Love is one of the most complex emotions out there. It can be sweet, romantic, awe-inspiring, and even painful. It’s a feeling that inspires poetry and movies, but also confuses and disappoints people at dinner tables around the world. The word is used to describe feelings of affection, protection, and warmth towards a person, but can also be applied to non-human animals, principles, or religious beliefs.
So how do we understand this strange, mysterious emotion that seems to drive everything in life? It’s a question that’s been debated by philosophers, poets, scientists, and people of all walks of life for centuries. Even though most people agree that love is a positive thing, definitions are often broad and subjective. One person’s “love” might seem meaningless to another, and that’s why it can be so difficult to define.
Despite the confusion, we can use some science to explain what happens in the brain when you fall in love. Researchers have found that when you’re in the initial stages of falling for someone, a combination of chemicals can cause a rush of euphoria and obsession. A part of the brain called the ventral tegmental area (VTA) lights up when you’re madly in love. It’s the same region of the brain that reacts to the feel-good chemical dopamine and to the adrenaline rush that comes with cocaine use.
VTA is responsible for our desire to seek out things that bring us pleasure. When you’re infatuated, that jumble of hormones makes your cheeks flush, your palms sweaty, and your heart race when you see the person you love. As the relationship progresses, the feelings of lust and attraction fade and are replaced by feelings of attachment. This is when the two of you start to consider a future together and begin making long-term plans.
It’s at this point that the person in your life becomes a true lover. You’ll want to spend more time with them, you’ll start planning future adventures with them, and your desire for them will remain strong — even when things get rough. It’s at this point that you might find yourself thinking, “Why can’t I just love him/her the way he/she loves me?”
While we might not be able to fully comprehend the experience of falling in and out of love, we can learn from it. The key is to let our characters struggle and be honest with each other, and to remember that there will be days — sometimes weeks — when you’re not all mushy-gushy in love. That’s part of the magic of real-life relationships, and a big reason why love is so special and so hard to define. But when you find it, it’s well worth the ride. Just don’t be surprised if you wake up in the middle of a nightmare. Then, you’ll know what you’ve been missing all along.