Understanding the Different Phases of Love


Love is an enduring and mysterious emotion that has fascinated philosophers, poets, and ordinary people throughout history. It breaks boundaries and has the power to transform our lives and even our world. While it’s impossible to answer the question of what love actually is in one word, scientists are working hard to understand its complexities. They’re discovering that this powerful feeling is more than just a chemical reaction in the brain, and that it’s shaped by the many layers of relationships, emotions, and attachments that we experience.

When we are in the first stages of love, our brains become flooded with hormones like dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals make us feel euphoric, happy, and excited. They also trigger feelings of intense empathy, causing us to think about others’ problems as our own and be willing to help them through their difficulties. As a result, we tend to sacrifice our own needs for the sake of our loved ones. This explains why we are so committed to our partners, often going to extreme lengths for them, like putting our careers on hold or moving across the country.

While this early stage of love can be very positive, it’s important to remember that this compulsion doesn’t necessarily equate with real love. According to licensed marriage and family therapist Holly Richmond, Ph.D, LMFT, it’s important to assess whether the person you are with is truly “the one” or just another fling. If the relationship is based on mutual interest and genuine affection, it will naturally evolve into long-term love as you both foster closeness and intimacy over time.

This type of love, which is characterized by a deep sense of connection and emotional intimacy, is fueled by the brain’s insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and striatum, all associated with reward, motivation, and emotion processing. During this phase, we are more likely to prioritize the well-being of our partner above our own and show a greater commitment than in the infatuation-driven limerence of the beginnings of a relationship.

In this stage, your brain releases more oxytocin and vasopressin than in the other two phases of love. This makes you want to spend more time with the person you’re in love with, and can lead to feelings of attachment and security. It also leads to a desire to help your partner when they need it, such as taking care of their health or household chores. Acts of service are a common way to demonstrate your love for someone in this stage of love, as they will likely be gratified by your gestures.

This form of love can be very difficult, as it requires you to put up with a lot of discomfort. For example, it can be challenging to remain committed to a person who is stuck in destructive patterns of behavior. Yet this is a kind of love that can be very rewarding, as it reflects a desire to support the person you love in his quest for self-actualization and true happiness.