There’s no denying that love can do a number on you, whether you’re head over heels, stuck on someone, or completely swept away.
You don’t need to do much more than pick up a book or turn on the radio or TV to hear about love’s effects.
Even the oldest written love song discovered to date has something to add: “You have captivated me, let me stand tremblingly before you,” reads the translation of “The Love Song for Shu-Sin,” which dates to approximately 2000 B.C.
More modern media examples, including romantic comedies and sentimental tales of soul mates, can sometimes be a little hard to swallow, especially if Cupid’s arrows don’t strike you quite that hard.
But if you’ve been in love yourself, you’ll know the occasional exaggerations don’t entirely miss the mark.
Many people describe love as something you just have to learn to recognize when it happens. If you need a little help in that department, here are effects to look for.
Had to let them drink the tea this way.
Posted by Lawrence Postings on Monday, 3 April 2023
When you think of love, your heart might be the first organ that comes to mind.
While terms like “thinking with your heart,” “you’re in my heart,” and “heartbroken” make this pretty understandable, you really have your brain to thank — that’s where it all goes down.
The brain changes triggered by love certainly affect your mood and behavior when these feelings are new, but some effects linger long past the first blush of love, continuing to strengthen your commitment over time.
Here’s a look at some of the major effects.
That giddy, euphoric excitement you feel when spending time with the person you love (or seeing them across the room, or hearing their name)? You can trace this entirely normal effect of falling in love back to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Your brain’s reward system relies on this important chemical to reinforce pleasurable behaviors, including:
- listening to music
- having sex
- seeing people you love
Simply thinking about the object of your affections is enough to trigger dopamine release, making you feel excited and eager to do whatever it takes to see them.
Then, when you actually do see them, your brain “rewards” you with more dopamine, which you experience as intense pleasure.
Researchers believe this cycle plays an important part in mating behavior. Feeling good when you spend time with the person you love makes it more likely you’ll keep doing it.
From a purely biological perspective, this is an important first step in the process of choosing an ideal mate to reproduce with.
Attachment and security
When it comes to love, dopamine isn’t the only chemical on the field. Oxytocin levels also surge, boosting feelings of attachment, safety, and trust.
This is why you probably feel comfortable and relaxed in the company of a partner, especially once your love makes it past the first early rush. These feelings might seem even stronger after touching, kissing, or sex. That’s oxytocin at work. It’s nicknamed “the love hormone” for a reason.
This release of oxytocin can strengthen your bond, in part because it may decrease your interest in other potential partners. In short, the better your partner makes you feel, the closer you’ll likely want to become.
Willingness to sacrifice
Most people agree love involves some degree of compromise and sacrifice.
Sacrifices can range from small — like going with dandelion yellow paint in the kitchen instead of robin’s egg blue — to life-altering. For example, you might move across the country, even to a different country, to support your partner.
As love flourishes, you may find yourself more willing to make these sacrifices. It’s believed this happens because partners tend to become more synced up, thanks in part to the vagus nerve, which begins in your brain and plays a role in everything from your facial expressions to the rhythm of your heart.
This alignment can help you notice when they feel sad or distressed. Since it’s only natural to want to keep someone you love from experiencing pain, you might choose to sacrifice something for this reason.
Is the person you love front and center in your thoughts? Maybe you think about them so often they’ve even started to feature in your dreams.
This partially relates to the dopamine cycle that rewards these positive thoughts, but 2005 research suggests you can also thank another part of your brain: the anterior cingulate cortex.
Still, when you first fall in love with someone, it’s normal for them to be the main thing on your mind. This can reinforce your desire to spend time with them, potentially increasing your chances of successfully building a relationship.
Lasting love is consistently linked to lower levels of stress.
The positive feelings associated with oxytocin and dopamine production can help improve your mood, for one. Research from 2010 also suggests single people may have higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than people in committed relationships.
What is a partner if not someone to vent to, someone who can have your back? It’s understandable, then, that the support and companionship of someone you love can help you manage challenging life events more easily.
While people tend to think of jealousy as something bad, it’s a natural emotion that can help you pay more attention to your needs and feelings.
In other words, jealousy sparked by love can suggest you have a strong commitment to your partner and don’t want to lose them.
Jealousy can actually have a positive impact on your relationship by promoting bonding and attachment — as long as you use it wisely.
When you notice jealous feelings, first remind yourself they’re normal. Then, share them with your partner instead of snooping or making passive-aggressive remarks about their behavior.
Had to let them drink the tea this way.
Posted by Lawrence Postings on Monday, 3 April 2023
Lovesick, lovelorn, heartbroken: These words only go to show that love doesn’t always feel amazing.
An awareness of love’s less-than-positive effects can make it easier to keep an eye out for them so they don’t cause you, or your budding relationship, any harm.
In a long-term, committed relationship, stress tends to decrease over time.
But when you first fall in love, your stress usually goes up. It makes sense; falling in love can feel like a pretty high-stakes situation, especially before you know how the other person feels.
A little stress isn’t always a bad thing, since it can motivate you to pursue your love.
If you can’t get anything done because you’re waiting anxiously for them to pick up the flirty conversation you had going the night before, though, you might have a bit of a problem.
Your body responds to the stress of love by producing norepinephrine and adrenaline, the same hormones your body releases when you face danger or other crises.
These hormones can cause a range of physical symptoms, like that flip-flopping feeling in your stomach. “Butterflies” might sound nice, sure — until they make you feel like you need to throw up.
When you see, or even just think of, the person you love, you feel tense and nervous. Your heart begins to race, your palms sweat, and your face flushes. You might feel a little shaky. Your words might seem to tumble out of nowhere.
This can make you anxious and uncomfortable, even when there’s no one else you’d rather be talking to.
Sleep and appetite changes
Tossing and turning because you can’t get that special someone out of your head? Wondering how they feel about you? Maybe you’ve already discovered they feel the same way but don’t know when you’ll see them next. That’s just another type of agony.
A nervous stomach can also keep you up and make it hard to eat. And when your thoughts fixate on love, food might seem completely unimportant.
Rapidly changing hormone levels can certainly affect your appetite and ability to sleep, but eating well and making sure to get enough rest will help you feel more prepared to face whatever happens.
Ever done something silly (perhaps a little dangerous) to impress someone you love? Maybe you acted without thinking and did something you’d never ordinarily consider.
You’re not the only one.
When you experience intense love, parts of your brain responsible for helping you detect danger (amygdala) and make decisions (the frontal lobe) go into temporary hibernation, leaving you lacking these essential skills.
So, if you decide to confess your love in front of a hundred people at your best friend’s birthday party, the consequences might be nothing more than a really embarrassing story you’ll never hear the end of.
But this lack of judgment can also have more serious consequences, such as making it difficult to recognize red flags.
There’s a lot of debate about whether people can become addicted to love.
In short, it is possible to experience a pattern where you crave the euphoric phase of early love or an idealized romantic attachment.
People with so-called love addictions might also feel the need to move on from a relationship once they no longer feel “in love.”
If you notice these signs, it might be time to take a brief break from love and dating. Talking to a therapist can help you get some more insight on this pattern.
Most people agree love is more of a whole-body experience than a simple state of mind.
But while love can feel wonderful, it can also make you miserable, especially when your feelings go unrequited.
A therapist can always offer support when love distresses you more than it uplifts you.