The Different Forms of Love

Love feels euphoric and magical, which may explain why it’s inspired centuries of art — from songs and poems to novels and movies. But beneath the flushed cheeks, fluttering heart and rushing adrenaline, there’s a complex sequence of hormonal and neurological reactions that heavily influence our behavior.

In the first stage of falling in love, a jumble of chemicals in your brain, including dopamine (pleasure), norepinephrine (alertness) and adrenaline (fight or flight), flood your body. Your cheeks flush, your palms sweat, your heart beats faster — all signs that your brain’s reward circuit has been activated.

As you move into the second stage of love, the dopamine and norepinephrine get replaced with oxytocin and vasopressin, which stimulate feelings of bonding. You feel a deep attachment to your partner and are eager to protect them from harm. You’re also more likely to make long-term commitments, such as getting married.

But what exactly does that mean? While it’s difficult to define, love is usually characterized by the feeling of deep affection for another person. You might feel that kind of love for a close friend, a family member or a romantic partner. But it can be extended to more distant people, such as a beloved pet. Even love for a cause, such as fighting for human rights or protecting the environment, can be deemed as a form of love. For example, when a parent gives up an organ for their child with hemophilia, it’s often referred to as “parental love.” In the end, all forms of love can lead to happiness and improve our health.