Few topics fascinate people more
than love. We think about it,
we talk about it, we hope for
it, we fantasize about it,
and we may feel that
our lives are incomplete without it.
Most of us know how it feels to
love ... and to be loved. We may not know how and why we fall in love or how and why we fall out of love.
Were you taught that romance is magical?
Were you taught that falling in love was an important effortless
step to a happy life? Were you taught that partnership is
easy ... if you love each other enough? Do you still believe these myths?
Falling in love can be profoundly wonderful;
while falling out of love can bring profound suffering.
A Brief Psychobiology of Love
People's brains change when they are in love
- in similar ways to some mental illnesses or illicit drugs. Falling in love can be
very addictive, and falling out of love is often associated with withdrawal symptoms!
Scientists often focus on what can
be easily measured, and rarely appreciate other
important aspects of human
existence such as personality, beliefs and values.
Kosjenka Muk, MA, Soulwork Trainer
Falling in love seems to have three main phases,
each associated with hormones and neurotransmitters.
- Lust is driven by estrogen and testosterone
(affecting both men and women).
- Attraction is associated with dopamine and
serotonin. People in love may feel obsessed. They may
eat less, sleep less and day-dream about their partner.
- Attachment supports a lasting commitment and helps
bond lovers together. This is associated with vasopressin and
There's convincing evidence that
oxytocin is involved in mediating stability, pair bonding
and monogamy; the enduring parts of love Dr. Hans Zingg, McGill
Most people experience a surge of oxytocin
bonding during extended touch, for example during sex or massage, and a surge of
dopamine during arousing activities. Both trigger feelings of love and romance.
As love can be addictive (probably to forms of
amphetamine-like adrenaline), falling in love can have symptoms like
substance abuse, and falling out of love can have serious mental health
repercussions, similar to symptoms of withdrawal from addictive
If children do not feel loved and connected in
childhood, they can split-off their needy hunger, to survive disappointment and stay sane. But they can become aggressive, passive-aggressive
or passive victims as adults. Some adults confuse need
Emotional emptiness (dissociation) is not love -
nor even a desire for love. People who try to fill their lonely voids are
unlikely to seek healthy relationships. They are more likely to fixate on or
obsess about codependent or symbiotic relationships. Their split-off childish
selves (inner child) may seek
some sort of parental love.
We find that homosexual and bisexual fantasies often appear
to be linked with same-sex parental entanglements.
Choosing a Partner
People select potential partners both consciously
and unconsciously, and some people say that they cannot override their strong
motivations. Depending on your history, you may feel particularly attracted to ...
- people with authority
- people who appear rich
- people who resemble a media figure
- people who act like a parent, sibling
or past love
You may have believed your first infatuation
was true love because you had never before experienced
such emotional intensity. You will probably remember this
experience for the rest of your life ... and compare future
experiences to it. (And you may be irritated by people
who dismissed it as puppy-love).
To fall in love with someone else, you may compare
that person to your (often immature) first-love experience. If your
feelings match your criteria, you may again decide that you are in love.
You may feel that a person is a true
love because you remember your feelings with that person and
your memories of that person as one thing ... but they are
two things. (And you may later discover that you loved your
feelings more than the other person.)
We help people learn from
disappointments ... as steps to healthy partnership.
Love and Happiness
I often define happiness as a profound experience of well-being
and fulfillment that survives and even grows
during hard times. Many people feel emotionally whole when they care
about the happiness of other people; and when those other people care about
their happiness. When someone supports their happiness and life purpose, they
may feel connected to that person and included in that person's life.
Yet love, as I was taught to understand
it, is often a cover or an excuse for unhealthy behavior. When I coach people
in unhappy partnerships, I often ask, "Why do you want to stay
together?" Often the first answer I hear is "because we love
You asked us, "Why do you want to
stay together?" I said lots of stupid things at first
but the real answer was fear ... fear of being alone, fear of a
cold bed, fear of a worse relationship and so on. Canada
To enjoy a healthier intimate partnership, you can
first examine your beliefs about romantic love. If your
beliefs about romance are based on fairy tales, popular songs and movies from your
childhood, then you are likely to be disappointed in your intimate relationships
- again and again.
Children notice that if they are obedient and cooperative,
their parents smile and touch them gently and speak kindly.
Parents communicate their love for their children by their behavior.
Real children sometimes fight, make noise, get bad grades and make
a mess. Do parents still smile and speak gentle, kind words? Just as people
communicate that we are loved, the absence of those behaviors can communicate
a lack of love. Children learn: “I am only loved if I do certain things.”
Substitutes for Love
People who feel unloved often try to fill their emptiness with
distractions and substitutes - money, sex, alcohol, drugs, violence, video games
and chocolate are common.
Like other addictions, the pleasure of praise, power, fun, money and sex
become increasingly brief. People work harder to get the desired effect, and
eventually become exhausted and frustrated. They still feel disconnected.
I did everything I could. I praised him, I pleasured
him and I tried to give him everything
he asked for. I just wanted the same treatment. I
wanted us both to feel good.
But we just got more and more irritated with each
other until we broke up.
Often, falling in love is jus an exchange of
substitutes. Many people start relationships based on what they hope to receive
and expect to give. This marketplace attitude may be great for
affairs, but seems to be a poor foundation for partnership.
Rebuilding Failed Relationships
When troubled couples ask us for crisis coaching,
they are often confused, wondering how they changed from
soul mates to combatants.
At first we made each other very happy but later
we both felt that each other had
somehow failed, and we both blamed
each other for withholding love ... our
marriage became a stupid battle of,
"Who failed first?" Florida
Relationships based on substitutes will likely fail
- no matter how wonderfully the couple felt in the beginning. Later,
when the effects of substitutes wear off, as all lies do, such people
are often left clinging to broken dreams and spreading damaging beliefs.
Relationship problems can be solved
with mature partnership skills.
Online Life Coaching for Loving Relationships
I thought you were just
another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.
Plagiarism is theft. Copyright ©
Martyn Carruthers 2004-2018
All rights reserved.