by Diana Chachua
If you visit Amazon and write “love/science of love” in a search area, it will find you 8523 books on this topic. In a modern world full of love cynics, people are desperately trying to understand the essence of love in order to invent a defense medicine from this feeling.
1980s was the period scientists actively got interested with love issue. However love’s road towards laboratories wasn’t that smooth. No one was taking seriously an idea of researching matter like love. It was easy for scientists to imagine researching anger or fear, but not love.
Gathered in laboratories they first found out that in order to learn about anger and fear one had to observe pulse, breath frequency, squeeze of muscles and other reactions of this sort. But “catching” love seemed impossible as it was easy, they claimed, that symptoms for love could be mixed up with symptoms of bad digestion or even maniacal attack.
Elaine Hatfield, author of “Love, sex, and intimacy: Their psychology, biology, and history”, in her interview for Human Behavior and Evolution Society recalls that while studying at Stanford academics were trying to persuade her to change a topic of research as they thought it would end her academic career.
“In 1959, I entered the Ph.D. program at Stanford University. By then, I had developed an intellectual interest in passionate love, sexual desire, and mate selection. I knew, of course, that theorizing about such topics was “taboo.” Passionate love was considered to be a trivial phenomenon; it wasn’t a respectable topic of study; it wasn’t amenable to scientific investigation; there wasn’t any hope of finding out very much about love in my lifetime. And it wasn’t “hot”. The hot topic in the 1960s was mathematical modeling – Math modeling and rat runways. If we ignored the first and last thirds of the runway in rat experiments (too much variability in rat behavior there) and concentrated on the middle third (where rat behavior generally settled down) we had a real chance of making an intellectual breakthrough and contributing importantly to the field of psychology. Thus ran the conventional wisdom,” – says Elaine Hatfield.
Starting from 1980s attitude towards love research suddenly changed but the reason wasn’t that prosaic – AIDS. After finding out destructive affect of this disease which frightened lovers, it became important for scientists to understand what actually pushed people towards love affairs. By time scientists started having interesting conclusions. They thought love was a biochemical cocktail of hormones.
“Don’t even know how to explain. It’s like the ground is disappearing, I get dizzy, I loose my mind and body…” – Natia, 24, tries to explain how does it feel to be in love for her.
Scientists claim that Natia has a strong point because “enamoured” people are literally under the affect of chemicals.
Look into the eyes, a single touch and aroma of perfume is enough for whole system of processes to start from brains via nervous system and blood. As a result people blush, palms get sweat, and one can’t breathe properly. In a way it sounds more like a stress, which scientists think to be a correct assumption. They say both during love and stress chemicals pass identical road in the organism.
Euphoria is vital sign of a newly “enamoured” person. Scientists say that particles participating in this reaction – Dopamine, Norepinephrine and especially Phenylethylamine are “cousins” of psychostimulant Amphetamine. Phenylethylamine is blamed for bringing smile on our faces, when we see a person of our attraction.
However scientists soon assumed that affect of Phenylethylamine wasn’t eternal, thus giving a lead to famous perception that romantic love is short-term and ends quickly. As time passes organism just produces immunity for Phenylethylamine and it can’t provide the same amount of euphoria as in the beginning.
The end of such chemical excitement is regarded by some as an end of a relationship. Often this is what they call “end of love”. Michael R. Liebowitz, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the College of Physician and Surgeons at Columbia University in New York, calls such people euphoria, temptation and attraction addicts. This type of people have such crave for newly enamoured euphoria that they are ready to move to next relationship as soon as the first excitement and euphoria with the current partner ends.
“Long-term relationships look like mechanical relationships. You are not with this person because you wish so, but because you lost the right of choice. People should always have a right of choice, that is why I believe it’s impossible to spend you whole life with one person,” – says 32 years old Elene and adds that this is very individual though.
