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Is Love Real or Not? What Science Says

Sophie Simons
January 14, 2024

Are you wondering whether the way you feel about someone is real love or actually isn’t? Or are you wondering whether love really exists at all? As it happens, there’s a lot that studies have to say about it.

What is Love?

Love involves intimacy, commitment, and passion for a person and has a recognizable set of emotions and associated behaviors. When you fall in love with someone, you want to become close to them, have a desire to care for and protect them, and have an attraction towards them.

This isn’t just a physical pull but heavily involves being attracted to their personality and demeanor. Loving a person also makes you want to shower them with your affection while also putting a lot of trust into them, especially since a person you love could easily influence the way you feel. 

Biology or Culture?

Even though we see love stories in movies and TV shows and we talk about it all the time in our day-to-day, love is still not fully understood even by scientists who have researched the topic for years. Love is truly not as understood as we think it is, even by psychologists and neurologists.

In fact, there are several different perspectives on love as a social, historical, and even conceptual topic. The most common debate, however, has to be whether love is a cultural or a biological phenomenon.

Some will believe that love is a natural human emotion that everyone experiences biologically, while others state that love and the associated behaviors and feelings are a by-product of the social and cultural expectations and pressures placed on us.

But even though these two clashing perspectives on love exist, most scientists actually agree that both of them work together. Love IS real, as it’s a biological reaction controlled by the feelings and chemicals in our brain that are also influenced heavily by where and how we live and who we are.

Biologically In Love

Of course, this will beg the question of whether love is real or just emotions made up by your brain. Researchers have even debated whether love is really an emotion or not.

Scientists from different fields will disagree somewhat with the characterization of love as an emotion, with some stating that it isn’t really an emotion but more like a physiological need, such as the need for food, water, and our drive for sleep and sex.

Some research has even likened the feeling of love to being on addictive substances or drugs. However, psychology describes love as a highly complex emotion that is still one experienced by cultures and peoples all over the world, so it is a universal experience akin to happiness, sadness, and anger.

There are also those who make a big distinction between the emotions previously mentioned as ‘primary’ emotions and love as a ‘secondary’ emotion since love is often seen as a mix of a whole slew of different and often contrasting emotions.

Chemical Changes

Some argue that love is really just the chemicals in our brain making us feel fuzzy on the inside. Well, there’s no denying that our brain and not our hearts is the source of love. When we interact with someone we love, a slew of feel-good chemicals such as oxytocin and vasopressin activate the reward centers in our brain.

This results in fewer negative emotions and even decreases social judgment and our ability to assess people’s intentions, as well as increasing feelings of exhilaration and motivation. As such, the signals and receptors in our brains can be manipulated in certain ways. There are even some actual drugs used by individuals to enhance or induce feelings of arousal and intimacy.

Cultural View

Many others, especially sociologists and behavioral scientists, believe that love is simply formed by cultural and societal circumstances. Because most cultures in the West have monogamous unions for couples, some argue that love comes as a result of the expectations that society places on two people to fall in love, get married, and have children.

Who you love even affects your other social relationships, such as your friends and family. Who hasn’t experienced getting a stern warning or a disapproving look about how they were dating? Your culture really has a huge effect on how you view love in all its different forms, how you experience it, and how you show it to significant others.

Some Love Isn’t Real

There are actually many different classifications of love. For example, there’s familial love as well as platonic love for family and close friends. But, according to a theory by Sternberg, there are components that makeup love: namely passion, intimacy, and commitment.

Some types of love don’t have all these components, which makes them a lesser form of true love. For example, ‘liking’ someone includes intimacy without passion or commitment, which is what you’d usually feel towards friends or colleagues.

‘Infatuation’ results from high passion without commitment or intimacy. It’s usually when you have a strong crush on someone you barely know. Many will say they’re ‘in love,’ but this just isn’t true love.

If you’ve only decided to commit to someone without being passionate and intimate, then you’ll have what’s called ‘empty love.’ People in these kinds of relationships often stay out of some kind of obligation, and they feel stuck.

What’s Real and Isn’t

If you’re already feeling a certain way for a person, there are ways to know that it’s genuine love. First off, you really can’t make someone else love you or force yourself to love someone, no matter how hard you try. You also can’t help yourself if you start developing strong feelings, even if you feel you don’t like the person at all.

Second, even if you love someone, you still understand they have flaws and call them out when they’ve done something wrong, rather than keeping quiet because you don’t want to start an argument.

Finally, you’ve gotta get your goals in order and communicate with your partner. While you can’t love someone without feelings, none of it works if you aren’t moving forward hand in hand to make things work out. Life involves lots of trials and tribulations, and love isn’t any different.

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Sophie Simons

Sophie Simons

Sophie Simons is a leading psychologist with a passion for enriching relationships. Through empathetic counseling and insightful guidance, she empowers couples and individuals to foster deeper connections, resolve conflicts, and create lasting harmony. Sophie's expertise in relationship advice has touched countless lives, making her a trusted source for building fulfilling partnerships.

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