The chemistry and endeavors of love

Carol Morales

Is love a purely a chemical reaction?

Liberal Studies Major Monika Hernandez doesn’t seem to think so.

Love is based on a chemical reaction that makes us feel “warm, cuddly and attached to others,” said CSUN professor and Social Psychologist Dr. Marlena Piercy.

Anthropologist Helen Fisher, who has done extensive research on the topic, explains feeling of being in love is associated to high levels of neurotransmitters; dopamine and norepinephrine and the low levels of serotonin found in the brain, said Clinical Psychologist Dr. Nancy Blum.

“High levels of norepinephrine are related to imprinting,” Blum, a CSUN professor in the Psychology Department, said. “Imprinting, a term used in connection with geese, is the instinct to follow the fist moving creature they see and that is going to be their mother.”

Blum said researchers believe that the feeling of wanting to be with this person is similar to imprinting – a feeling Hernandez relates to.

“When you are in love, you just can’t stop thinking about that person,” she said.

Hernandez said it’s a feeling of anticipation and you can’t wait to see that person again.

Blum said this type of love is what Fisher refers to as the attraction phase.

“In this phase, you can’t sleep, you can’t stop thinking about that person, you feel exhilarated, you have a lot of energy,” Blum said. “You remember all sorts of little details, you live all sorts of little details that you did together.”

This, she said, is a “very superficial” kind of love.

Hernandez, who has been in a relationship for five years and married for three, agrees.

“The feeling of being in love and all the butterflies that you get, that’s temporary,” she said. “Love takes work. It is something that you need to work at and if you are not willing to put in the work, it’s just going to die.”

The attraction phase, Blum said, tends to last between six to 18 months.

Blum said passing the attraction phase does not mean that couples are not attracted to one another, but that they may not think about one another all the time.

“After this stage,” Blum said, “it doesn’t mean that people are doomed to fall out of love. This is when the third aspect comes in: the attachment system.”

Blum said this stage is not going to be quite often as exhilarating, but it is going to make them feel more comfortable.

Hernandez, a mother of two, said she believes that she is in this stage.

“I am in a very comfortable stage. When you first meet someone, all you present to them is your best,” she said. “You only want them to see you with make up, but you can only maintain that for so long.”

Hernandez said giving out a picture of perfection should not be what love is all about.

“People should get to the point where you are like, ‘Ok I just want to be real, and this is me: the good, the bad, and the ugly,’ ” she said.

If your partner can accept all of you, all of the aspects of you, it becomes really comfortable, Hernandez said.

Blum said many people stay in the attachment phase indefinitely.

Others, like most college students, she said, break up when they are passed the attraction stage because they tend not to have the same kind of thrill.

“Some people end up leaving relationships at this stage. Because they don’t understand the more mature kind of love,” Blum said

Hernandez agrees.

“When that feeling leaves you, you think its over,” she said. “But you don’t realize that it’s not, that you have to work at it.”

Hernandez said the attachment stage is the best stage you can get to, “Where you are just comfortable with one another’s faults and imperfections.”

Blum says people are attracted to specific people, adding that it is related to their early childhood experiences.

“When people are eight years old, there are certain qualities they have been exposed to that they like,” Blum said. “These are the qualities that they end up looking for in a perspective mate.”

Hernandez says she, like many others, grew up with the typical idea of what her partner would be like.

“I think you have this image in your mind of who you are going to marry, what your ideal would be.” she said. “All there is is someone who is perfect for you.”