Falling in love is amazing and also something of a mystery. We never really fully know when or how or why we fall in love and we don't always pick the right person to be in love with. But there's nothing quite like the feeling of being in love and being loved in return. It's incredible and intoxicating. We all know how addicting it can be, which helps us understand why cousin Susie is always showing up with a new boyfriend to Sunday dinner. Basically, she's addicted to the feeling of love and not necessarily the guy she's dragging home to meet the parents.
But for those of us who are less content with merely being in love and want to know precisely why we're in love and how we managed to get ourselves into this sweet sticky place, there's plenty of science and research for us to wade through.
Scientists have been studying love for years and are a lot closer to cracking its code than to solving other concerns—like male pattern baldness.
But unless we're scientists ourselves or have a broad sense of curiosity with a lot of free time on our hands, we don't really want to wade through all that paperwork and endless website surfing. So, here are ten reasons (some scientific, some more humorous) for why we feel love and five reasons for why we don't on those rare occasions.
15 Feelin' It: All Excited About You
When someone starts talking about how much they love roller coasters, zip-lines, and sky-diving, some of us can relate to their enthusiasm, and some of us cringe away as we picture the danger they put themselves into just for fun. Hey, you do you, but we'd much rather stay safely on the ground, thank you very much. But what you may or may not know is that you are addicted to the rush of adrenaline which you're receiving and not necessarily the activity itself.
In an article in Science Daily, a Dr. Pat Mumbly Ph.D. states, "Falling in love causes our body to release a flood of feel-good chemicals that trigger specific physical reactions." One of these chemicals is adrenaline. Adrenaline is often the fight or flight hormone and is well-known for being addicting.
When it is paired up with dopamine and serotonin, the effect is wild and hard to really place in the day to day stream of affairs.
So, we call it falling in love and treat it as a super special phenomenon that only occurs rarely when the moon is full, and the birds are singing. On top of that, adrenaline is responsible for the increased heart rate you experience while in love.
14 Feelin' It: Our Brains On Love
We often make fun of our friends when they're in love because all they do is talk about their sweeties and forget to pick up milk or dry-cleaning after work. If we live with them, this can easily go from amusing to irritating and annoying after a while—especially if we needed that milk for our coffee this morning.
But, as Science Daily puts it, this brain thing is completely normal for those of us in love. The chemical responsible is serotonin. Mary Lynn, DO, had this to say on the serotonin-love connection, "Love lowers serotonin levels, which is common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders."
This means that our cousin Freddy who has to have everything clean, spotless and in nice neat lines is very similar to our roommate Sharon when she's madly in love. At least, they are similar on an MRI screen while having their brains examined. There is increased blood flow to the brain when we're in love and the serotonin acts as a roadway for our thoughts to flow which (of course) tend to focus primarily on the one we're in love with. In a way, when our friends accuse us of being obsessed with someone, they're correct.
13 All Fizzled Out: Build A Wall
We all start out as soft, squishy, innocent things when we enter the world as brand-new adults ready to try this grown-up thing for ourselves. Then we encounter our first setback or break-up or job loss, and we decide to go forward anyway because it was just one, right? We can handle one little hurtle in life.
Fast forward several more hurdles, heartbreaks, and setbacks, and we're sitting there building an emotional wall to defend our squishy selves from further battering. This wall can effectively protect us in the meantime while we recover and regroup, but in the long run, it can hinder us.
This wall is often one of the reasons why we find ourselves unable to feel love when we're in a relationship.
Sure, things are fine and dandy, but we've been hurt before and we aren't going to let that happen again. Sometimes this wall begins to build when we're children. Harley Therapy has a list of reasons why we have relationship issues, some of them stem from a lack of attention, affection, and attachment as children. According to attachment theory, if our needs are met, and we're given attention and affection unconditionally as children, we'll develop into emotionally stable adults.
12 Feelin' It: Time To Cuddle
The three stages of falling in love are: lust (fueled by all our fantasies and intense raging hormones or maybe just too much dark chocolate), attraction (which contains adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin level changes—always fun), and attachment. Attachment is the final stage of falling in love and is usually the stage which fully bonds us to our lovers.
The fourth un-discussed stage of love is when we decide to keep loving our partner even when they're annoying and make mistakes like leaving their dirty socks all over the house. The primary hormone responsible for attaching us to our lover is oxytocin. This is the "cuddle hormone," as Examined Existence puts it. This hormone is released by both men and women in large quantities during an orgasm and by mothers during birth which helps them bond with their new babies. In fact, oxytocin is the hormone that triggers labor to begin.
It is also the hormone in men that actually allows them to feel love, and it suppresses their testosterone a bit which helps them relax around us and settles them down for a long relationship. The more we sleep together, the closer we bond with our partners.
11 Feelin' It: The Drive To Create A Family
Another powerful reason that we fall in love is also a bit of an unromantic one. Way back along the path of history, the drive to find suitable mates and further the human race was deeply ingrained into our hardwiring and it is still there to this day. As Dr. Nicki Nance explained in an article on How Stuff Works, "Generally speaking, human 'pair bonding' is a drive to keep the species in existence."
