The dictionary definition of love is “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Some think of their significant other when they hear the term, others of their favorite food or beloved pet.
Today, the word is overused in movies and shows. Most of us roll our eyes as the lead character in the latest rom-com declares, “I’m falling in love with you,” despite barely knowing their partner.
Doesn’t it all seem a bit ridiculous? How can people fall in love so quickly? Neuroscience has answers.
Physiologically, it only takes a fifth of a second for the chemicals in your brain to react and produce that “in love” feeling. So, the next time you see that hot celebrity on TV and feel your heart skip a beat, keep this in mind.
Research shows that men in relationships take an average of 88 days to say the phrase “I love you” to their partners, with some of them even confessing after just one month. The studies also show that, in comparison, women take an average of 134 days to profess their love.
But as incredible as it sounds, science shows that love at first sight may actually exist.
Here’s why. As human beings, we are wired to fall in love—whether we like it or not. Our brains prioritize human contact and reproduction.
“The brain is naturally selected to focus on reproduction, even if you’re not consciously intending to do so,” said Loretta G. Breuning Ph.D. in an interview with Women’s Health Magazine. “Your brain is focused on survival, and reproduction is the pinnacle of survival.”
Putting this aside, there is also the fact that being in love is not unpleasant. It triggers positive feelings, giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling when your crush talks to you—or when you get partnered up for a lab project.
The chemicals in your brain create a sense of euphoria that can be the equivalent of a hit of cocaine, equally as powerful and addictive.
Now, what exactly contributes to this feeling?
The feeling of love arises from the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.
Dopamine is a hormone released when we expect or receive a reward, while serotonin induces a general feeling of contentedness.
Adolescents, in particular, experience these feelings more intensely because our bodies are already undergoing other hormonal changes.
As we develop a deeper connection with our partners, these neurotransmitters ramp up even more. While we might feel euphoric, it is only temporary.
“These brain chemicals are designed to motivate you to take action to seek an unmet need,” Breuning said. “Once that need is met, these chemicals are no longer stimulated.”
Different people are affected by this in different ways. Some people keep chasing the feeling of fresh love, leading to physical or emotional cheating, while others just end up unhappy and unsatisfied.
In the age of social media, it is easier than ever to compare our partners to other people—or to compare our relationship to other couples. Our brains tend to focus on our unmet needs, so even if our partner has 100 good qualities, our brain will jump to their 5 flaws.
These thoughts give us a grass-is-greener mentality, and if we succumb to this, our relationships are not as likely to last.
With all of this in mind, going forward, it’s better to try to keep our minds off of comparisons and focus on the positives.
And remember, there’s no pressure to find someone. It will happen it time, so focus on life and yourself until then.