Love is one of the most powerful feelings and complex emotions that humans experience. It is the inspiration for songs and poems, the subject of many novels and movies, and even a topic of scientific study. But what exactly is it? Is there a way to define it, or does it manifest itself in different ways for different people?
It’s been a long time since psychologists started studying love as a distinct idea, but most agree that it is a feeling of affection and attachment for someone or something. Love is what makes you forgive your partner for being late, work tirelessly to achieve a dream, or cheer your team on to victory. It’s also the reason you want to save your child from harm or share your creativity with the world.
The concept of love has been a source of fascination for artists through the ages, but scientists have recently begun to take it more seriously. In fact, some think that love is a necessary part of the human evolutionary process because offspring depend on their parents for many years before they’re ready to live on their own. And because love can be either healthy or unhealthy, helpful or harmful, it can determine the success or failure of a relationship.
Traditionally, researchers have described two types of love: romantic and companionate. Romantic love involves feelings of attraction and arousal, which are important components of most romantic relationships, whether they’re heterosexual or same-sex. It can also include feelings of possessiveness and jealousy. Companionate love, on the other hand, is more about being devoted to and protective of someone. This type of love can help sustain a long-term relationship and keep it healthy.
However, a third component of love is often overlooked: admiration. This is what makes you feel awe and wonder at your loved one’s unique qualities, abilities, personality, or beauty. It’s the reason you see your partner as a superhero or admire your best friend’s success in life. In fact, if this isn’t present in a relationship, it can cause frustration and even break up the couple.
In an experiment, scientists at Stony Brook University put 37 people who were madly in love into an MRI machine. They found that when these participants were in the throes of romantic love, their brains lit up with activity in the caudate nucleus, which is linked to reward and pleasure, and an ancient brain area called the ventral tegmental area, or VTA. This is the same region of the brain that lights up when people experience a cocaine high.
So if you aren’t in love with your partner right now, it might be time to change that! Consider making a list of their unique qualities and how you admire them, then make sure they know it. It might be just the thing to bring you back into their arms.