Love is a complex feeling that can be hard to describe. It can make you feel as light as strawberry cotton candy or as heavy as a brick. It can be as temporary as lust or as permanent as marriage. And it can be as varied as the people who experience it, with some varieties sappy and unrealistic while others are real-world and sometimes even heartbreaking.
Despite all of its complexity, love is one of the most intriguing phenomena on earth. It has been studied in many different fields, including psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and neuroscience. And it has been used to justify both healthy and unhealthy behavior.
But despite all of this research, scientists still don’t know exactly what love is. Some experts argue that it’s an emotion, while others say that it’s a state of mind. And most of us probably fall somewhere in between. While we can all agree that love is a powerful force, it can also be difficult to decipher whether something you’re experiencing is real or just a fling.
In the first stage of falling in love, you may feel a rush of euphoria that includes dopamine (pleasure) and adrenaline (fight or flight). This is why your cheeks get flushed and your palms sweat when you meet someone you like for the first time. As you start to bond with this person, the euphoria can fade and dopamine is replaced by oxytocin (the ‘cuddle’ hormone), which makes you want to be close to this person.
This stage of love is often called infatuation. While you’re infatuated with somebody, you may find it very easy to think about them all the time and dream about spending time together. Your feelings of attraction can be strong enough to cause you to spend a lot of time with this person, regardless of their level of suitability as a long-term partner.
Once you’ve moved past the infatuation phase, you enter a stage of companionate love. This is the part of love that you feel for a person as a friend or a family member, rather than as a sexual partner. It can include feelings of affection, loyalty, and security. It can be hard to distinguish from romantic love, but it is a more stable form of affection.