Is love the most important thing we do? In 2015, a 75-year study collected data on the lives of 268 people. Researchers wanted to find the secret to a happier life. And the answer… was love.
Love changes you, guides, and destroys you. It’s mysterious and powerful in ways science can hardly explain. To help you understand this extraordinary feeling, here are 10 psychological facts you may not have known about love.
One, Love Literally Hurts
In 2017, Taman and Ahmad found that love increases your perception of pain. Without injury or disease, love can create and enhance physical pain all on its own.
But how is this possible? Anatomically, pain and love blend together in your brain. The areas responsible for pain and love overlap, so these feelings become entangled. Psychologically, the relationship between love and pain is even more confusing. For example, heartbreak can fool you into feeling pain that doesn’t exist. We’ve felt the pressure and aching of a broken heart. Your heart isn’t actually broken. Love and pain are simply woven together.
Two, Love Relieves Pain
Love can hurt you… but love can also heal you. The same 2017 study found that love can diminish, mask, or numb both physical and emotional pain. This powerful emotion activates areas of the prefrontal cortex, which feel comfort, safety, and intimacy. When these areas of the brain activate, love dulls your pain, almost like a painkiller.
Ultimately, love is a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it keeps us safe and happy. Other times, it cuts us up… and cuts us down.
Three, Love Works Quickly
How long does it take to fall in love? Most people say somewhere between 3 and 5 months. But your brain falls in love faster than you think. In 1997, Aron and others discovered a shocking revelation about love in your brain. Your brain only needs one hour to fall in love. In rare cases, it only needs 5 minutes.
Lasting love requires time to grow and mature, but that spark can ignite almost instantly.
Four, Love Is Addicting
In 2010, a neuroimaging study by Ortigue and others found many similarities between love and substance abuse. When falling in love, your brain experiences a blinding euphoria. That euphoria stems from a cocktail of neurochemicals, such as dopamine, oxytocin, and adrenaline. Turns out, several different drugs trigger the exact same response in your brain.
Not only does the experience mimic drug use, but love is just as addicting. Your brain loves to be in love. And it craves love when that feeling is taken away. That’s one of the many reasons why break-ups create stress and raise your risk of depression. Passionate love is like an addiction, for better or for worse.
Five, Love Likes Conflict
We’ve all heard the phrase, “opposites attract.” But is there any truth to this old adage?
Being similar is not always a recipe for love. Love needs conflict to survive. Conflict creates interest, passion, and curiosity. It breeds compromise and allows you to learn from your partner. Not only does this strengthen your connection, but it also keeps your love on its toes.
Six, Love Plays Fair
Do you wonder if your partner is out of your league? Love is a universal equalizer. In lasting relationships, partners are drawn to people with an equal level of social desirability.
Sometimes, the two parts are physically equal. Other times, one is more attractive, but the other is more successful, altruistic, or creative. This balance is fundamental to any lasting relationship. If you’re worried your partner is too good for you, give yourself a bit more credit.
Seven, Love Is Universal
People fall in love, develop relationships, and search for our soul mates. But humans are the only species looking for their perfect match. A 2018 study by Lambert and others found that countless species lead lifelong relationships. Swans and wolves find soulmates, who they share their entire lives with. That means love isn’t something people made up. It’s ingrained within our DNA.
Eight, Love Inspires Creativity
Love has inspired countless writers and artists throughout history. But that’s no coincidence. In a 2009 study, Forster and others found that love actually changes how you think. It opens your mind by stimulating creative thought. This new way of thinking shapes the way you analyze and process both emotions and experiences. So art forms like writing and painting become ideal mediums to express those new and complicated feelings.
Nine, Love Relieves Stress
After a long day, one act of love can transform your mood. Studies have shown that small interactions with a loved one can significantly reduce stress. Something as simple as holding your partner’s hand can unravel a week’s worth of tension. The power of physical touch gets stronger the longer you and your partner are together. That person becomes a beacon of safety and comfort in your life. That’s why a small touch can melt away all your stress.
Ten, Love Plays Tricks on You
How do you feel after a break-up? Sometimes, the absence of love creates an even stronger attraction. This surprisingly common experience stems from envy, nostalgia, and idealization. In other words, you want something only because it’s gone. In those moments, your brain pulls a veil over your eyes. You feel like you’re still in love… even if you know, deep down, it isn’t real.
Have you experienced love in your life? Has love helped, hurt, or confused you in strange ways? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below. Don’t forget to click the like button and subscribe for more psychology content. And, as always, thanks for watching!
Written by Tristan Reed
Tamam, S., & Ahmad, A. H. (2017). Love as a Modulator of Pain. The Malaysian journal of medical sciences, 24(3): 5–14.
Lambert, C., Sabol, A. & Solomon, N. (2018) Genetic monogamy in Socially Monogamous Mammals Is Primarily Predicted by Multiple Life history Factors: A Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 19.
Aron et al. (1997). The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal looseness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings. SAGE Social Science Collection, 23(4): 363-377.
Ortigue, S. et al. (2010). Neuroimaging of Love: fMRI Meta-Analysis Evidence toward New Perspectives in Sexual Medicine. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(11): 3541-3552.
Forster, J. et al. Why Love Has Winds and Sex Has Not: How Reminders of Love and Sex Influence Creative and Analytic Thinking. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(11): 1479-91.