From songs and poems to novels and movies, love is a timeless and universal theme that has inspired artists throughout the centuries. Love is also an important aspect of our lives and it has influenced our decisions and behavior. In fact, some people’s lifelong commitment to love has shaped our world and promoted well-being on a global scale. Think of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, and Oprah Winfrey. Their selfless acts and their profoundly deep love for others are proof that if you truly care about someone, you can make their world better.
But what is love exactly? And how can you know if what you feel is the real deal?
Love is a complex emotion and it can differ from person to person. But there are some things that all love can share. For one, it is usually a combination of three components that can be visualized as the vertices of a triangle: intimacy, passion, and decision/commitment.
Psychologist Helen Fisher from Rutgers University recently published some intriguing research about this phenomenon. She and her team put 37 people madly in love into an MRI scanner and observed their brain activity. They found that when people are in love, there is a surge of dopamine in the caudate nucleus and in an ancient brain area called the ventral tegmental area. These are the parts of the brain associated with craving, motivation, and focus. In simpler terms, when we are in love, we want to be around our partner and we crave their presence.
In the early stages of romantic love, lust and attraction are strong, and this often leads to a quick decision to commit to a relationship. This can be good or bad for our long-term happiness, depending on whether lust and attraction are the primary emotions or if they are balanced by other emotions such as concern and companionate love.
It is also common for people in love to become empathetic and to want to help others. In fact, this is one of the core traits of true love. This is especially evident in the way that parents and caregivers love their children, and the way that friends and family members support their loved ones through tough times.
But as we grow older, our definitions of love can change, too. Sometimes we are no longer in a rush to take the leap of commitment, and sometimes we even fall out of love altogether. This can be painful, but it is normal and a natural part of human development.
In the end, it is up to each individual to decide whether or not what they feel is genuine love. The key is to be curious about your feelings and to see if they change over time or circumstances. If you are able to determine that what you feel is not just infatuation or toxic love bombing, then your chances of a healthy and happy future together will be much higher.