Love is like a chemical substance.In my 12 years of counselling, the last 8 years online, the issue which seems to cause people the most emotional hurt is a relationship in crisis, the ending of a relationship or a relationship which has lost its fizz. I actually have a client at the moment who feels the relationship is over because that initial buzz has gone. I would like to share some of the understanding we are working on with you too.

When we connect with a partner most of us want that connection to last forever, and for it to feel like it did in the beginning. Of course the feeling in love, the heady days of thinking of our partner every second of the day eventually gives way to more subtle feelings, but why is that?

When we meet someone we generally know within a few seconds whether we get on or connect, when its a romantic type meeting and the spark just isn’t there, we often say there was no chemistry. This is actually much nearer the truth than you may have thought. The ‘in love’ feelings we experience are actually created by our brains own chemicals.

So what are the chemicals of love and what do they do?

  • Phenylethylamine or PEA – this Amine occurs naturally in the brain and in some foods, chocolate for instance. Classified as a stimulant, it releases Norepinephrine, responsible for sweaty palms and a racing heart. Dopamine is also released by PEA and washes through our bodies when we start to fall in love, Dopamine is associated with euphoria, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and a rush of motivation, I think that pretty much sums up how I felt when I fell in love.
  • Oxytocin – released into our bodies by Dopamine, Oxytocin is sometimes known by its more romantic name, ‘the cuddle drug’, released when we touch, it is present in both sexes, but more prevalent in women, particularly during breast feeding.
  • Testosterone – usually thought of as a male hormone, but actually present in both sexes bodies, lust or passionate encounters creates a rush of testosterone.
  • Endorphins – our brains eventually become accustomed to the ‘in love’ state and as with anything which becomes the norm, over time we become tolerant to it. This in turn releases Endorphins at around two to four years after the onset of the love. Endorphins may sound like the bad boy but they are actually the chemical associated with attachment and comfort, they calm anxiety, relieve pain and reduce stress.

As you can see there are reasons why we go through the up and down of the relationship journey, reasons why something that for a lot of us felt so good, can be devastating when it comes to an end. When I first learned why the highs of falling in love change after a couple of years, it helped me to understand that its not actually about the relationship, or that something is wrong with the relationship, it is in fact just chemistry.

Just like grief, relationships have a cycle too, it may not be as well documented and it is definitely more personalised, but the fact remains that relationships have a life and they change over time.

I hope you have found this interesting and helpful, if you have any thoughts, please share them and let’s all help each other.

Peace and love

Paul Parkin – online relationship counsellor

7th June 2014