What is love? This question has been bothering humanity for thousands of years. Is love a feeling described in poems, books, songs, and movies? Or is it a powerful force of nature that contributes to the creation and destruction of life? Emotion, stimulated by the biochemical processes of the brain or something else, something not yet studied by science? Some believe that the ability to love distinguishes them from most animals. But from the scientific point of view, all romantic experiences are only cunning tricks of genes, the only desire of which is the unceasing transmission of information from generation to generation.
- Three types of love
From the point of view of evolution, any living being is just an “envelope” for transmitting information from ancestors to their descendants. The most important task of any organism is to copy and transfer a set of genes and ultimately leave a mark on history. At the same time, the genes of the simplest organisms chose the simplest way – multiple division, as asexual bacteria do, simply splitting into equal pars over and over. The human gene chose a more complex option, betting on success, by mixing the genes of representatives of two sexes. In order to ensure that there was a mixture, the genes use a trick known to the world as “love.”
Helen Fisher, an American anthropologist from Rutgers University in New Jersey, a researcher of human behavior, believes that love is a set of biochemical processes that trigger the work of certain hormones. The basis of her theory lies in three mental varieties of love, each of which is characterized by its own chemical picture in the human body:
- Lust – finding a partner for the possible conception of a child. May be directed to several people at once.
- Romantic love – the object is found, and a loved one becomes the center of the universe for us. Romantic love is characterized by the release of dopamine and lasts on average from 18 months to three years.
- Long-term affection – may be the longest. Needed by nature in order to raise children. Is concerned with all lifetime partners, married couples, and people who have successfully passed the first two stages. That is why it is vital to know how to save a relationship.
What is interesting is that the same person can experience all three types of love both for one partner and other people as well, both individually and simultaneously: attachment to one person, attraction to another, dreaming of a short-term relationship with someone third at the same time.
- Feelings are just hormones
Let’s take a closer look at the three types of love distinguished by Helen Fisher to understand what hormones are and how they influence the way a person acts.
- The first type, lust (libido), is the body’s desire to participate in sexual reproduction. In this process, the main roles are played by estrogen and testosterone – the two main types of hormones that are present in the body of men and women and cause a feeling of attraction in the brain. They also help choose a partner for procreation. Lust is an ancient mechanism of reproduction, before which morals and arguments of reason are absolutely powerless. It does not care who, when, or how – the result, that is, the transfer of the gene to the future, is important.
- The second type, romantic love (attraction), is considered one of the most wonderful moments in our life when a person really begins to feel love. It is lust for all potential partners that forces a person to enter a relationship, but when we feel romantic emotions towards a person, it makes us abandon all dreams about other people.
- The third type, affection, which appeared in living beings by evolutionary standards more recently – about 120-150 million years ago. This kind of love requires thinking about the future. Investigating the “factor of attachment,” scientists have discovered two hormones that cause a person to remain with their previous partner – oxytocin and vasopressin. They begin to be developed by happy lovers when their relationship passes into a phase of mutual love and confidence in each other, reducing the production of hormones of the first phase of the relationship. As a result, passion subsides as tender affection grows.
Oxytocin forms the depth of love and affection of the partner and strengthens the desire to protect your partner. It also helps create a strong bond between a mother and her baby and acts as an excellent painkiller, reducing pain threshold during childbirth. In addition, it is a hormone that is so sensitive that it automatically signals the breasts to release milk at the sound or touch of a baby. Oxytocin enhances the desire to spend time with a partner and maintain social and physical contact with them.