With one step, the journey of a thousand miles begins, but depending on what generation you are associated with, this may not be a literal step, when we speak about the beginning of a relationship. In fact, with one step, breath or keystroke, the impression is made and for some, this expedition of love begins with a humble beginning, it begins with one discrete action… a simple “hello,” however it is materialized, especially in our current landscape. A vocalized “hello” might not always be the best way for one to begin courting another. The interpersonal requirements once held as paramount, have seem to recede as the shore of communication becomes shallow amongst a strong current.
What does that look like, well it’s different for most. Although the feeling of wanting to love may be shared by others, it’s the reason for that feeling (the function behind why “I” want it), which is where the unique aspect of love deviates from one person to another. Love shouldn’t have a face, rather, a sensitivity, a compatibility which is an achievement of the ultimate affection and not it’s precondition. The aforementioned “requirements” are unique to who is being courted… but what exactly is courtship? First, let’s dust off our antiquated terms and actions dictionary and harken back to the times of tipping one’s hat to gesture hello, the times of “our grandparents.” This was a serious commitment, apart from dating, one made in getting to know another with the intention of marriage. So, often you will have one person seeking to court, date, be with (in some way) another and these actions will be measured against the requirements of the other. But what is happening behind the scenes, if you will, under the hood, what is making someone produce certain behaviors and for one to perceive said behaviors in a certain way? Well, let’s navigate our attention to the clinical aspect of what is happening and see if we can better understand the function behind the behaviors between two people; hopefully gaining a better understanding of loves foundation.
A behavior is something that can be observed or measured… so for some, courtship is the very overt performance you present to your, hopeful, beloved – which they then perceive as stimulating and then respond with certain cues which signal to the presenter, continue… or not. Even in those times of being rebuffed, one still may find themselves engaged in the “dance,” the “hard-to-get,” the “I have to prove myself-ness” some people choose to take. This is sort of like coming to a fork in the road and having to choose which terrain to traverse. The initial sensation of butterflies in your stomach from meeting someone new, often escorts you down one path. Initially one’s estrogen or testosterone – sex hormones – respectively, increase – which increase sexual desire. This initial response to someone can be categorized as Lust and left alone, can lead one down a hazardous road than intended. This is where the balance of one’s own feelings, as it relates to another, comes into play. The extrastriate area of the brain —which we use to judge someone else’s body—is activated as well as the brain’s temporo-parietal junction. What makes this attention-grabbing? Simply put, this is the part of the brain central for understanding your own body image. What we often see, when someone is lusting or overly pursuant of someone, regardless of being turned down, you’re not just judging someone else—you’re judging yourself. Interesting eh? Now don’t go obsessing over this next bit of news, but studies have shown that the intensities of the chemicals released in the brain during the first steps of a newly desired relational journey, are similar to those who experience OCD.
Let’s Get Chemical:
As interactions, exposure, and experiences become more frequent, one’s dopamine (briefly define) levels surge, which elevates your mood and feelings when you see the one that has caught your eye. This dopamine surge creates a deep desire to be around this other person, in some form or another… it’s a deep attraction. But not so fast, you are then presented with another proverbial fork in the road to love, which may seem even more difficult to choose a path, than the previous one. A neurotrophin called nerve growth and the neurochemical oxytocin (briefly define) bring meaning to the euphoria you are feeling and increase your emotional dependency… your attachment with someone else. It doesn’t stop there… you then have a decrease in serotonin levels, which takes your desire from I could live with-out it, to “I’ve gotta’ have it.” This chemical concoction, or sorts, is why someone can become infatuated with someone or when you see couples, early on, ‘smitten’ over one another.
With that said, everyone defines love for themselves. And, for better or for worse, if it’s all hormones, maybe each of us can have “chemistry” with just about anyone. But whether or not it goes further is still up to the rest of what makes you… you.
In Joy and Gratitude,
Part II: Relationships… rather lasting relationships: a 29,029 foot summit many attempt traversing, but few, truly, achieve.