We may not be able to control with whom we fall in love, but we can explain what happens when we do -- down to the molecules. Behold, the science of falling in love, in three acts.
ACT ONE: Acting Like A Dope..amine
Dopamine, of course! Dopamine provides the rosy colored glasses that make your new love feel better than anything you’ve experienced before. New feelings of love cause the body to release dopamine en masse, which can make you feel the kind of loopy in love that rom-coms are made of. Dopamine is also linked to addiction, which explains why your love really is my drug (Ke$ha reference intended.) Dopamine is linked to “infatuation” rather than what we might think of as sustainable love, however, so don’t expect it to last forever. The first few months of a relationship make you tingle, but a couple of years in, you are usually thankful that you sleep on separate sides of the bed… even though sleeping in a “pack” is linked to more restful sleep. Hang on… I’m starting to lose…..
ACT TWO: FOCUS! Phenylethylamine-time
After the rush of dopamine comes phenylethylamine, or PEA. PEA increases the body’s sense of focus and alertness. It’s the “I can’t sleep! I can’t eat!” part of falling in love. Incidentally, if the relationship tanks, lingering PEA may cause you to feel depressed, but we’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there. The combination of dopamine and PEA leads to a feedback loop wherein the body’s sensitivity for physical stimulation is on fleek. Brushing up against your boo starts to feel like magic. Heart a-flutter. Weak at the knees. Stuff you can write a 90s R&B song about. Caution: the brain’s nerve receptors harden to PEA after about three years, so if you want your relationship to last, don’t be afraid to…
ACT THREE: CLING-ON!
Gurl, bring on the oxy…tosin, that is! Oxytosin is released in the female body after orgasm, particularly during post orgasmic skin to skin contact. Lovers take note: the best way to lock in your shot at long-term-love is to hold out for those cuddle moments even if you’re feeling hot or kind of need to pee. Keep in mind, 97% of mammals do not form long term pair bonds so humans need all the help they can get in making true love last forever. Oxytosin and vasopressin are the key ingredients to the ATTACHMENT phase of love, which are also evident in maternal bonds. Don’t get weird. It mostly just a reference to love that wants to stick around. Leave your Oediups complex at the door.
MORAL OF THE STORY: No One Is Immune
The scent of a woman is nothing compared to the science behind the scent of a man. Some women are subconsciously drawn to men with different immune systems from their own, and they do it by following their nose! In blind tests where women were asked to rank (get it… RANK… because it smells bad? …) the body odor of various male subjects, they tend to think the men whose immune systems are most different from their own are less disgusting than the men who share a genetic similarity. Women are particularly drawn to the odor of fresh male sweat during ovulation—emphasis on the word “fresh.”
In short, we're all a bunch of smelly animals high on love crack, which sounds like a party. Love on, lovers!