Understanding the Basic Neuroscience Behind Love If you feel that the romance in your life has disappeared, rejoice in the new, more exciting feelings of true love that is around the corner. BY DR. FRED NOUR
When you understand that the feelings you have are a natural chemical reaction you can respond more appropriately.
“ The issue with these divorces is the lack of understanding of falling out of love. Falling out of love is just a phase in love.”
Can understanding the neuroscience behind love help reduce divorces? Yes, I believe so.
Love happens in four phases:
* Mate selection * Falling in love or "romance" * Falling out of love * True love
If we understand the "falling out of love," stage better—a phase in love we all go through at some point in our journey—then we can prevent many divorces.
Each phase in love is based on specific genetic and chemical elements in our brain. We are all made to believe that romance should last for a lifetime. If we fall out of love, we conclude that the love has ended or that we chose the wrong mate since they could not make the romance last for a lifetime. However, this is simply a neurological phase to prepare our brains to except the chemicals needed for the true love phase. This lack of understanding often results in divorce. We try again with another mate, hoping that this time the romance will last for a life time, but after two years or so, we fall out of love again, divorce or separate again, and we might try again but never succeed.
Falling out of love is just a phase in love. It is a painful period that is needed to reach true permanent love, just like how a college student endures long nights of studying and doing homework in order to have the desired degree that will give them a better life forever. They are willing to tolerate the long hours, the loss of sleep because they know that the pain will end with a very big reward, the perfect professional job.
Now let us discuss and understand the neuroscience behind this. Romance is caused by the increase in brain chemicals, Monoamines (dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and serotonin). These chemicals cause all the joy, pleasure, jealousy, obsessions, sweating, trembling and so on of love. This romance period of monoamine release is needed to prepare for the Nonapeptides (Oxytocin and Vasopressin) phase of love by causing the making and receiving cells in the brain to multiply so as to induce a strong true love phase later on. We have evidence that norepinephrine release is needed to release oxytocin and that norepinephrine release increases the number of nonapeptide producing cells and also the number of oxytocin receptors on the nonapeptide receiving cells. This helps make the true love phase of love stronger and more intense. The reverse is true, people who marry for gains, such as money or power, without falling in love, never experience true love as the nonapeptide cells continue to be few.
In those who fell in love, when that goal of preparing the nonapeptide cells for true love is achieved, there is no need for the excess monoamines effect. Our brain stores these chemicals, and/or their effects on us will eventually fade away. All the feelings of romance will now disappear. We now lose all the joy, pleasure, obsessions, jealousy and other feelings that come with romance. We perceive this as if our love has ended. In reality, the monoamines phase is no longer needed. Now we are ready to proceed to the true, nonapeptides-based love. The falling out of love phase is just the gap between two systems. The nonapeptides system will take hold soon… and its joy will far exceed that of romance.
How does this apply to divorces?
If we look at the statistics of divorce, we notice that it peaks in the third year after marriage. This is the time of the falling out of love phase. This government graph uses the date of the divorce decree and not the divorce decision. The divorces that appear to last more than three years in the graph on the right are indicated as such due to longer divorce proceedings; the marriages themselves likely did not last that whole duration.
We are wrongly taught to believe that the feeling of romance should last for a lifetime. This wrong belief causes many divorces. If we understand that it is just a phase of love, we can avoid these frequent divorces. We should realize that falling out of love will be followed by a much more enjoyable experience, true love. This love phase will last for a lifetime.
However, there are divorces that happen after the end of the falling out of love phase. These are caused by other factors, such as changes in health or finances. Of course, there are those who are genetically unable to love. They wait for years for true love to come to them but this never happens. They eventually blame their partner and divorce, hoping that the problem is not them and that the new mate will somehow change their own genes and make them able to love. They fail again or just accept to live without love. These divorces cannot be saved. Luckily, these are outliers.
Fred Nour, M.D., is double board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Neurology and Neurophysiology. He is now semi-retired and lives in Southern California. He is happily married with two daughters in college who he hopes will each one day find their own true love. Learn more about Dr. Nour at www.truelovebook.net and connect with him on FaceBook and LinkedIn. His new book, "True Love: How to use science to understand love" is available on Niguel Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and booksellers everywhere.