Most people don’t think about what is happening in their brains when they are in love. It’s all about the heart, right? After all, Cupid doesn’t shoot an arrow at your brain on Valentine’s Day — he points it at your heart! And everything that happens when you are in love, as your heart races and the mere sight of that special someone takes your breath away, can only be described as a giant ball of feel-good emotions.
So, it’s natural that anyone with a brain would shout HEART if asked, “does being in love come from the brain or heart?”
Do you really know why and how you love your partner the way you do?
Being in love is more about the brain than the heart! Obviously, we all know the physical heart pumps blood and carries oxygen and nutrients around your body. Of course, the brain is where everything starts; our emotions, feelings, and yes, even how quickly we fall in love. All the emotions we feel come from the Limbic System, which ties to executive functioning such as logic, judgment, reasoning, and impulse control. So, when we fall in love, blood flow increases and lights up the pleasure center of the brain. At the same time, there’s a flood of feel-good chemicals that trigger specific physical and emotional reactions in all of us.
Just a few of those emotional (heart) reactions include:
- Fear (of rejection)
A few of the physical reactions include:
- Heart racing
- Flushed cheeks
- Sweaty palms
- Dilated pupils
- Voice changes
- Increased energy
- Accelerated breathing
- Hormonal changes
Sure, love is manifested in the heart and is easy to point to when we are in love (think heart-shaped candies instead of brain-shaped ones), but it’s our brain that causes our heart to react this way.
Feel-good chemicals in the brain
There are seven chemicals produced by the brain that scientists generally point to that increase or decrease when someone falls in love: Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Serotonin, Testosterone, Estrogen, Oxytocin, and Vasopressin.
According to a study by Loyola University Health Systems, dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine increase when two people fall in love. Dopamine creates feelings of euphoria while adrenaline and norepinephrine lead to heart racing, restlessness, and overall preoccupation with the person we are in love with. Love also lowers serotonin levels, which is a big reason for the “love is blind” theory. In other words, we only see what we want to see in the early stages of being in love.
Dr. Helen Fisher at Rutgers breaks romantic love down into three categories. Though there are overlaps, each has its own set of hormones or feel-good chemicals stemming from the brain.
- Lust — Testosterone and Estrogen. This is the phase where we experience strong desire for another person. (Don’t get hung up on the word lust; by definition, it is simply a strong desire for someone or something
- Attraction — Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin. We have an overwhelming fixation with our partner.
- Attachment — Oxytocin and Vasopressin. We experience a feeling of security synonymous with lasting relationships.
Now, we are not saying our brain is taking over and we are not in control of ourselves when all these chemicals and neurotransmitters are firing (although it may feel that way and some may use that as an excuse for their behaviors). We all have the ability for self-control. But how amazing is it that this incredible body God has created can help us to fall in love and stay in love too!
Real love is not a feeling but comes from intentional choices we make to care for others in words and actions that reflect God’s love for each of us. We have a lot of help from our brains to fall in love and feel good about our partner, no doubt! Loving well comes from decisions and desires to use all those “feel good” chemicals intentionally and appropriately.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is and always has been devoted to caring about people and ensuring they have the tools to understand the emotions they are feeling — especially when they are falling in love. The best way we know how to do that is to spread the word to more people. Let them know that we are here by forwarding the email you received or by sharing this blog through the social media buttons below.
In the meantime, what do you think? Does being in love come from the brain or heart? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.