“People change constantly and you rarely find someone who changes the way you do and goes through these processes with you. Another important aspect is physiological. It seems unimaginable for me to have a sexual relationship with one partner for the rest of your life. However I don’t mean it’s impossible. It happens, but I would call it an exception,” – Qeti, 35, agrees with Elene.
“It’s a total absurd. It has been 10 years me and my husband are living together, we still love each other and experience the same amount of euphoria and excitement as in the very beginning,” – claims 35 years old Tamuna.
It took scientists several years to understand Tamuna. Finally they came to conclusion that fidelity and responsible relationship becomes a crucial factor at some point, even for those who are in favor of polygamous relationships. Reason again lies with chemical substances: having a constant partner next to you helps producing endorphins in brains. Unlike flaming amphetamines, endorphins are characterized to have calming effect. Love is a natural pain killer, which provides person a sense of security, harmony and peace. This is how scientists explain the sorrow one feels after separation or after the death of loved one: they simply loose a daily doze of their drug.
“Early love is when you love the way the other person makes you feel. Mature love is when you love the person as he or she is,” – says Mark Goulston from University of California. This is how he differentiates passionate and compassionate love.
“It’s Bon Jovi vs. Beethoven,” – he adds.
But if scientists more or less managed to explain passion and compassion, they still struggle to say exactly why it makes man dizzy to see particular woman’s manner of walking or smile, while other female’s passionate moves and artful giggle leaves him with zero emotion. Shortly, why we become irresistibly drawn to one particular person?
There is one assumption about a special “love map” for finding an ideal partner in every human’s mind. There are indicated all the mesmerist and irritating people and events, which one has experienced, met and felt since childhood. It can be someone’s curly hair, fathers joke, mother’s manners, fireman’s uniform, doctor’s smock and etc. Of course partners never fulfill all the requirements given on the map, however as soon as certain amount of indicators coincide it causes interlacing of webs and sends signal that it’s love.
New century only changed the fact that now one can get such signals via online, without meeting in person.
“We have plenty of online data bases for searching a proper person. Otherwise how am I supposed to find her in Tbilisi’s streets?!” – asks 35 years old Giorgi, who is a frequent visitor of flirt web pages.
However, it will take Giorgi less time to find a partner and fall in love then some woman, claim scientists. Women’s requirements are more complex and it takes them longer to find their second half: security, characteristics of her future children’s father, stability and status are important factors while choosing partner.
However women aren’t the only ones who search for guarantees. Perhaps need for security and guarantees are the reason why romances occur more and more often between friends, who trust and know each other well.
But in reality there are no such things as guarantees. Building relationships and families solely on pragmatic assumptions doesn’t guarantee successful marriages and relationships.
According to German scientist Andrea Bartel mechanisms of receiving negative emotion and rational decision making are completely turned off in the brains of “enamoured” person. Sexual desires block other desires as a result of which people lack long sight and despite rational diction, they still follow sexual passions.
That is why scientists have certain recommendations for those wishing to cure from unsuccessful love. They say we should behave as in case of drug or cigarette addiction: keep yourself far from stimulator, get rid of everything that reminds of it and keep your mind busy with something new.
Such conventional wisdoms irritate a lot of people, especially due to the fact that it took scientists expensive and long-term researches to prove these. As a result of dividing love into elementary particles in fact they haven’t found anything new: people still love, they still separate, still get nervous seeing their lover as centuries ago; there are still couples who spend entire life together and say that love is eternal, as well as people who never give up on polygamous relationships.
In 2009 foreign newspapers were agitated with news about scientists proving true love exists. These scientists from Stony Brook University conducted experiment on couples with more then 20 years of relationship experience. Only assumption this research proved was that couples after 20 years of relationship can still experience the same feelings towards each other as in the beginning of their love affair.
Seems like creation of love science and chemical-biological analyzes of this feeling was only needed for scientists to prove one trite truth: no one can ever dictate a heart!
P.S. Dear reader, This article was originally written by me for Georgian analytic magazine LIBERALI. Thanks to some inspirational persons I decided to translate this “love” peace to more understandable language =)