Measles Information

A formula of love on a chalkboard with a pink heart in the middle of the equation.
A formula of love on a chalkboard with a pink heart in the middle of the equation.

The Science Of Love: What’s Happening in Your Body

Having "chemistry" with someone is not just a phrase. Real science occurs when you feel love.

"The mesolimbic system in our brain is what relates to rewards and motivations," says Leiszle Rae Lapping-Carr, PhD, a psychologist at Northwestern Medicine with expertise in sex and relationships. "As you are engaging with things that bring you pleasure, neurotransmitters in your brain lead you to pursue that reward again and again."

Understand the Chemistry

We can notice when we might be overlooking red flags.
— Leiszle Rae Lapping-Carr, PhD

Love happens less in the heart and more in the brain, where hormonal releases and brain chemicals are triggered. Dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are some of the key neurotransmitters that help you feel pleasure and satisfaction. So, your body often approaches love as a cycle. It feels good to be with that person, so your brain says, "Do that again."

There are unique but overlapping components of love, and they include:

  • Infatuation or attraction
  • Sexual desire
  • Attachment

Lapping-Carr says while these components are important to know, they are not considered phases of love.

"Attachment can develop during a friendship, which could lead to a romantic relationship," she explains. "In those instances, the feeling of safety with someone might come before the infatuation or sexual desire."

Know Your Influence

While the chemical side of things happens in your body, it is important to know that you still have agency over your own feelings.

"We can help ourselves recognize when we are in, for example, the honeymoon phase," Lapping-Carr says. "We can notice when we might be overlooking red flags." Conversely, if you are hyperfocused on finding negative things within someone, it might be hard for your brain's reward system to get going.

The hormones and neurotransmitters related to love can have a powerful effect on behavior. However, your behavior is not involuntary. Check in with yourself and sit with your feelings. It can help you better understand the way you love.