How do you know when you're in love?
By Sara Novak
The Romans weren't far off in likening true love to getting shot in the heart with Cupid's arrow. Victims of the arrow went into a trance, comparable to a drug-induced euphoria. Those that have experienced true love know the arrow metaphor is very accurate. The signs of love are unmistakable.
- You think and talk about each other constantly. When you're apart, you're dissecting the last conversation, both in your head and to family and friends.
- You're smitten. Work, friends, family and hobbies take a backseat to your newfound partner.
- You're a communication addict, constantly awaiting his next call, text or e-mail.
- You find no faults. Your mate seems perfect through the blurred goggles of love. All the habits that would annoy you in anyone else seem quirky in your lover.
- You feel her pain. The idea of your love feeling pain makes your heart hurt.
- Your conversations never cease. Talking to your partner is effortless because you have so much in common.
Love Versus Lust or Infatuation
Lust is a product of physical attraction. It corresponds to sex and outer appearance. True love encompasses the whole of a person. Even when your partner gains weight, goes gray or becomes poor as a pauper, your love doesn't dry up. Love often deepens with time, rather than dissipates.
Infatuation is a nonsensical and typically short-term emotional high that causes a person to obsess about someone else. Left unchecked, it can lead to the unhealthy -- and even criminal -- act of stalking. Emotional surges are great but they are just that -- peaks that aren't sustainable and are, at their worst, one-sided. True love is mutual and lasting. Both sides of the relationship should be equally love-struck for it to blossom.
The Science Behind Love
Scientists believe that love is embedded in the mind rather than the heart. Love activates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that makes you feel elated. According to neuroscientist Thomas Insel at Emory University, monogamous love triggers the same brain circuits as drug addictions to cocaine and heroin [source: Scientific American].
In fact, we're genetically inclined to choose a lover based on that ever-important first kiss. It's called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and it's a sequence of genes tied to our immune systems. Men release MHC in their saliva, and women choose men with a different MHC makeup than their own because less genetic overlap produces healthier children [source: Minnesota Public Radio]. So being stuck with Cupid's arrow may be as much scientific as it is mythological.
Even the coldest of souls fall in love. Once bitten, whether it's a product of compatible MHC or the release of dopamine, the side effects are undeniable.
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