My definition of love changes as I experience my own version of love and acknowledged the feeling inside. When I was young, I thought that love is the fireworks you see in Disneyland, the hot passionate, full-on love. As I grew older, I realised love is the quiet bug that creeps up on a Sunday morning, to flip over and cuddle my favourite person and spend the morning with kisses and silly laughters. Today, I think love is a choice. A choice to continuously love that person because that person is the world’s strongest drug. I love love. I still think love is the best thing we, humans, do.
Came across this video today on the science of love. It’s beautiful. It might be a confirmation bias on what I think love is, but it is a bias that I acknowledge and accept.
Love is an intense desire for another. Different from lust, love has a longevity of positive expectation in the horizon of time. Different from family love, there is an intense desire of possession. Love is good. We need love.
Different Types of Love
There is family love that I like to come back to. I think that is a very high level of love, where I want nothing but you to be happy. I care for you, together or from a distance. I really wish the best and nothing more for you. When I deem someone as a true friend, they fall into the family category. Family love is more than blood connection.
And there’s romantic love.
Love is Addiction
Love is literally an addiction. In the MRI scan, different parts of your brain lights up when you think about family love vs romantic love. In romantic love, dopamine goes up. Dopamine is the reason for addiction — the brain version of reward. We want to do it again. Love literally is a drug that makes us addicted.
That explains heartbreaks. It is literally a withdrawal symptom of the drug — love. The feeling of depression that comes from heartbreaks, when the brain stops producing the dopamine it was once addicted to.
Oxytocin, the other drug, is present during cuddle time. That explains why I’m so addicted to cuddles. The feeling my brain gets from cuddles is so safe and intense. Neurotransmitters are really dictating our actions and behaviours, aren’t they!
Stages in Love
I like the honeymoon stage. It’s the state of drunk in love. It’s cute. It grossly overlooks all the flaws and both people live in a happy bubble. In the brain language, the cognitive regions in the prefrontal cortex that deals with rationality and decision making shuts down. I guess it’s like being high and the brain stops functioning normally. Everything is irrationally possible and dopamine keeps the brain high in love.
I prefer the next stage — saturday morning hungover then greasy brunch. When you’re drunk, the worst thing is the hangover on saturday morning. But the best thing is when you have your favourite person to spend hangover with. And that is what post-honeymoon is like. The cloud clears, the dopamine subsides. You see what reality is and you love it. Life is 80% downtime. And it’s this chosen person you decide to spend the downtime with. That’s love.
Everyone can have the honeymoon stage. It’s finding the person to spend the “saturday morning hangover and then bunch” stage with. I’m the biggest advocate for “try before you buy”. Don’t settle for the first person you had the honeymoon stage with. Don’t wait for marriage before you have someone in you. Try and experience lots of love, many sizes, different styles. Then decide on what you want and marry that person as your forever lover.
Like Helen Fischer (PhD), I think it is fantastic that people are having more FwB, FB, ONS, short-term relationships. Because you gotta experiment! You need to live together, travel together, cook together, learn together, disagree and debate. Then decide on marrying and being together forever.
I’m old school, but I think marriage is something you should only do once. And you jolly well be drug-addicted to this lover. Keep those dopamine and oxytocin coming. And since this is a difficult decision, take time, diversify and run randomised trial tests! Life isn’t so difficult. It’s one big experiment with a hypothesis to test on love.
You can have fast love (like system 1 in Kahneman) with anyone. But slow love, the stage 2 in love, is precious. It’s slow also because the prefrontal cortex is taking into consideration this new dopamine that tries to crowd out its decision making abilities. And it is adjusting to this dopamine, adapting to it and still possess the ability to make rational decisions.
I think that solves the vexation of why I’m different when I’m single and when I’m in love. Lisa is love is irrational because my prefrontal cortex sucks at making decisions at the presence of dopamine! #sciencebitch
As I grew older and experienced more types of love, I learn to manage the dopamine attacks and still manage to be me. This is perhaps how relationship can take over someone’s personality, because the brain is quite dumb at dealing with this addictive drug called love.