Gayle Brewer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Poets write about it, singers sing about it – and a whole industry has grown up around finding it, expressing it and maintaining it. Those “in love” experience a range of intense feelings, such as intrusive thoughts, emotional dependency and increased energy – though these feelings may be limited to the early phases of the relationship. But the extent to which romantic love is expressed or forms an important part of sexual relationships may vary.
Romantic love, though often difficult to define, includes the development of a strong emotional bond – known as “attachment” – sexual attraction and care giving.
These hormones act on numerous systems within the brain and receptors are present in a number of brain areas associated with romantic love.
In particular, oxytocin and vasporessin interact with the dopaminergic reward system and can stimulate dopamine release by the hypothalamus.
The dopaminergic pathways activated during romantic love create a rewarding pleasurable feeling.
The pathways are also associated with addictive behaviour, consistent with the obsessive behaviour and emotional dependency often observed in the initial stages of romantic love.
They are produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland; and while men and women are both influenced by oxytocin and vasopressin, women are more sensitive to oxytocin and men are more sensitive to vasopressin.
Concentrations of both oxytocin and vasopressin increase during the intense stages of romantic love.
Instead, this man 30 years younger than I screwed up his courage to blurt that he felt attracted to me. Yes, the writer Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, who married the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, took up after his death with a young writer, Ned Field, nearly 40 years younger and wild about her when she was in her 70s (which 100 years ago was the equivalent of today’s 80 or 90).
She was, he wrote, the only woman in the world worth dying for. I didn’t tell him how embarrassed I felt, with wrinkles on my face and liver spots on my hands, so ashamed by my visible signs of aging that I no longer like to look in the mirror.