The Chemistry of Love

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. — C.G. Junglovers

Why do we fall in love with one person rather than another? That was the question posed to renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher by Match.com in 2004. Why an anthropologist? you ask. Interestingly, studies have concluded that romantic love isn’t an emotion. It’s a drive. According to Fisher, romantic love is one of 3 basic brain systems that evolved for reproduction. The sex drive evolved to get you out there searching for a mate; romantic love helped you focus on one person at a time; and attachment kept you bonded long enough to raise a family.

By 2004 research had concluded that chemistry leads us to love, but science had yet to crack the code on why we fall for one person rather than another. Match.com asked Fisher to figure this out. She agreed to help them create a new dating site, Chemistry.com. To begin, she drew on her knowledge of how personality traits sync up with four brain chemicals: dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen, and then categorized them into distinct personality types.

fisher

  • Explorers are driven by the dopamine system. These types are novelty seeking, energetic and restless.
  • Builders produce greater amounts of serotonin, a chemical  associated with calmness, cautiousness, and tradition.
  • Directors are fueled by testosterone, a chemical linked to intellectualism, straightforwardness, and tough-mindedness.
  • Negotiators produce more estrogen, making them more imaginative, emotionally intense, and desirous of intimacy.

Next, Fisher developed a questionnaire to determine the personality types of nearly 40,000 Match.com subscribers. She needed to prove that each type thinks and acts differently; and she did. Now her goal was to see if a person’s unique temperament dictated who they chose to date. Do opposites attract? Or do we prefer people who think and behave like us?

If you’re chuckling to yourself (or cursing under your breath), you’re probably in a relationship with someone who has a different style than yours. Fisher found that Directors are drawn to Negotiators, and Negotiators to Directors. On the other hand, Builders and Explorers, gravitate to partners who are more like themselves. To date, over 7 million individuals have completed Fisher’s questionnaire to help themselves find the “perfect” match. Some even resulted  in marriage. Last year, 17% of internet matches led to marriage. Good news, don’t you think? Yet still, the divorce rate in the U.S. hovers around 50% and the average marriage lasts 8.8 years. So if the chemistry is right, why do the flames of love expire?

Science continues to search for answers. One answer, paradoxically IS chemistry. As with any fire, embers need to be stoked. When the sparks of romantic love fade—approximately 18 months to 3 years into a relationship—couples need to stir things up. Additional brain studies have found that novelty and excitement keep romantic love alive. Research from New York’s Stony Brook University found that couples who regularly do new and different things together are happier than those who repeat the same old habits. The theory suggests that new experiences activate the dopamine system and mimic the brain chemistry of early romantic love.

So, instead of planning a romantic dinner this Valentine’s Day, go rock-climbing or scuba diving (exciting), visit a new city or music venue (novel), climb a mountain or take a tango lesson (energizing). Explore new frontiers in the bedroom, or better yet, role-play at a secluded hideaway (tantalizing). Take risks with your lover, again and again, so that chemistry of love can continue to work it’s magic.

To learn more ways to keep love alive, check out this cool infographic, The Secrets of Happy Coupling.  And, if you need help in opening your heart to love again or rekindling the flames in a tired relationship, call me for a complimentary consultation @ 678-360-6018.

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