Helen Fisher

Anthropologist, researcher of human behavior, author of books.

What happens in the brain of a person in love?

When a person falls in love, a tiny part of the brain, the ventral tegmental area, is activated. It produces the hormone dopamine – a natural stimulant that motivates you to get the most valuable prize in life: the person you like.

So love is a dopamine trap?

Something like that. Dopamine is released not only if you see your loved one and touch him, but also if you simply reread their messages. One has only to think about a partner, as butterflies appear in the stomach – this is how the action of dopamine manifests itself.

Love is often compared to drugs. Is there a scientific explanation for this?

Yes, from a scientific point of view, love really is like a drug addiction. The fact is that in addition to the dopamine system in the brain of a person in love, another part is activated – the nucleus accumbens. It is included in all forms of behavioral addiction, whether it be drugs, gambling, food, kleptomania, or love. That is why romantic love is so much stronger than ordinary sexual attraction.

What is the difference between love and sexual attraction?

Romantic love is influenced by dopamine, and sexual desire is influenced by testosterone. And both in men and women. Dopamine causes a person to focus on one partner with the subconscious goal of procreation. Testosterone, on the other hand, encourages you to look for many partners for completely different purposes.

It turns out that sex without love is possible, but love without sex is not?

Not really. If you have sex and you like it, then the dopamine system, which we have already talked about, is launched in the brain. This may push you to fall in love with a sexual partner. During an orgasm, a person is flooded with oxytocin and vasopressin, which make them experience romantic feelings. Therefore, sex without love is possible only at first, and then other hormones come into play.

Okay, what’s wrong with male and female sexuality?

Almost all! It is believed that men are ready to have sex with everything that moves, but this is not so. They are much more selective than many used to think.

They say about women that they, on the contrary, are not at all interested in sex. But this is also a delusion. Both men and women equally want sex at any age.

Is there any difference between male and female perceptions of love?

Men fall in love faster than women. They are more likely to show signs of attention in public, as if saying to other men: “She is with me.” They also introduce their beloved woman to family and friends faster, they want to move in with her faster.

Men are more likely to talk about sex with their soul mate, and women prefer to discuss intimate life with their girlfriends, but not with their husbands. Men are also 2.5 times more likely than women to commit suicide after a breakup.

2.5 times more often? How can this be explained?

The fact is that women are more emotional than men. They do not hide feelings, give vent to experiences. They cry to their friends, speak out and feel relieved.

Men are more secretive in this regard, because it has happened over millions of years of evolution. They have always been protectors and earners, they could not show fear or vulnerability. This is what happens today. Unexploded emotions accumulate, internal tension grows, and everything ends in the most deplorable way.

How can you limit such a complex concept as “love” to just brain processes?

Knowledge of the processes taking place in the brain of a person in love is like the ingredients of a delicious cake. You can know every product used in the recipe and enjoy the dessert. So it is with love. Knowing everything about hormones, you will not stop falling in love and enjoy this feeling.

What makes a relationship and marriage happy?

In the brain, three areas are responsible for long-term love relationships:

  • area associated with empathy;
  • an area related to the ability to manage stress and emotions;
  • the area associated with ignoring what you don’t like about someone.

Therefore, for a happy marriage, it is enough to show sympathy, control emotions, be able to ignore the partner’s shortcomings and concentrate on his merits. The secret is pretty simple.