Falling in love and loving are not the same thing, although sometimes we think that the two terms are synonymous. Love is born slowly, initially we experience infatuation accompanied by strong emotions. These are due to chemicals that affect the brain. Infatuation is often based on a fascination with the other person, we look at them through rose-coloured glasses, which can be quite deceptive for us. It is one of the stages leading to true love, accompanied by erotic attraction. We usually try to make the best possible impression on the other person, which is why we sometimes pass the buck and declare a great love for indie cinema. Later on, it turns out that we rarely watch these types of productions. Love is born with time and is more conscious.
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Is there love at first sight, or is it just falling in love?
What is love at first sight as portrayed in romantic comedies? From a psychological point of view, it is infatuation, which is based on desire and physical fascination. We often unconsciously choose a partner based on our past experiences. E.g. in childhood we were strongly attached to an uncle who gave us a lot of attention. In adulthood, we may look for men who have a similar appeal to him. Unfortunately, we do not always follow good role models. Sometimes life is driven by a repetition compulsion, also known as Young’s pattern chemistry, so we get into toxic relationships. We reproduce patterns we know from the family home. If Dad was emotionally cool, we are fascinated by men who keep their distance. Love at first sight makes us attribute numerous qualities to a partner. This happens under the influence of chemicals that interact with the brain. Dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and phenylethylamine provide us with an amorous ‘high’. They make us think obsessively about the person who has caught our eye. We want to get to know her as well as possible and spend every free moment with her. Fortunately, it is possible to approach this stage in a more mindful way. By nurturing mindfulness in ourselves, we will see the true face of the other person. We will avoid idealisation and it will be easier to create a good relationship.
What is infatuation vs. falling in love?
What is infatuation? It is a state we experience at the beginning of a romantic relationship. Over time it can develop into true, deep love, but it does not always enter the next phase. Infatuation can be addictive because it is accompanied by the release of serotonin, dopamine, phenylethylamine and endorphins. When we fall in love, we suddenly stop stressing about work, finances and other problems. We do not feel hungry or tired. We want to spend every free moment with the other person, we give up our passions, our favourite TV series and meetings with friends for them. We are physically attracted to each other and the growing desire makes it impossible to keep our hands off each other.
What are the stages of infatuation?
There are stages of infatuation that follow one another, bringing the relationship to a higher level. Once the infatuation has passed, we can experience mature love. How can you tell if it is love or infatuation? Infatuation initially resembles obsession, but this does not mean that it is worth indulging in unreflectively. By choosing a partner consciously, we will avoid potential disappointments. Below I briefly outline the successive stages of falling in love.
Stage 1 Fascination and desire
A romantic relationship begins with physical fascination accompanied by strong desire. How is desire born? Phenylethylamine, which is secreted at this stage, has a high structural similarity to amphetamine and acts like a drug. At this stage, it is difficult to focus on work, the development of passions and an active social life. Many couples spend every free moment together, unable to take their hands off each other. The love cocktail, which consists of serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and phenylethylamine, intensifies desire.
Stage 2: Romantic infatuation
We are the only species to experience romantic infatuation. Chimpanzees, with whom we share up to 98% of our genes, show compassion, care and interest in each other, but do not experience this state. At this stage of infatuation, the partner seems an extremely fascinating person. We often strongly idealise him or her; on the other hand, everyone wants to show his or her best side, so he or she takes steps that he or she would not normally take. Thanks to a romantic infatuation, we go to a rock concert together, although we prefer softer music. We do this for our partner because we want to make him or her happy. This phase of infatuation is also characterised by the fact that we take the separation badly, even when the other party is only going away for a weekend to visit his or her parents.
Stage 3: Commitment to the relationship
At this stage, sex still plays an important role, as does giving pleasure to your partner. At the same time, we start to get involved in the relationship. We try to get to know the other person better and enter into a closer relationship with them. We ask questions and openly express our needs. We talk about our emotions, desires, joys and fears. We are also keen to learn about our partner’s experiences. We try to be emotionally supportive of him or her. At this stage of falling in love, there is also concern and a desire to share what we have. Some people decide to move in together.
