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Why do we love?

Who has never felt this phenomenon, as powerful as it is mysterious, which is love?

From the extreme happiness, you feel when you are close to your soul mate to the deep sadness of rejection.

But what is the romantic love that we all feel but no one can explain? - Luís Vaz de Camões presents us with an poetic ideia:

“Love is a fire that burns unseen,

a wound that aches yet isn’t felt,

an always discontent contentment,

a pain that rages without hurting”

There are many poems written, songs composed, and stories represented about this phenomenon, and we are all seduced by this universal theme. Being in love with someone is a “unique” feeling, but felt by everyone, breaking cultures and times. The experience of being in love is universal. The other person starts to deserve a major attentional focus since he is the main character of our thoughts, dreams, and motivations. From the moment you love, acceptance is imperative - there is love if there is acceptance of "defects".

The experience of romantic love is a reflection of chemical processes in the brain. When the cause of love is questioned, some believe it is deeply spiritual, but modern science dictates that love is the result of neurochemical processes. In particular, the experience of love is driven by 3 neurotransmitters: dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin.

  • Dopamine, one of the neurotransmitters responsible for mood, in general influences attentional processes, motivation, and addiction - the ingredients for being in love. Some research demonstrates the similarities between taking drugs like cocaine and being with someone we love.

  • Noradrenaline, responsible for the sensations of excitement, enthusiasm, and stimulation that accompany love - “butterflies in the belly” is another very common way of describing the performance of this neurotransmitter. Norepinephrine is also responsible for lack of sleep or appetite as if there is no time to lose in love.

  • Serotonin, is present in the constant physical and mental restlessness, in which it becomes difficult to settle down and the person we love occupies a large part of our thoughts. Unlike previous neurotransmitters, serotonin levels during the experience of romantic love are lower - in this case, less is more.

The roots of the idea of romantic love can be traced back to 3.5 million years ago. Our ancestors were probably not motivated to spend the rest of their lives with just one partner, but rather long enough to ensure the child's survival in the first years of life. After that, both members of the couple would separate and form alliances with other partners. This strategy guaranteed the maintenance of the species and the variability of the genetic material of the group. However, it also allowed for early sketches of romantic love as we know it today, since building a connection with a partner is inevitable when raising a child in common.

However, the complexity of the human brain has evolved, as has our ability to experience romantic love. This massive evolution took place 1.8 million years ago with the arrival of language and our ability to express ourselves to others. To accompany the growth of the brain, the skull also increased significantly. The increased brain volume meant that the mother would have more difficulty delivering a large baby, for which she was not prepared. To overcome this difficulty, contrary to what happens in other mammals, the human baby is born in a kind of unfinished state and totally dependent on care, since its brain and skull are not fully formed. In the course of this dependence, the parents stayed together for a longer period of time, which facilitated the experience of romantic love.

Millions of years ago, we developed three basic forces: sexual desire, romantic love, and attachment to a long-term partner. These circuits are deeply embedded in the brain and essence of the human being and will endure as long as humanity exists. Despite our current ability to peek and glimpse behind the scenes of romantic love, it is not possible to ruin the magic and “butterflies” in the belly that we feel whenever we are close to our other half. Even because romantic love continues to be one of the great mysteries of the science of the mind. What is consensual is that love is inherent to the human condition and it is through it that we feel alive.

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