why do we fall in love?
Updated: Feb 9
Je t’aime, te amo, saranghae, naan unnai kadalik ki rein, mujhe tumse mohobbat hai.
So many ways to say I love you. One emotion to rule them all - love has started wars, uplifted, and destroyed. It has the power to pour water over all your plans, or it can build where there was nothing before. We love love but sometimes we hate it! But what is it about this emotion that makes even the greatest kings and queens fall? Today we briefly explore the origins of Valentine's Day, our first interaction with love as babies, and the chemicals responsible for those nervous exciting feelings.
Valentine's Day is not too far off, and because of this festival, February is known as the month of love. Celebrated in honour of one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine, this festival has gone global. There is no single story behind Valentine's Day, rather there are a few folk tales - from a pagan festival called Lupercalia where women were whipped with the skin and blood of an animal sacrifice, to celebrating a defiant Father Valentine who would marry young lovers in secret against the wishes the Emperor Claudius II.
Today, the festival is celebrated worldwide and is highly commercialised much to the delight of many businesses. In 2022 in the US alone, the planned Valentine's Day spending was expected to reach an estimated 24 billion dollars. But what is it about love that makes us lose all spending sense?
The one (or two!) people that set the stage for how we pursue and give love in our lives are our parents. Psychologist Dr Beverly Palmer claims, "We are born as helpless infants, dependent on our parent to fulfill our needs. Love, then, becomes need fulfillment and we seek this same love out as adults."
She goes on to explain that when children feel protected and nurtured by their parents, their need for emotional nurturing is fulfilled, and because their cup is full so to speak, they are able to pour love back to the parents in return.
What you have learned about love from your parents, or what you are knowingly or unknowingly teaching your children about love, will eventually determine how they will love others, and how you love as an adult. Palmer also said, "If your parents fulfilled your need to be emotionally nurtured by giving you love, you then developed into an adult who has love to give. But if your emotional needs were not nurtured, you did not fully develop and instead became a demanding and anxious adult still seeking the love you missed as a child."
Let me pause for a moment and say this - even if you experience neglect, abuse or came from a non-loving, it does not - I repeat, does not mean that you are not capable of love. It just means, you have an opportunity to learn and resolve these knots from your past, so you can both receive and give the kind of love that every human being deserves.
Continuing on this, Palmer also mentioned that, "In order to find love, we must first be able to give love, and we must have this love to give within ourselves. When you feel lovable you project that out and other people notice," she continued that if someone doesn’t feel worthy of love, this lack of confidence will be felt by those around them.
Bottom line is this - do you like yourself? Would you want to spend time with you, and do you honestly love yourself, or are you self-sabotaging and abusing yourself without realising, and hoping someone or something will fix it?
Years ago, a teacher did an exercise with us (likely in Civics class or something), and she asked us to list all the qualities we want in a partner. A typhoon of qualities filled the whiteboard - honest, loyal, responsible, caring, affectionate, funny, calm, etc. Once we were done, she turned to us and asked, "How many of these qualities can you fulfil?"
It’s a very humbling exercise, and sometimes it’s also good to see if the other person is matching what you bring to the table. Maybe you’re being taken for granted, and you deserve more joy.
If you need time to put yourself back together like Humpty Dumpty, or build back the pieces of your heart, then do that. People always say, we should work on ourselves, but that irritates me. Leave work for work - YOU shouldn’t be work. Instead, create yourself, enjoy yourself because when you’re enjoying it or working towards being someone that you love, it will give you the drive you need to get through the challenges you will face on the way.
It’s not easy but you have to believe that you are lovable and you deserve that love, and that you are willing and emotionally available to be vulnerable to also share and give it to someone.
Relationship expert Kevin Darne claims that your someone should have the same values and aspirations as you do. While the term "opposites attract" is very popular, it’s not very effective. There may be cases that work out, but generally speaking, opposites may temporarily excite but not necessarily sustain.
The excitement at the beginning stages of lust and attraction is due to chemicals in the brain - noradrenaline that stimulates adrenaline production causing your palms to sweat and your heart to race; dopamine, the feel-good chemical; and phenylethylamine that gives us our butterflies in the tummies. Our more commonly known hormones of testosterone and oestrogen also play a role, both hormones which are also found in all mammals on this planet.
The third stage is where the excitement takes a backseat, and you begin to feel bonded and comfortable with this person, and start considering long term plans.
In today’s world, love may not be the same and partners may not be as devoted as previous generations, but it also doesn’t change the fact that while many of us may not need someone, but we do want someone to share a life with, have as a companion and to love.
All the science can explain the origins of love in our brains and bodies, but it doesn’t always explain why some couples never fall out of love even after 50 years together. Or why some people “just know” in their gut that he or she is the one, and why even in their first meeting, they feel like they’ve known each other forever.
Love can be a tricky thing, but when it’s with the right person, there are no tricks. And before loving others and expecting others to love you, ask yourself honestly, do you love yourself? Or are you coming from a place of lack, expecting others to fill your cup when only you can fill it for yourself?