When does infatuation pass and love appear?
Infatuation and love are two completely different states, although infatuation lays the foundation for a mature relationship. Not all couples manage to make the most of it. Infatuation is largely controlled by chemicals that affect the brain. Serotonin puts us in a good mood. Dopamine stimulates the reward system, which is why moments spent together give us so much pleasure and temporarily cut us off from our friends. Phenylethylamine is responsible for obsessive thoughts about the other person. When it is released, we are unable to eat or sleep because we focus on daydreaming about our future together. Endorphins make us feel happy. The love ‘high’ cannot last forever, because it would have a negative impact on our family, professional and social life. The world would not develop; moreover, we would not be able to concentrate on caring for a child or expanding our knowledge. Nature has “programmed” us in such a way that after 1.5 years, 2-4 years at the most, the concentration of the above-mentioned substances decreases. We then stop looking at our partner through rose-coloured glasses, but instead see his or her flaws. Love and falling in love – psychology approaches this issue with great care. Researchers are conducting studies on serial monogamy. They explain why some of us end one relationship every three to four years and enter another. This is because they become addicted to the state of being in love and try to infuse themselves with a love ‘cocktail’.
What is true love?
How do you know true love? True love is more than falling in love, mutual fascination and sparkling desire, it is experienced by emotionally mature people who accept their partner along with his or her flaws. How is it formed from the viewpoint of chemistry and psychology?
Infatuation and love – these two states are most easily differentiated by referring to the results of research at the interface of chemistry and neuroscience. For years, we have believed that infatuation is transcendent. In fact, at the beginning of a relationship, physical fascination speaks through us. We meet a man who arouses desire in us because his appeal resembles someone we like. Sometimes we are aware of what attracts us, but very many motives remain unconscious. For example, we may be attracted to tall brunette men who resemble a beloved uncle, yet remain emotionally unavailable like our father. When we meet either of them on our path, the body starts to secrete serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and phenylethylamine. This mixture affects the brain and makes the other person our obsession. After 1.5 years, 2-4 years at the most, the synthesis of the above-mentioned compounds decreases, but in their place others appear that can help us nurture true love. Oxytocin and vasopressin show strong bonding activity. Their concentration varies between the sexes. In women, oxytocin, which is produced during cuddling, sex and holding hands, is responsible for attachment to the partner. Men need up to twice as much touch to have a similar physiological effect, so in men vasopressin is behind mature love. The more receptors for this hormone there are in their body, the more strongly they attach themselves to their partner. Some scientists believe that male infidelity is fostered by insufficient vasopressin receptors, but this seems to be an oversimplification. Everyone can make conscious decisions at the stage of falling in love and mature love by being mindful and asking themselves important questions. When we are emotionally mature, we do not derail a relationship because of a quarrel in our relationship with our partner or his taste in music. We see the qualities as well as the flaws in him or her. We recognise that difficult emotions arise in any romantic relationship. We try to resolve conflicts using open communication based on mutual respect. We nurture love because we see that we have met a special person who shows us care and trust. We have managed to build closeness and intimacy together, so we do not want to squander this romantic relationship. We know that mature love, although not accompanied by butterflies in the stomach, is a precious gift. We feel pleasure at the sight of our partner, but we tolerate temporary separations quite well, which are due, among other things, to the necessity of a business trip of a few days. True love is free of jealousy and control, so we don’t mind our partner seeing friends. We ourselves also cultivate bonds with friends and relatives. We support our partner in his or her career and find time for work that provides us with satisfaction. We are happy to have deeper conversations because the other person still seems fascinating. We make plans together and try to realise them. All this provides us with happiness and satisfaction. We do not regret that the butterflies in our stomachs have disappeared, because we are able to nurture mutual desire and see the advantages of a mature relationship.
Love – does this state pass?
True love is characterised by a high level of commitment from both partners, who nurture a close bond. Unfortunately, sometimes we neglect the relationship for various reasons. If we don’t notice this in time and start showing interest in each other, love can die. In my publications, I often compare this beautiful feeling to a garden. Unfortunately, even the most magnificent one will become overgrown with weeds if we do not find time for it. Love is constant commitment, interest, curiosity, care and deepening intimacy. In addition, in longer-term relationships, it is sometimes worth stoking desire so that this does not die out.
