Is this love that I'm feeling?
The science behind the magic.
According to the research of York Professor Arthur Arun, relationships undergo four major stages, more or less. These stages are to a surprising extent, guided by hormones that influence the decisions we make and how we interact.
STAGE 1: THE MEAT MARKET
When choosing a mate, hormones are quite active. This is especially true for women in the ovulation stage of their menstrual cycle. Their testosterone levels increase, producing an increase in sex-drive. During the ovulation time, women are sub-consciously attracted to taller, more masculine men who have deeper voices. This is the best window of opportunity for men to take the risk and ask that special girl out. It’s the peak of her fertility time and she is more likely to say yes, though it’s probably not the best pick up line. The hormone oestrogen is connected with how symmetrical a woman’s face is. Thus, with an increase of oestrogen, women are typically more attractive to men.
Testosterone affects men and their bodies differently. After 4.9 minutes of a man being in the same room with a woman—even one whom he does not find particularly attractive—he will have a 8% increase in his testosterone levels. This increase in testosterone causes men to square their shoulders, hold an upright posture, and have an improved use of the hands.
STAGE 2: PUPPY LOVE
This stage is involuntary, difficult to control, and generally impermanent. “Lust at first sight,” is a more appropriate statement for a person experiencing this stage. The world turns into a blur and all one can think about is the beloved. The beloved is idealized and flawless; everything is wonderful, exciting, fun, and beautiful. Couples enjoy a temporary feeling of belonging and completeness if the relationship is going well. The focus of the relationship is on similarities and what the couple has in common, rather than differences. Couples often experience an increase in energy during these special times. However, if the relationship is facing adversity or despair, the couple will tend to be more moody.
The hormone progesterone dominates this stage, often increased by 10% after a couple watches a romantic movie. Also, adrenaline and cortisol are released in this stage. At the presence or mere thought of the beloved, these hormones act up, the heart begins to pound and sweat glands open.
As testosterone is released it also stimulates another hormone, dopamine, to be released. This is the happy-hormone which influences mate selection and helps to create a bond with the “chosen one,” separating him or her from all others. Unfortunately, dopamine is not a strong enough hormone to bond a couple together to last them through a successful marriage. To get married while in this stage is dangerous and unreliable, as both parties have tainted views of reality.
Norepinephrine is another hormone positively linked with sexual motivation and arousals. This hormone innervates a release of oestrogen and prompts procreative behaviour. While “true love” is not yet present in the relationship, this stage is inevitable for a couple to reach a place where love is real and deep.
STAGE 3: POWER STRUGGLE
The power struggle stage can be characterized as the recognition of reality. The differences of the beloved come to the surface and it seems as though the couple finds nothing in common anymore. They reach this stage and don’t know what hit their perfect world of “us.” What was before a “cute” habit of the beloved now becomes annoying and unbearable. If the differences discovered in this stage are not accepted, distance can come between the couple and conflict will emerge.
The body during this stage is adapting to the dopamine and serotonin levels being released and the infatuation wears off. The excitement of being in the same room as the beloved soon becomes normal and the other person ceases to satisfy one’s need for completeness.
STAGE 4: COMMITMENT
During this stage, the power struggle has shifted into a place of trust and confidence. This is the time when a couple decides whether or not they will continue their lives together. This is also the stage where true love can be found. The focus of the relationship shifts from being about how amazing the beloved can make one feel to an experience of deep desire for him or her as a person. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis describes this kind of love as Eros. Lewis says that Eros is what makes a man want a particular woman as opposed to the “need” of the infatuation stage. Sexual pleasure is but a by-product of Eros and can even get in the way of proceeding to this deeper stage of love when a couple is in the infatuation stage.
The hormones involved in this stage of bonding are released during or after sexual intercourse. The hormone oxytocin, also called the “cuddle hormone,” is responsible for creating a biological attachment between couples and is released during orgasm.
Vasopressin (ADH) is also involved in the social bonding process. This hormone is also released after sexual intercourse, helping to explain the certain mysterious connection felt by partners after sex. The release of oxytocin and ADH is maintained and active throughout a couple’s lives, creating a foundation for attachment.
Relationships have their complications but with every stage God created the body to prepare each couple to become one flesh and stay that way.