Professor Stephanie Ortigue in October 2010 found that the quick release of a cocktail of chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, adrenalin and vasopressin, some of which act in tandem, is what creates the high that could be called falling in love.
Across a crowded room our eyes lock, love at first sight…
The emotional elastic of love is connected to the love object and the magical energy of attraction and love begin. We repeatedly glance between each other’s eyes and lips. We begin to laugh at things that are not even funny. Unconsciously we begin to touch and stroke each other. Our bodies face each other in an open posture and we begin to mirror each other’s movements and gestures and we smile. As we do all this the cocktail of love chemicals begin to flow through our system and we are hooked, we feel the love?
The dominant hormone is dopamine that is known as the love drug. However it is also the hormone of excitement and addiction. As our relationship develops the dopamine subsides and the oxytocin takes over. Dopamine is excitement and often erotic love that can be short lived, while oxytocin is bonding and friendship that is the love that lasts a lifetime.
The first flush of love can keep us up all night talking. We may become so excited that we stop eating. Dopamine is hard work and is not sustainable in the long term unless we become dopamine junkies.
The honeymoon period of dopamine will often fade into the friendship of oxytocin after two years or so. But, dopamine is an important stimulator and driver of everyday life and people will seek ways to get dopamine. This is usually through fun and new experiences. Dopamine and adrenaline often run together and when we see someone as an adrenaline junkie they will also be getting big hits of dopamine.
When dopamine gets out of control people will seek new, exciting and sometimes dangerous behaviours to feed their dopamine habit. One of these is to have affairs. In the extreme this becomes the serial philanderer. The question that couples often ask is can we keep the levels of dopamine high and working in our relationship. The answer is, of course, yes, though it depends on the nature of your relationship as to what constitutes excitement.
Because many people associate dopamine with sex and love the focus of creating more dopamine in a relationship is often based around sexuality, hence the issue of affairs. Many opt for spicing up their relationship with role-play, sex toys, multiple partners and so on. However if you think of dopamine and being a response to fun, newness and challenge there are many ways to get a dopamine hit. It is based around the things that we do together as a couple and that they both find fun and stimulating.
Top of the list always is fun laughter exacerbates dopamine production. New experiences. Doing things and going places that you have never been before and, that often means travel and holiday. Doing the same things in the same way can be great from an oxytocin point of view but to get dopamine it needs to be new and novel.
Date nights for many couples will reintroduce dopamine. Going to the theatre, concerts, self development groups. Having something new to talk about. Allowing your partner to challenge you. Maybe doing something that they would like to do, so that you are doing their thing with them.
Go back and re-read the second paragraph. Re-enacting some of those behaviours can reignite the dopamine in a relationship. That is where the spark is. That is where it started and that is where is still is.
Take care, stay happy and keep sparking!