How do we know if we are in love or already in love?
We already know that being in love and being in love are not the same thing, but we often cannot tell what stage we are at. What is worth paying attention to? The length of the relationship provides a lot of valuable information. If it lasts a few weeks or months, we are in love. We have butterflies in our stomachs and obsessive thoughts about our partner. At the infatuation stage, we cannot function without our partner. We feel uncomfortable staying longer at work instead of meeting him or her at 4 p.m. Our relationship is fuelled by lust, which encourages a rich sex life. We often don’t feel hungry, tired or stressed. We try to show our best side and clean the flat thoroughly before our partner arrives. We see our soul mate in him or her and see no flaws. Mature love benefits from awareness. We know that the other party often brings emotions from work, but we accept this. We have built a solid relationship foundation, so we don’t spend every moment together. We go out to friends, relatives and cultural events. Desire is less than at the beginning of the relationship, but we try to fuel it. Sometimes, when we feel tired, we prefer to replace sex with cuddling. True love is based on mutual respect, trust, care, commitment, closeness and intimacy.
What is the difference between falling in love and love?
What is falling in love? It can be said to be a prelude to love. It is based on desire and physical fascination. It takes place in a less conscious manner, as many people experience cognitive filtering. They perceive their partner in a fragmented way, often overlooking their flaws. When the idealisation sustained by phenylethylamine and dopamine ends, certain characteristics of the other person become oppressive. True love is based on conscious choices. We choose to nurture a relationship even though we know our partner has flaws. We accept his or her vices because he or she provides us with emotional support. A romantic relationship is cemented by mutual respect, care, commitment, closeness, trust in the relationship and intimacy.
How do we build lasting love?
Lasting love begins with a careful choice of partner. We often say that we were struck by Sicilian lightning and see this as the influence of destiny. This beautiful and romantic approach makes it difficult to build a healthy relationship. We have grown up with stories that end with a happy ending. Two people’s paths cross, love falls on them like a bolt from the blue and then they live happily ever after. It is not worth relying on fate and believing that destiny will put the right partner in front of us. Once we have been struck by the Sicilian lightning, the fascination with another person – infatuation – has set in, it is best to ask ourselves a few questions and answer them carefully. Although it is said that falling in love takes away our sanity, it is up to us to keep it.
Young’s schema chemistry is responsible for getting into more toxic relationships. We like to recreate familiar scenarios and so we choose partners similar to our parents. When we realise this, we stop repeating the same mistakes. We will gain the chance to build a healthy and happy relationship. It is much easier to build a lasting relationship when we look at the other person and not the ideal image we have created in our head. The stages of falling in love favour idealisation, because of phenylethylamine it is easier for us to accept certain inconveniences. Over time, its level will drop, and then the ‘cute’ disadvantage can become a nuisance. It is not worth getting involved in a relationship with someone who does not meet our expectations, e.g. does not have a stable job and often asks for a loan. True love becomes the experience of emotionally mature people who have realistic needs and boundaries. It requires a great deal of self-awareness and commitment. When the love ‘high’ wears off, it all depends on whether we can nurture the feeling and fuel the desire. If we make the assumption that “he/she/it loves me and will stay that way”, we will be met with disappointment.
Conclusion – falling in love versus love
Falling in love is a beautiful state that makes us temporarily free from the stress of work and peer pressure. We look at the world through rose-coloured glasses and are more optimistic. We are less likely to feel tired, less tempted by high-calorie snacks and the butterflies in our stomachs make us firm believers in the myth of the two halves of the apple. I don’t want to deprive you of the pleasure of infatuation. What I do want is for everyone to enter into romantic relationships with more care, because with conscious choices, infatuation has a chance of turning into true love. The latter has a solid foundation of mutual trust, respect, care, commitment and intimacy. Unfortunately, even it can burn out if we forget to fan the flame.