We are unconsciously gauging potential partners for suitability to have children and raise a family with.
There are little cues about every guy which we use to decide if he's likely boasting optimal fertility and the chances of creating strong offspring with him, which vary from man to man but still have pretty similar appearances.
Examined Existence further confirms this drive to make babies by stating, "Actually, falling in love is getting into a beautiful trap set up by nature, a natural occurrence we cannot fight." If we have to procreate, we might as well have fun falling in love with our guy while we're at it, right? This also ensures a stable, safe environment in which to raise our babies. In this era, we get to marry for love, so it's a win-win.
10 All Fizzled Out: Oh, Hormones!
Another hormonal reason for why we don't feel love is due to hormones or a lack thereof. When we're in love, according to Harvard, our brains release a flood of intoxicating chemicals such as dopamine, adrenaline, and oxytocin which all combine to lure us into a state of being high on love and not really paying much attention to anything else. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that if one of these hormones is lacking or off a little, we won't feel the desired high of being in love.
Of course, too much of a good thing is also just as disastrous. Too much dopamine, for instance, can cause erratic behavior and trigger addictions like binge eating and consuming illegal substances to keep that high lasting longer.
These behaviors are obviously not conducive to successful, stable relationships and the deterioration of those can further plunge us into the dark side. Interestingly enough, the hormones behind arousal (though not necessarily behind attachment) can lower our self-awareness, rational thinking and critical thinking which leads to some interesting situations and embarrassing behavior on our part. Makes us wonder why our friends all laugh at us when we're in love, doesn't it?
9 Feelin' It: Familiarity And Proximity
Once the hormones have done their job, there are usually some smaller occurrences which help move us along the path of love. These can vary from minor hormonal or instinctive cues which then trigger the larger doses of dopamine and oxytocin, or they can simply be little things like living close to each other.
According to Business Insider, an experiment was conducted on the students at MIT when the proximity of the dorm rooms was increased. The result was that students felt closer to each other than previously. This was largely due to the chance encounters of passing each other in the hall or dropping in for short visits on their way to the cafeteria. The effect was one of feeling more intimate and relaxed with other.
Since proximity plays such a high role in forming couples, those of us in long-distance relationships are extra special.
Another thing which helps to trigger those lovey-dovey hormones is familiarity. This can either be starting out as friends or by having similar interests and personalities which, Business Insider tells us, can help us understand our man better in the long run. The old myth of "opposites attract" isn't always true.
8 Feelin' It: Attraction Cues
Remember those little cues we mentioned that we unconsciously use when deciding on a mate? Well, the sense of smell is one of them. We women instinctively know this and will put perfume on for a date to make sure he smells us and remembers our scent. But what many of us don't know is that we're attracted to the body's natural smell and varying pheromone levels.
According to Business Insider, when women are ovulating, they are attracted to men with a higher testosterone level based on their smell. Other studies have shown that when hormone changes like menopause occur, this can affect long-term relationships because women are no longer attracted to their mate's scent.
Business Insider further states that another cue we receive or give off for relationship availability is from our body language. If we huddle in a corner with shoulders hunched and arms crossed, we're signaling unavailability (and maybe that we're cold), while if we stand more openly and talk with our hands, we signal we're available (or possibly just very animated). We also look for cues in facial expressions, as well as eye contact, which can increase the lovey-dovey feelings between complete strangers. Hence why eye-gazing is so much fun for couples.
7 All Fizzled Out: And The Gloves Come Off
When we're on the hunt for a potential mate, we have conscious and unconscious lists of priorities. These lists generally help us weed out undesirables and land us the perfect guy for a period of time. Of course, once we're in love and high on the flood of feel-good lovey-dovey hormones, that list flies right out of the window like a bird freed from a cage.
Eventually, the raging hormones settle down and then we're left wondering about the person we're living with and why we're with them in the first place.
According to Bustle, we'll usually try to rationalize things first. Maybe our deal-breakers weren't so important to us, or maybe we can live with them anyway. Hey, maybe we can change our lover (this idea rarely works; we should probably can it and stop trying before we exhaust ourselves).
In the end, though, we had those deal-breakers listed for a good reason, and sooner or later our sweetie will break one of them, and the relationship will end. If you can see that ahead of time, then you can get out early. But if you stay blind, then you'll end up resenting your partner for not being perfect.
6 Feelin' It: How We Dress
When going out on a date, it's important for men to consider what they're wearing. Most of us gals don't really care for guys dressed sloppily in jeans and a ragged faded T-shirt. Wearing a nice suit or even just slacks and a polo shirt shows that he respects us and he's grateful we're going out with him. Plus, a sense of style and class is always attractive.
Meanwhile, we women are usually very good dressers, though a strappy top paired with a mini skirt doesn't scream class and elegance quite like a nice dress does. On top of that, if we take Business Insider's advice, we should wear a splash of red on our dates. Women wear red to attract potential mates (which works extra well if he's color blind and can only see red clearly), while men wear red to give the impression of status which women find very attractive.
