Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Are you hooked on a feeling?

Remember that old song about being "hooked on a feeling"? It might not be too far from the truth. I was reading a blog about the components of a healthy relationship. One of the thoughts was that love has to be a decision not a feeling. That's like the chicken or the egg question....or is it?

Dictionaries define love simply as "an intense feeling of deep affection". So that would mean that love is at the level of other feelings like anger, sadness, happiness. But then there is the other concept of love being a conscious decision to care for someone. Obviously, there are going to be times when you don't feel much love, yet you have decided that overall you do love the person in spite of the warts.

But maybe there's a third option here that relates more to chemical dependency. There are a lot of chemicals racing around your brain and body when you're in love. Researchers are gradually learning more and more about the roles they play both when we are falling in love and when we're in long-term relationships.

The falling in love part comes with those feelings of giddiness and a racing heart, flushed skin, and pure bliss. These physiological feelings come from the chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine and phenylethylamine that are released into our system. Dopamine is called the "pleasure chemical". Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline and produces the racing heart and excitement. Together these two chemicals produce elation, intense energy, sleeplessness, craving, loss of appetite and focused attention. So there appears to be a reason for feeling "love sick" and addicted to love.

MRI's have been used to examine the brains of people who are looking a photo of their romantic interest during the initial crazed stage of attraction. The scans showed increased blood flow in areas of the brain with high concentrations of receptors for dopamine -- associated with euphoria, craving and addiction. High levels of dopamine are also associated with norepinephrine, which heightens focus, short-term memory, hyperactivity, sleeplessness and goal-oriented behavior. What this means is that couples in this stage of love think of little else but each other.

Other research has shown that the intense focus and idealizing view that occurs in the attraction stage may be the result of lower levels of serotonin. These lower serotonin levels are the same as those found in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders, possibly explaining why those in love "obsess" about their partner.

But these chemicals can't be sustained for a long period of time and gradually the passionate focus-crazed love-attraction phase wanes and is replaced by commitment, if the relationship continues.

Maybe this is where the decision part comes into play. Love at this stage isn't about chemicals as much as it is about choices. And sacrifice and concern for the other person. As one writer put it, love is about stubbornness and the ability to stick with a person through the worst of times.

And that's where I am glad that Al-Anon comes into play. Because if love were just a feeling and not a decision, I don't think that I would still be married. It seems that the longer you're with a person, the more that love becomes a decision.

But to keep this a bit light hearted, I really like the comment made on the blog Baxter Sez. Basically, it's that keeping a relationship healthy requires immovability. "In other words, combine those record collections! Put all your books on the same shelf. Your pots and pans should hang together. That way, after that giant fight to end all fights, you’ll realize it’s probably more trouble to separate all that stuff than to actually stick together."

I like that idea.


  1. Syd, hon - - - to put it facetiously, 'there ain't nothin' light about this blog attall! Sure got me tickled, though.

    Love ya.
    Anonymous #1

  2. oh yeah, that comment says it all...

    i tend to agree with you though. that initial phases of intense love does not last. but it is replaced by a deeper feeling, if you can call it that, which if explained the way you did, is a decision. can you imagine all those chemicals being available in drug form??? there'd be addicts everywhere... so for what it's worth, call me stubborn too.

  3. Love that song and now it will be running through my head, thanks:) Great post and describes to a T my feelings. After marriage I really missed that "in love" feeling. I think that is why I ended up going outside my marriage for awhile. Looking for that "drug" just as an alcoholic is always looking for the next drink. It really makes sense the way you have described it. However, I am grateful for the committment I have to my husband and I am committed to working for it. I guess that is my decision. Similar to my commitment now to a sober life and my decision to turn my will over to God.

  4. "can you imagine all those chemicals being available in drug form??? there'd be addicts everywhere..." That is funny Shadow.

    Lots to take in here. Good stuff, very informative. Makes me reflect on the time when Mitch and I started courting. Apparently he is crazier than me cuz he still is with me even after my relapse. I guess he is sticking to his decision ;)

  5. But at what cost do you stay with a person when love is gone? Is that also a decision?

  6. It just is, it can't be explained. I do remember when I was in this relationship, we were having trouble, & it came down to me making a decision to stay in it, because everything else seemed to be gone, must not have been or I wouldn't have made that decision. Romantic love is hard work, & for it to work there has to be a committment, & that takes making a decision.
    The highest form of love is love of God, then brotherly (or sisterly) love. That is my goal. I do feel love for others tho.

  7. Syd,
    Those who think you can always have that exciting love in your marriage are in denial.
    You do have to decide to love the person in your life...and commit to that person.
    I've been in a relationship for 11 years now..and I can honestly say we hardly ever fight and when we do argue its fixable.
    Only one time in 10 years did we have a huge blow-out fight where he threatened to kill himself...instead he tried to drive the car off the bridge. He's still here but I miss that car!

  8. ". That's like the chicken or the egg question....or is it?"

    My biology professor said the egg came first..

    Genes mutate (change); so evolution starts in the eggs...and so the egg came first and then the chicken.

    The egg was produced by a species that was not a chicken but related to a chicken.. (changes/evolving)..

    Just thought I'll share that..

    I read this description about love...

    And of all the men I interviewed that was divorce because they cheated or left their wives for someone else. (all that chemistry for the next person); that chemistry died out too; and the 2nd marriages or relationships often died out. The men said they wished they never got divorce. The divorces (98% of the time) was initiated by the woman because of the husbands' actions).

    Men usual did not want a DIVORCE even if they so-called 'fell out of love'. They did not want to have to divide up assets.. or sell a home; or worse have to let the wife keep the home until the last child is 21 and then sell it.. (and lose the comfort of such a nice home they work for; including nice neighbors; feeling of a home; children to see each day etc).

    The men I interviewed did not want to split their pensions etc.

    This study I did was not scientific.. but the results were that the majority of men regretted being divorce. Did NOT find it any greener on the other side. Resented other men in home they still owned or used to own and not seeing their children daily.

    My friends that are in looooong marriages.. say they have UPS and DOWNS.. some years better; compromised more at some times.. etc.

    Some seem miserable being married since their husbands do not stop drinking etc.. but like the security; other envy me being single. Too many seem to think that their husbands are boring; but I think they have to find other interests and not say that. (maybe the husbands think they are boring too (said with a smile)).

    I personally feel for every 'ying there is a yang'. Some parts about being SINGLE (divorce) are very terrific and others parts are NOT (same as being in a marriage).

    The GREAT RUSH of Chemistry (having had 4 boyfriend in 5.5 years is amazing Exciting; and that part did not die out since not with anyone longer than 18 months (but still the practical side steps in that this is the someone I want until I'm 80 years old or being a step-father to my son. (so even if I still feel in-love and feel LOVE I still have to end things to be logical-the Taurus and the Ox (born in that year) is very cerebral even about the best most exciting passionate romances.

    With age comes even is I was still passionately in-Love with Schreck I am older and thus know it would be have been wrong to get engaged last month. (he had too many issues)


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.