3 Types of Love That Might Change the Way You View Your Relationship
Loving someone and falling in love can make us experience a ton of contrasting feelings that are often too complex to put into words. That’s where the ’’biology of love’’ can come in handy to help us understand why we feel the way we do. American anthropologist and researcher in the field of romantic relationships, Helen Fisher, has come up with an interesting theory based on the belief that not all love is experienced equally and that romantic love can be broken down into 3 different types.
Love is always an intriguing topic for us here at Bright Side, so we decided to dig deeper and discover the characteristics of each type.
Scientists, like Fisher, have looked into neurobiological and cognitive processes underlying attraction and love, and they’ve begun to identify different feelings that occur at different stages of romantic relationships, out of which lust or infatuation is the first.
Similar to lust, infatuation, comes from the so-called reptilian brain and is pure as it is basic. It’s a feeling that most of us can easily relate to — the urge for intimacy with a person we barely know anything about. It’s immediate and based on the physical and behavioral elements of attraction. In the infatuation stage of love, the hypothalamus of the brain plays an important role, stimulating the production of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.
That’s why this phase is usually marked by a sense of newness and euphoria. The rush of hormones can also make us feel irrationally excited and obsessive. Feelings at this stage can shift constantly and they sometimes fade just as quickly as they came, but infatuation can also be a stepping stone to a long-lasting, mature intimacy.
Passion, or the emotional connection between 2 people, stems from the mammalian brain. Our brain overflows with dopamine and norepinephrine, making people feel like they are “smitten” by each other. They gaze into each other’s eyes, want to spend every waking moment together, stay up until 5 AM together talking... These chemicals make us energetic and euphoric, which sometimes leads to insomnia and a decreased appetite. Passion involves a high level of emotional chemistry, which is why it has the power to hinder a person’s logical reasoning.
Blinded by passion, we get carried away and project an imaginary future of the relationship, which doesn’t always come to true. According to science, a serious test of the relationship’s future and couple’s compatibility usually happens after spending 6-12 months together. Passion can sometimes fade away as a result of a lack of newness, but some couples manage to keep this spark alive for decades.
As love becomes more mature, different parts of the brain get activated. Some couples claim to be madly in love even after years of being together. In one of her studies, Fisher discovered that some middle-aged couples showed almost the same brain activity as young lovers. Indeed, with one exception: in long-term lovers, regions of the brain associated with anxiety were no longer active, and instead, areas associated with serenity were activated.
Commitment, or attachment, is when the passion continues for long enough that it becomes unconditional. Attachment is one of the most important factors in long-term relationships. While infatuation and passion dominate romantic affairs, attachment plays an important role in parent-infant bonding, friendships, and many other forms of intimacy as well.
The 2 primary hormones released at this stage are oxytocin and vasopressin. If there is long-term compatibility between people and if passion persists over a long period, the couple continues to share new life experiences together indefinitely and commitment arises.
On the other hand, some couples can’t get past stages 1 and 2. The relationship usually feels perfect until something negative happens: loss of a job, health problems, annoying habits, etc. Commitment requires people to accept and love the other person’s flaws as much as their positive traits. Scientists have shown that for couples who reach that level of commitment, their senses of self actually merge with the other person’s.
Commitment is based on the idea that the relationship will last forever. The only way it can end is if people in the relationship change their personality to the point where it becomes harmful for the other person. For example, continuous cheating, substance abuse, etc. Sometimes, even then, the power of commitment persists, depending on the individuals. Passion and lust can vanish well after commitment is born without affecting the commitment.
Of course, these different stages of love don’t have to exclude each other. A couple that keeps working on their relationship can remain passionate and infatuated by one another years after commitment and attachment have formed.
Have you experienced all 3 kinds of love? What do you think of these scientific findings? Tell us about it in the comments.