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Love Hypothesis

Passionate love is like a drug, and it wears off like a drug. Companionate love, however can last a lifetime. Here are my thoughts on the subject with advice from Jonathan Haidt’s book, Happiness Hypothesis (2006).
I always meant I loved you

Some conclusions in a summery by me, of a chapter in Jonathan Haidt’s book, the Happiness Hypothesis (2006).

Passionate love is a drug.
It’s symptoms overlap with those of heroin (euphoric well-being, sometimes described in sexual terms) and cocaine (euphoria combined with giddiness and energy) [according to Julien, 1998.] And [Bartels and Zeki, 2000 with Fisher, 2004 describe how] parts of the brain are altered, with passionate love, including those parts which are involved with the release of dopamine. This is like drugs that artificially raise dopamine levels. Therefore love is like a drug, and if you take it once a month you do not become addicted, whereas if you take it everyday, you will. However the brain reacts to a chronic surplus of dopamine and develops neurochemical reactions that oppose it and restores its own equilibrium. Like drugs, when withdrawn the brain becomes unbalanced in the opposite direction; pain, lethargy and despair follow withdrawal from cocaine or from passionate love.


Does this mean nobody can stay in love forever?
Well, there is the other type of love, companionate love. Passionate love doesn’t turn into companionate love- they are 2 different processes and have different time courses. There are 2 danger points in passionate love, one when you can’t think straight and it burns at it’s maximum temperature- this is when people can get married during the first few weeks or months of madness. The other point is when the brain has rebalanced from this crazy obsessional high. This usually happens in one of the lovers, the fire has calmed and they can now see all the faults in their partners they couldn’t before. The other lover becomes confused. One of the lovers may decide the game is up, and they made decide to break up. This could be a mistake however as they would never have given companionate love a chance to grow. True love, the love that is behind strong marriages, is simply strong companionate love, with added passion, between two people who are firmly committed to eachother [These are 3 components of Sternberg’s (1986) triangular theory of love]. Two graphs here (quick drawn up in MacDraft) describe the differences in the two types of love. In the 1st graph we can see that companionate love looks weak. Taken over a longer period of time however, it’s the compasionate love that looks like a flash in the pan, trivial affair, and companionate love that lasts a lifetime.

One Comment

  1. firat
    15, October 2008 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Love physiology changes over time; ‘Romantic love more powerful than sex’

    Another breakthrough, Brown noted, was that “we found several brain areas where the strength of neural activity changed with the length of the romance. Everyone knows that relationships are dynamic over time, but we are beginning to track what happens in the brain as a love relationship matures.”

    Helen E. Fisher, a research anthropologist at Rutgers University, New Jersey, noted that not only did the brain change as romantic love endured, but that some of these changes were in regions associated with pair-bonding in prairie voles. The fMRI images showed more activity in the ventral pallidum portion of the basal ganglia in people with longer romantic relationships. It’s in this region where receptors for the hormone vasopressin are critical for vole pair-bonding, or attachment.

    “Humans have evolved three distinct but interrelated brain systems for mating and reproduction – the sex drive, romantic love, and attachment to a long term partner,” Fisher said, “and our results suggest how feelings of romantic love might change into feelings of attachment. Our results support what people have always assumed – that romantic love is one of the most powerful of all human experiences. It is definitely more powerful than the sex drive.”
    F. KARA

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