How do you know when you're in love? So this is what all the hype’s about! I was glowing. I was
infatuated. I was walking on air. I was more alive than ever. At 28, I
was helplessly, hopelessly falling in love for the very first time.
Sure, I had had my fair share of teen and twenty-something crushes up to
that point, but those were nothing like this.
With the man of my dreams equally smitten, I was suddenly
finding myself in the throes of one of the most exhilarating,
significant and emotionally intense experiences of my life. If you’re
lucky, you can relate.
Often likened to having a mental illness or drug dependency,
romantic love is in many cases unplanned, inconvenient, involuntary and
In trying to make sense of the seemingly uncontrollable, the
Romans believed that Cupid, the naughty angel, randomly shot his arrow
at unsuspecting victims. The little bugger had gotten me all right,
unexpectedly impacting my focus in the midst of my pursuit of a
Deliciously delirious with love’s intoxicating effects, I
realized that this temporary state of insanity was actually invaluable
in my sexuality studies. I could finally fully respond to a question
often asked by my students and Web site visitors: How do you know when
you’re truly falling in love?
It's a question that is probably on the minds of many people with Valentine's Day just days away.
As brilliantly described in Dr. Helen Fisher’s “Why We Love,” here's how you know when you’re love-struck:
You’re suddenly shy, at least initially. Even
the most confident can feel timid, anxious, awkward, and even fearful
around a crush. You may turn pale, flush, tremble, stammer, sweat, feel
dizzy, breathe faster, get weak in the knees and have “butterflies in
your stomach.” While such symptoms are flu-like, you’ve been struck with
no more than a love bug.
You’re suddenly manic. You may have lost your
appetite or find yourself sleepless, yet feeling totally energized,
even hyperactive. Know that you have your brain to blame. Elevated
concentrations of dopamine, and its chemical derivative norepinephrine,
are basically hijacking your brain, lowering your serotonin levels.
These neuron-transmitters, known as monoamines, are what make us feel
loopy with love.
You’re obsessed. Your “love object” has taken
on what psychologists call a “special meaning.” This sweetie has become
unique, novel, and all-important — the center of your universe. You are
infatuated, focusing your energy and passion on every little thing
associated with your honey.
Elevated levels of dopamine in your brain make for more
focused attention and motivation in directing and attaining your amour
goals. You are consumed with “intrusive thinking,” fantasizing and
daydreaming constantly about your beloved. One survey found that the
love-obsessed reported thinking of their beloved for more than 85
percent of their waking hours. Not surprisingly, couples can describe
how they fell in love with each other years later.
You’ve changed. You may find that you’re
revamping yourself. Between your clothing style, mannerisms, habits, and
even values, you’re willing to do almost anything and everything to win
your loved one’s affections.
You’re on the ride of your life. Until the
relationship offers security, you may feel like you’re on a roller
coaster. When things are good, you’re on “cloud 9.” But if a loved one
is unresponsive right away, indicates something negative, seems
indifferent ... basically, does anything to rattle you, you may feel
despair, depressed, rage, mopey and listless until the situation is
resolved. In Fisher’s survey, 79 percent of men and 83 percent of women
reported dissecting an adored one’s actions.
You’re sporting rose-colored glasses these days.
Passion makes for perfect. While the love-struck can name faults their
love object has, unlike the rest of us, they see these defects as
charming and endearing. Love is blind. And you are willing to go to
great lengths to make sure that the illusion you’ve created remains
You have no desire for anyone else. You want
sexual and emotional union with your one and only. Yet while lust — the
craving for sexual gratification — is a major player in your passion
pursuits — the desire for sex and monogamy are less important than the
desire for an emotional union. Men and women ache to have their love
returned more than anything.
Believe it or not, it seems that Mother Nature wanted to
bestow all of the aforementioned on us during the attraction stage of
coupledom. Lust is said to have evolved to motivate humans to seek
sexual relations with almost any semi-appropriate partner. Romantic
love, however, helps us to focus our mating attention on a specific
person, helping us to conserve our energy and time with one courtship.
Feelings of attachment, and its components of peace, calm and security,
then take over for the long haul. With many arguing that this passionate
state of affairs lasts no more than two years, be sure to enjoy this
love drug while it lasts!
In the Know, Sex News …
— Government promotes sexual well-being. Britain’s NHS has
added “sexercise” as a means to better health. With the NHS Direct Web
site citing a lowered risk of heart attack and longer life span as
incentives, one has to wonder which other governments will follow suit.
— Unimpressive efforts in Illinois. An article in Obstetrics
& Gynecology has found that nearly one in three sex education
teachers in Illinois public schools are not trained for such
instruction. Furthermore, the state’s school-based sex education focused
the most attention on HIV/AIDS, STDs, and abstinence-until-marriage.
The least frequently taught topics included emergency contraception,
sexual orientation, and condoms and other contraceptives.
— African youth need information. According to the African
Journal of Reproductive Health, new survey data on 12- to 14-year-olds
in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, and
Uganda found that they are already
sexually active. While the youth were aware of pregnancy and HIV, the
youth had little in-depth knowledge about either. Researchers are
recommending school-based sex education as a promising avenue for
equipping young people with the information they need.
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Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."