Dr Helen Fisher of Rutgers University has spent a lot of time investigating the nature of romantic love. She’s even written books with such forthright titles as “Why We Love“.
Since she has spent so much time understanding love and investigating what function it serves for us, it’s worth looking at an interview she conducted with www.chemistry.com a while back to see what it can tell us – if anything – about the nature of love between men and women.
She starts by making the observation that love seems to be one of three systems all of which are related to the function of reproduction.
As you might have guessed, the human sex drive is a motivational factor – it propels men and women to look for partners with whom they can have sex.
Then there’s romantic love – probably a human evolutionary trait designed to ensure that a prolonged pair bond will be a safe environment in which to raise children.
And a third factor is attachment – which is something to do establishing a sense of security, and seems to be involved in both the infant-parent bond, and the romantic connection between adults who are in a romantic relationship.
Video Helen Fisher – Why People Fall in Love
Naturally enough, one of the obvious questions about love is why it feels like the most wonderful thing in the world.
And the answer, according to Dr Fisher, is simple: it’s to do with the brain circuits which register pleasure. They respond to a chemical called dopamine, which is produced when you are in love. It’s a sense of euphoria, of being on a high. Biologically speaking, romantic love, infatuation, romance, obsession – it’s similar to taking cocaine.
Love at first sight is a concept that we’ve all heard of, but few of us have probably experienced in a serious way.
We are, in truth, more accustomed to thinking of infatuation at first sight, rather than love first sight. And it turns out that Dr Fisher agrees with this concept – she says that it’s responsible for the urgent sense of reproduction to which animals must respond to to ensure the survival of the species.
But generally timing is much more important for us humans. Timing, that is, in the sense of the appropriate moment to fall in love: you might pass your perfect partner in the street, but if you’re in a rush on the way to work, you might not even notice them.
By contrast, when you’re in a place and time where you have the opportunity to look around and see who might be a suitable mate, you’re much more likely to notice somebody to whom you are attracted, and who potentially might fall in love with you.
Now one of the most important questions – particularly for this blog, which, after all, is about how you can make a man fall in love with you – is whether or not there’s anything we can do to make a person fall for us. By extension, of course, you may wonder if there is anything you can do to yourself to make you fall in love with another person.
And there is! You can do something new together. And I’d add to that – you can do something dangerous together.
You see, plenty of experiments have shown that novelty, excitement, and adrenalin all increase the level of dopamine and noradrenalin in the brain.
These are neurotransmitters, and they are associated with all the traits of romantic love such as focused attention, energy, excitement and so on.
Video – Helen Fisher on Understanding Men
What this means is that as you do exciting things with another human being, your brain chemistry actually tips into a place where you’re predisposed to fall in love with somebody.
But what about falling out of love?
We have all been rejected and then found ourselves obsessing about our beloved ex-partner, the one who has rejected us.
(Interestingly enough, by paying more attention to what’s happened in the past and the trauma that you experienced, rather than what you hope to have in the future, you can actually retraumatize yourself and make things even worse.)
The answer seems to be a complete break: don’t call, don’t write, don’t speak, think or even keep anything that reminds you of your ex. And take exercise, find a new interest.
Of course this seems like banal advice, but when you think about it, this makes perfect sense – people who are in limerence, i.e. obsessive infatuation, are told that a complete break is needed for recovery. That’s like all addictions, I guess. (If you really feel you want to get your ex back, then there are plenty of places on the Internet where you can go for advice.)
Lots of people have asked about the difference between love and lust.
Lust is the sex drive, and it dissipates after having sex because it’s been satiated. But it returns after a certain period of time. You can feel lust for several people at once, but you don’t feel jealous.
As you know, when you’re in love, you don’t usually feel love for several people at once (though if you do, you’re likely to have emotional “challenges”!)
Being in love is something that instinctively evokes jealousy and possessiveness.
And if you have sex while you’re in love, you’re likely to experience an increase in romantic feelings for your partner.
Conversely, it turns out that having casual sex or sex with somebody you merely like, can trigger loving feelings. Again, it’s all to do with brain chemistry and the high levels of dopamine produced after orgasm.
So, on a slightly facetious level, if you want to know how to make a man fall in love with you, then going to bed with him might be one way of making him want you a whole lot more!
On a serious level, there’s no doubt that one major factor which helps men fall in love with women is making love. And equally, a good sex life can make your husband fall in love with you again if your relationship has gone stale. According to Dr Fisher, this is also about brain chemistry and the high levels of dopamine produced after orgasm.
How long does love last?
Well, as you’ve probably observed, that first intense period of infatuation can last for anything from one to three years. Then it gradually begins to subside.
Conventionally we think of infatuation as being replaced by companionate love or affection.
But Dr Fisher makes the point that if two people really are compatible for life, there are many ways in which they can renew their romance. Sex is a good way to trigger romantic love. Novelty, too, can spur romance. It’s a matter of intention and desire – that is to say, having both the intention to renew the relationship and a desire to do so.
At this point, you probably understand the significance of “chemistry” in a relationship. I guess chemistry can be described as mutual attraction on both the physical and emotional levels – but the point is that when you have true chemistry with another person, passion can erupt unexpectedly out of nowhere, and this can lead to the reinforcement of the relationship.
By the way, if you wondering how to make a man fall in love with you, then you should know that a woman’s appearance is important to man. Men are visual. And for women, status and success are important in choosing a mate.
What advice does Dr Fisher have that might be relevant to all of us?
She’s certainly on the ball with the statement that many people marry too quickly, soon after they have fallen in love, and before they’ve really got to know their partner’s personality.
Indeed, she suggests people might wait until the first flush of romantic love dies, so they can truly see their partner for who they really are before they get married.