Love is more than a chemical reaction, or even an emotion. It is a state of mind and heart that thrives when we choose to nurture it.
What is love? Modern science would like you to believe that the latest answer to this timeless question is that love is a chemical reaction, which is not very romantic. Is it true though? Let us look at this more completely.
First, we will acknowledge the current data. According to scientific research, emotions are generated during the process of meeting and falling in love because of chemical reactions that occur in our bodies. For example, whenever you first meet someone and feel attracted, your brain creates phenyl ethylamine, known as the “love drug.” Dopamine and norepinephren are two more chemicals that arise from just thinking loving thoughts about another. Those two help us to feel excited and interested enough to actually touch or kiss someone, and that sets off more chain reactions, beginning with serotonin, which produces feelings of relaxation. Now the door to trust is open.
If you continue to snuggle with this chemically stimulating person, then oxytocin is created. Oxytocin causes us to feel connected to those we hug or touch on a regular basis, such as our spouses and family members. Vasopressin, another powerful chemical, then ties many of our feelings to memories, and these help us to stay connected to the ones we love. Vasopressin has been credited for making human beings monogamous.
Other foods and activities can also stimulate these chemicals in our bodies, but some people tend to ignore this and try to use the chemical theory as a reason for all kinds of behaviors. For example, some people seem addicted to the stimulatory love chemicals, and they attempt to keep a constant supply by having multiple partners. This need for constant excitement is a popular excuse for those who have the urge to wander, who say that monogamy or commitment are unnatural. When the phenyl ethylamine, dopamine, and norephinephren run low because the newness of a relationship wears off, they are off to new horizons to find more.
Others may use the chemical theory to explain why some people stay in relationships that are bad for them. Perhaps they have become addicted to the “holding on” chemicals, oxytocin and vasopressin, and cannot bear to part with the source of their drugs.
If chemicals are the sole cause of those behaviors though, then why do a majority of people maintain and cherish long term, and even life-long, love relationships? Many folks achieve renewed excitement from exercise, hobbies, and of course chocolate, which is a known source of phenyl ethylamine. They choose to commit to love partners, even though staying in a long-term relationship is hard work. It requires adjusting to habits that will never match your expectations perfectly. It involves learning patience, dealing with disappointment, and coping with a cycle of emotions that range from sorrow to gratitude, and from lust to nurturing comfort.
The chemical theory also fails to explain why parents continue to love their children long after they have left the home and are no longer around to stimulate the production of oxytocin or vasopressin. It does not explain why committed couples maintain mutual admiration, respect, and desire for one another during long cycles of abstinence or separation that occur due to illness, career changes, and other circumstances.
Love is a feeling, certainly, and chemicals may contribute to that feeling, but like all emotions, that aspect of love comes and goes. Love that becomes a constant is a state-of-mind and heart. It survives because we nurture it, and plant the seeds of the relationship in our soul.
Choosing to love someone is what keeps us in love, even though we know that at various times we may become angry, sad and frustrated towards our loved one. Choosing to love is what makes us stick around until the next wave of desire or tenderness brings us into one another’s arms again. Choosing to love is remembering the good times in the middle of the bad times.
Chemicals cannot make our choices. We choose to open our hearts or not everyday, and this freedom of choice is what makes us human, and fully capable of rising above chemical reactions in order to make spiritual decisions of the heart.