acts have nothing to do with our heart. Rather, they occur because of chemicals released in the brain. An area called the ventral tegmental floods us with dopamine, cortisol, phenylephrine, and norepinephrine – these work together to make us feel euphoric and encourage us to work towards a perceived reward. In this case, the object of our affection. `

ATTACHMENT

By the third stage of Romantic Love our brains regain their sense as some sanity returns in the form of calming chemicals.  Oxytocin (the love hormone) is released deepening our feelings of attachment, and promoting feelings of contentment, calmness, and security. This stage is often described as less intense and more predictable for couples. Popular thought was that our hearts are no longer in charge- and our brain regains control. But the truth is our brain has been navigating this entire process. 

Research by Biological Anthropologist Dr Helen Fisher found that love is basic to our biological makeup. But, it is not our hearts that get us into trouble. Our brain seems to be in charge at every stage of romantic love. So this Valentine’s Day- let your heart off the hook and blame it on your brain. 

Resources

Love and the Brain | Harvard Medical School

An Expert Explains What Happens to Your Brain When You Fall in Love (nyp.org)

Where Is Love Located in the Brain? (verywellhealth.com)


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5 Comments

  1. Kacie February 14, 2023 at 4:12 pm

    I love this. (my brain told me so ?) I had no idea the brain was actually in charge of those feelings, very good job Emily!

  2. Alisha P. February 14, 2023 at 7:12 pm

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE on this lovable day!!! Happy Valentines. Yes, learning that the release of chemicals in the brain are our main occurrence of emotion has been huge for me. I gave up on finding the love of my life yrs ago, because usually for me, after the honeymoon phase is over I get board. Learning the heart and brain coherence can be an emotional adjustment tool to help us with the deeper meaning of love. Joe Dispenza on YouTube helps with seeing and feeling this. I have learned that with breath work and a mindful attitude bringing our heart into our brain (on an imaginative level) helps to see or feel the root of emotion. Often times learning the root of the emotion can help us put a name to that emotion. With this information delving into how to change that emotion into a more fitting emotion can begin.

    This article is helpful in putting a name to the root emotion. For so many when asked “what are your symptoms with anxiety”, most will say “anxiety”. Going deeper and realizing that anxiety can have many names such as – excessive worry, frustration, irritability, restlessness – we can better target the root cause of the symptoms that are created and ultimately learn how to handle the emotion. With this blog the presentation of the different types of love can help one to better be able to recognize a possibly sturdy foundation of love vs one that is all about the honeymoon!! Thank you for this!1

  3. April T February 14, 2023 at 10:38 pm

    Insightful! Thanks Emily for educating us about the psychology of love.

  4. Holly Burgess February 15, 2023 at 6:05 am

    Very interesting- heart or brain- brain or heart- there is no fighting it. I give in…

  5. Bill Guerard February 15, 2023 at 10:38 am

    Now some things are making more sense. I’ve never seen it explained before. thanks for putting this out there.

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