The ingredients for true and lasting love, part chemistry and part mystery are a baffling and often elusive combination. Love at its most basic stage is animal attraction, that indefinable something that pulls us toward another and makes us take notice of one particular person until he or she becomes the most significant object in our universe.
It can begin with a look, when eyes meet and lock across a crowded room. The essence of it can be found in that someone’s unique scent (pheromones) that stir and awaken our insides and linger long after the parting. It can echo in softly spoken words that continue to resonate in our love-bitten brains as we grasp for some deeper significance in the most casual conversation.
The initial giddiness in the early stages of attraction, racing heart, flushed skin and sweaty palms are said to originate from a combination of chemicals released in the brain. Dopamine, the "pleasure chemical," produces a feeling of bliss. Norepinephrine, similar to adrenaline, produces the racing heart and excitement. When certain unique conditions are met, these combine to produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, cravings, loss of appetite and unfocused attention. Interestingly, this “rapture cocktail” is produced much more readily in men than in women due to a man’s more visual nature.
And while the conditions that first create that wondrous awareness of another are slightly different for each of us, love in this nascent state is always a fragile and precarious thing. If unacknowledged, suppressed or unrequited, it withers; if spurned, it is stomped into the ground; but if it is acknowledged and nurtured, this can bloom into a powerful force, a deeper romantic connection, and finally to true attachment or a desire for commitment that binds us heart and soul to another.
While the euphoria of infatuation is a wonderful, rapturous thing, it is also transitory, but even as this initial infatuation inevitably fades the attachment phase of love begins with new chemicals saturating the brain; endorphins (similar to an opiate) calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and provide a sense of peace, safety and tranquility. True love at this stage is warm, comfortable, soothing, it bathes our soul with a sense of joy, peace, and care unlike any other emotion. Moreover, if continually nurtured (physically and emotionally), it can last a lifetime.
(Same couple 28 years later!)