What Is Love
Love is fascinating and complex.
Although poets and songwriters can put many of our romantic thoughts and feelings into words, love is so inexplicable we need the help of science to explain it.
After all, psychologists have a lot to say about how and why people fall in love.
“The first step in the process of falling in love is the initial attraction,” says Elizabeth Kane, a South University adjunct faculty member who teaches clinical psychology and behavioral science.
“It’s the powerful moment when we meet another person and feel energized and are immediately aware of our heart pounding.”
According to licensed psychologist Dr. Rachel Needle, specific chemical substances such as oxytocin, phenethylamine, and dopamine, have been found to play a role in human experiences and behaviors that are associated with love. They function similar to amphetamine, making us alert, excited, and wanting to bond.
“Falling in love is associated with increased energy, narrowing of mental focus, sometimes sweaty palms, light-headedness, racing heart, and a lot of positive feelings,” says Needle, an associate professor and coordinator of Clinical Experiences at South University, West Palm Beach.
“A person newly in love sees the world through the lens of love and most everything is tolerable and everything their partner does is delightful,” says Kane, who is also a marriage and family therapist.
“Romantic love evolves when one feels a sense of interdependence, attachment, and that their psychological needs are being met,” Kane says.
“Some researchers say oxytocin plays a part in the evolution of romantic love as it is released in the brain during orgasm, which contributes to the couple’s ability to bond with one another.”
When a therapist understands the meaning that romantic love has in one’s life and the traumatic effects of the abrupt and sometimes unexpected end of a relationship, they can address their client’s ability to move on and strengthen their resiliency.
“Moving beyond the pain of a failed relationship requires a shift of focus back on one’s self and to their own unique ability to give and receive love,” Kane says.
“When we understand how we fall in love, we can connect to the difficulties in moving forward after our heart has been broken. We can then connect again to the beauty of the experience and an optimistic understanding that if it has happened to us once that it can happen again to us.”
“A therapist can be helpful in supporting clients in understanding and learning from the past,” Needle states.
“Many people choose similar partners from relationship to relationship, but are unaware of it, as well as why these relationships continue to lead to disappointment and not last.”
“To be romantic is to make a choice to wake up each day and ask yourself what you can do today to let your lover know they are adored,” Kane says.
“Have fun in your romance and remember that the more effort you put into your romantic relationship, the more love you will receive in return.
Be the partner that you seek and live a life filled with passion and romance.”