Love is a concept that has captivated the imagination and inspired artists throughout the ages. The term is often used to describe a romantic and intimate relationship with another person, but it can also refer to other types of relationships, such as companionable or platonic love, or the loving care for an animal. However, the exact definition of love varies from one individual to the next. Some people may know if they’re in love right away, while others take months or even years to figure it out.
Some researchers, such as Paul Ekman, argue that love isn’t actually an emotion, but a complex motivator. However, many other scientists agree that the feelings associated with love are measurable and can be observed in biological and behavioral responses. For example, a person in love will likely smile when thinking about the other person and may feel an internal warmth that radiates from the heart. They will also feel a strong desire to spend time with that person, even when there are other things they could be doing.
The dictionary describes love as a feeling of deep affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties. The Cambridge dictionary offers a more specific definition, describing it as “to like someone very much and be romantically and sexually attracted to them or to have strong feelings of liking a friend or person in the family.” But while love can feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that it isn’t necessarily an intense, immediate sensation. In fact, most of us experience it over a period of time.
There are three phases to falling in love, according to researcher Helen Fisher. The first, lust, is governed by the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, which trigger a rush of physical emotions. The second phase, attraction, is characterized by the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which cause feelings of euphoria and energy. Finally, the third phase, attachment, is triggered by the release of oxytocin and vasopressin, which promote bonding and long-term commitment. However, not all forms of love contain all three stages, and some people fall out of love after only experiencing lust or attraction.
The key to knowing if you’re in love is to pay attention to the small, everyday ways that this person makes you feel. You should also be willing to make the necessary changes in your relationship, such as compromising or prioritizing spending time together. If you’re still unsure, don’t worry – most of the time, your gut will let you know!
AUTHOR: Dr. Jessica Kang is a psychologist at the University of Sydney. She has written articles for the Conversation AU, SBS, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Huffington Post. She is also the author of The Confident Woman’s Guide to Self-Esteem. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.
This article is republished with permission from The Conversation AU. The original article can be found here.
Deakin University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.