We all have dreams and expectations. When our expectations are not met, we feel disappointed and discouraged. This is especially true when falling in and out of love. How do you know when you have found true lasting love – brain chemistry gives us the answer.
We all know that we cannot achieve what is physically impossible. We cannot flap our arms and fly in the air. If a woman marries a man who is five-foot-tall but believes that he will grow to six-feet if he truly loves her, she is setting herself up for a disappointment. She must be “realistic” in her expectations or she is guaranteed unhappiness. We can only achieve realistic expectations.
Unfortunately, that is not what we do when it comes to love and marriage. We see the fairy tales as children and we believe them to represent reality. We believe in “and they lived happily ever after”. We later see and read ‘Romantic love stories” and believe that is how true love will come to us one day. We are all made to believe that “Falling in love will touch us one time and last for a lifetime”.
If brain chemistry supported that, then we could easily succeed in finding love that lasts for a life time. Sadly, these stories are not based on the reality of brain chemistry. If brain chemistry cannot physically keep the falling in love feeling last forever, then we need to adjust our expectations. We need to adjust our expectation to what nature can do so that we are more likely to succeed in finding true love and happiness.
Love is not one event at one time as commonly believed. It is a series of events that change and evolve with time. I believe that based on our brain chemistry and genes, love comes in four phases.
First phase is mate selection.
We have two brain systems involved in that selection. Old brain systems called Old Reptilian Brain and Intermediate limbic brain, which has genes that control mate selection. These genes came to us from lower animals. We inherit genes and we keep adding to them. We do not delete old genes. These genes guide us to unconsciously select a mate who has good genes for physical features (good looking) to give us healthy children and who can produce large number of children (sexy). This unconscious process is aimed at species preservation and improvement. This works unconsciously using vision, hearing and smell and we have no conscious control over it.
The other brain system is called New Brain. It is the conscious part of our brain. It is what separates us from animals. We decide on certain features that we want in our mate based on previous experiences. This conscious mate selection part starts selecting when we are children and continues till we make a mate selection. Both the old and the new brain must consent to the selection.
Phase two is falling in love (romance).
Somewhere somehow we meet someone and suddenly or gradually we “fall in love”. This phase is caused by excess brain effects of a group of four chemicals called monoamines. These cause us to feel all the manifestations of romance. All the feelings during this phase are easily explained by these chemicals. I can explain each feature of love and correlate it to one of these four chemicals.
However, this is not “true love” because it never lasts for more than two to three years. At that time these chemicals return to their base line effects. We lose the romantic feelings. This happens to each and every one of us. However, during the phase of falling in love, we are unable to perceive the reality that this phase will come to an end one day. Some of the 4 chemicals causes us to have delusions, fixed false beliefs, that our love is so different from any other love and that our love will last forever. We must somehow accept that this is an illusion that will end one day. When the illusion ends, that does not mean that our love has died and we should try again. It is just a phase in love.
Phase three is falling out of love.
This happens when the excess effects of monoamines return to its baseline. No feeling in the brain can stay the same forever. You know the new car feeling ends one day and the car is just a car. The same for the new house, the view of the lake or mountains. It all eventually loses its luster. This is not the end of love as commonly believed. Falling out of love is a useful phase made for us to re-evaluate our mate selection and re-direct ourselves, to assess if we made a big mate selection error. Unless we fall out of love, we cannot fall in love again. Falling out of love gives us a second chance on love.
I claim that falling out of love is like labor in a pregnant woman. It is painful, miserable but is necessary for her to endure the pain in order to have a child that she will cherish for a life time.
Nature repeats itself with falling out of love. Sadly, this is the phase that is associated with divorces. The highest risk of divorce is in the third year of marriage, as statistics tell us. This is just a product of our incorrect beliefs that falling in love should last for a life time. Many of us repeat the cycle of mate selection, falling in love, fall out of love then divorce and keep repeating the cycle again but never find true love. Just like the woman who aborts the fetus every time she gets the labor pains, no matter how many times she tries, she will never have her desired baby.
Phase four is the final phase of love, the true love phase.
If you persevered through falling out of love, you will be rewarded with true love. This is the everlasting love. It is based on a different set of brain chemicals called nonapeptides. We will see our lover as the most attractive and sexy person on earth. Nonapeptides cause strong bonding and identification with our mate, cause monogamy, trust as well as ultimate joy and happiness.
There are many ways to enhance our love to be nonapeptides based true love. Some of these ways are: intimacy, introspection, courage, discipline, trust and separateness.
Phase four of love, true love, will touch us one time and lasts for a lifetime.
Author: Fred Nour, M.D., is double board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Neurology and Neurophysiology. His new book, True Love: How to Use Science to Understand Love will be available on February 1, 2017 on Niguel Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and booksellers everywhere.