It doesn't have to be a whole lot of red either, though no one can really go wrong with a red dress. Just red nails or a scarf and some lipstick in just the right shade is perfect. Plus, he might remember us easier with a signature article.
5 Feelin' It: Come Along Fido
Another cue women look for in a potential mate that can help further the feeling of falling in love is attractive personality traits—more specifically the ones which indict a loving and nurturing person under all his fluff and nonsense which he thinks is attractive. With birds, this usually means whoever has the fluffiest feathers. In the human race, as Business Insider tells us, this means pet owners.
Pet owners indict a nurturing nature with a tendency toward long-term commitment which is what almost any woman wants in a relationship.
Having a pet also makes him appear more relaxed, comfortable and approachable to us, which is always a nice thing when we're out and about looking for new dates.
Psychology Today files this under deliverable characteristics which are key in establishing a relationship. If we have something in common and enough points from our mental checklists of potential mate material are covered, then we're primed to be happy and flooded with the love chemicals our brain so happily supplies. This is why sites like eHarmony have notoriously long personal quizzes to fill out, so they can match us with someone similar enough that we hopefully click and get along well.
4 All Fizzled Out: Needs, Expectations, And Habits
One of the reasons we fall in love is because we feel like our needs are being met and we've found someone who really gets us, unlike everyone else we've encountered in life so far. This satisfied sense of fulfillment helps fuel those lovey-dovey hormones and further cement us into the attachment phase of the relationship.
But sometimes our needs are not fully met or met at all. If the impression at first was that we'd be all set, then this lack of fulfillment can be annoying and disrupt the flood of happy hormones in our brains. Expectations in relationships tend to be rosy pictures of ideal life that clash badly with reality and have the power to completely destroy relationships if left to run their course without bending or breaking.
In this instance, reality will always win. Psychology Today states that we romanticize romantic love and fall too easily in and out of it. To some of us, this is an adventure and fun. For others, it’s very exhausting. If we're constantly in and out of love, eventually our bodies will be exhausted in producing the hormones needed to continue the high, and we'll find ourselves with the same habit but no hormonal response.
3 Feelin' It: Date Ideas
Googling cool date ideas is a fun hobby for some of us, but we rarely stop to consider why some of these dates are more successful than others when the end results of increased adrenaline, dopamine and oxytocin are present. Certain activities can psychologically influence us in the early stages of attraction, beginning a relationship. For example, as Business Insider states, going on a roller coaster or doing something else thrilling with a dash of dangerous for a first date can create rushes of adrenaline which enable us to find our date more attractive.
Men get a rush from dangerous things. This beats their inner anxiety to conquer the activity which confuses their brains a bit and it makes them think they are attracted to the woman they're with.
So by all means, do something adventurous on that first date if you're hoping to win him over.
Another date idea is to go out for hot coffee instead of ice cream as studies have shown that when given a hot beverage, people were more likely to rate their date as having a nice warm personality since their brains were already primed for warmth. It goes without saying that warm is more attractive than cold, which signals unavailability and unresolved issues occasionally. Warm is safe and cold is an emotional risk.
2 Feelin' It: A Smile In Place
Finally, one of the best ways to appear attractive to a potential suitor is to smile and be happy. Anyone can be perceived as beautiful and attractive with a genuine, intense smile of happiness on their face. For some of us, it takes a lot of work to be happy, but the results are often worth it. So, hang in there and keep striving for happy thoughts and frequent genuine smiles.
In an article on How Stuff Works, Dr. Beverly Palmer said, "In order to find love, we must first be able to give love, and we must have this love to give within ourselves. When you feel lovable, you project that out, and other people notice. In searching for a lover, the person who doesn't feel worthy of love can't present themselves as lovable."
Happiness is linked to feeling love for another, as well as feeling lovable because we start out by loving ourselves and choosing to be happy instead of dark and depressed that particular day. This shouts emotional maturity and confidence to anyone eying us for a date while projecting the unlovable vibes signal a lack of confidence and a level of neediness that people rarely find attractive in others.
1 All Fizzled Out: What Is Wrong With Me?!
Sometimes the lack of being in love boils down to the simple fact that we are our own worst enemies. Whether we're aware of it or not, we're all perfectly capable of sabotaging our own happy relationships. Some of us will do so by having unrealistic expectations and getting upset when they go unfulfilled. Others will pick a fight with their partner (which is unfairly quite easy since they know all of our weak points and which buttons to push to get a response).
Then a few of us, according to Harley Therapy, have personality disorders which can interfere with forming relationships.
The rush of hormones begins in the early stages of the developing relationship, and if the process is interrupted before it reaches attraction and attachment, we'll conclude that we can't feel love and will wonder why.
One of these personality disorders is called Avoidant Personality Disorder which affects our ability to feel attraction in the first place. Another one is Borderline Personality Disorder wherein the sufferer is so intent on being loved that it conflicts with their emotional vulnerability and fear of abandonment to the point of overreacting, sabotaging the relationship and suffering from depression. None of these are very attractive. Fortunately, therapy can often help each and every one of us—personality disorder or not.