Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Gravity never made someone fall in love.


Fifteen years ago I fell head over heels in love with Michelle. Seven years ago we married and five years ago we had our first child. I consider myself, in these respects, to be the luckiest man alive.

Even though the rush of our nascent longings have calmed, we remain very much together. To the point where only 'us' matters much of the time.

To me, enduring Love is an exercise in humility, luck and determination.

However, it could also be down to a good set of hormones;

THE FIRST STAGE

Testosterone and Oestrogen

The first stage of love - lust is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen – in both men and women.

STAGE TWO: Attraction

Adrenaline

The initial stages of falling for someone activates your stress response, increasing your blood levels of adrenalin and cortisol. This has the charming effect that when you unexpectedly bump into your new love, you start to sweat, your heart races and your mouth goes dry.

Dopamine

Newly ‘love struck’ couples have high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical stimulates ‘desire and reward’ by triggering an intense rush of pleasure. It has the same effect on the brain as taking cocaine!

Couples often show the signs of surging dopamine: increased energy, less need for sleep or food, focused attention and exquisite delight in smallest details of this novel relationship.

Serotonin

One of love's most important chemicals. This chemical may explain why when you’re falling in love, your new lover keeps popping into your thoughts.


STAGE 3: Attachment

Oxytocin


It's a powerful hormone released by men and women during orgasm.

It probably deepens the feelings of attachment and makes couples feel much closer to one another after they have had sex. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes. Oxytocin also seems to help cement the strong bond between mum and baby and is released during childbirth. It is also responsible for a mum’s breast automatically releasing milk at the mere sight or sound of her young baby.

Vasopressin

Is an important hormone in the long-term commitment stage. Vasopressin (also called anti-diuretic hormone) works with your kidneys to control thirst. Its potential role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole. Prairie voles indulge in far more sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction. They also – like humans - form fairly stable pair-bonds. When male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin, the bond with their partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion and failed to protect their partner from new suitors.

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Hormones or no hormones; Miche, you are adored.

2 comments:

C.L. Hanson said...

Beautiful!!!

Understanding the chemical processes behind love doesn't make it any less wonderful -- indeed trying to understand it seems to me more romantic than just saying that it's a mystery that we can't understand.

On a general note, you remind me of John R. from mind on fire. He's also an atheist with strong spiritual yearnings and an interest in spirituality.

The more people I talk to, the more I get the impression that spirituality is a particular trait that many people have which is not strongly correlated with belief or other aspects of religiosity.

Personally, spiritual yearnings don't come naturally to me, and I've felt better about it since I've accepted the idea that some people are just more spiritual than others and that's okay. Before coming to that conclusion, I wrote a blog entry here about how much I despised being pressured into spirituality back when I was a believer...

jamon said...

Hi C.L, Thanks for dropping in.

As you say, understanding the mechanics of how we exist doesn't detract from the beauty of our subjective experiences.

The fact that I got a rush of endorphins when I came home tonight having been assaulted by manic children dosen't make it any less wonderous.

I read your post about being pressured into spiritual awakenings and felt nothing but sympathy. Your entry "Recently I remembered a few more things to repent of" made me so sad for the religious. Absolute moral authorities and sytemic guilt has so much to answer for.

I get irked by people who use the term spirituality to befuddle and control people. For some reason, spirituality is supposed to be rapturous and esoteric. The 'spiritualy enlightened' are so smug in this respect.

The fact that you started your comment with the word "beautiful" (and flattered I am because of it), makes me think you have a feel for the human spirit.

Which is after all, what spirituality is. Nothing more or less. Spirituality is whatever 'Lifts your spirits'.

The trick, I suppose, is being able to describe it. And having read a few of your blog posts, I've little doubt that you can.

A leaf is a leaf. If it reminds you of a football then cool. There need not be any significance to that fact. Neither is there some immutable truth to be had in the notion.

I'm learning, through this blogging thing, that spirituality is meat and bones. Not angels.