Wanting to love and be loved is a very normal need. We grow up watching movies with happy endings where the heroes fall in love and live happily ever after. Many of us desire this for ourselves. When we are around someone we are attracted to, our brains release chemicals that make us feel good. These feelings trigger euphoria.
Euphoria is an altered state of consciousness induced by the action of what neurobiologists call PEA – phenylethylamine. PEA works with the hormones dopamine and norepinephrine and triggers powerful side effects. Symptoms include a delightfully positive attitude, increased energy, decreased need for sleep, and loss of appetite. Natural amphetamines are feeding this love frenzy. The PEA levels must be high enough to overcome the amygdale, a part of the brain linked with fear and emotions. Our neurobiological system includes the amygdale to prevent us from doing something stupid.
By using real-time MRI brain images of people in the initial throes of passion, scientists are finding that love originates far from the brain’s logic center. It appears that love is found in the same areas of the brain as addiction. Engaged is a craving-and-desire system that’s triggered, only this desire is for another person. In the right proportions, dopamine creates intense energy, exhilaration, focused attention, and motivation. At the same time we develop a serotonin imbalance similar to people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Chemistry, Passion, or Romance are all terms people use to describe the new and exciting feelings of attraction. But one word can sum it up— infatuation. True love is not infatuation. What is infatuation? Webster’s Dictionary defines infatuation as lacking sound judgment, foolish, or completely carried away by foolish or shallow love or affection. Notice that lasting love is not part of the definition. There is no magic in infatuation. It is universal. Usually the emotions change or lessen and the search begins anew for those same feelings – this time with someone new.
In Greek, there are three words for “love:”
A good relationship of true love will contain all three. This kind of love takes time. You won’t always feel the overwhelming feelings of intensity like there is with infatuation. Real love is like a friendship that has grown and deepened. Real love is realistic. You see the flaws and imperfections in the other person and accept them as part of who they are. You do not look for perfection, and it is not expected of you. Real love is about acceptance of you for who you are, without pretense or masks.
Real love, mature love, is about trust. You do not have the need for jealousy. If the love is genuine, you know your partner cares as much about your feelings as his own. You want the best for each other. You encourage each other to grow in your lives. You support each other.
Real love is comfortable. You can relax and be yourself. You do not have to try to change yourself or be something you are not. You feel free to be you. In addition, you know that you are all your partner needs you to be. Likewise, you do not try to make your partner be something they are not. Their feelings are just as important as your own.
True love takes time. You must truly know someone in order to develop a mature love that will last. You must see them in good times and in bad. You must develop patience and attention.
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