The Stages of Love

Dr K K Aggarwal
Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee
President, Heart Care Foundation of India 

When two persons are attracted to each other, a virtual explosion of adrenaline-like neuro-chemicals occurs. PEA or phenyl-ethylamine is a chemical that speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells. Also, involved in chemistry are dopamine and nor-epinephrine, chemical cousins of amphetamines. Dopamine makes one feel good and nor-epinephrine stimulates the production of adrenaline. It makes one’s heart race! These three chemicals combine to give us infatuation or “chemistry.” It is why new lovers feel euphoric and energized, and float on air. They can make love for hours and talk all night. People are likely to seek affairs to fuel their chemical highs. Chocolate is full of phenyl-ethylamine, that chemical cousin of amphetamine and that is one reason it is often used by the new lovers.

When infatuation subsides, a new group of chemicals takes over, which is endorphins. These morphine-like opiates calm and reassure with intimacy, dependability, warmth, and shared experiences. Not as exciting or as stressful as PEA, but steadier and more addictive. This is the stage of Attachment. The longer two people have been married, the more likely it is that they’ll stay married. In part, they become addicted to the endorphins and marital serenity. It is the absence of endorphins that make long-time partners yearn for each other when apart. Absent endorphins also play a part in grief from the death of a spouse? According to Mark Goulston, M.D., professor of psychiatry at theUniversity ofCalifornia atLos Angeles, “Adrenaline-based love is all about ourselves, we like being in love. With endorphins, we like loving.” Falling in love is over; being in love begins.

This chemistry of love from superficial infatuation to deep attachment will have a lot of intermediate states depending on the concentration of respective chemicals.

Using illustrative material from the Vedic tradition, from the poetry of Rumi and Walt Whitman, and from the experiences of couples, Deepak Chopra outlines the seven stages of love — attraction, infatuation, courtship, intimacy, surrender, passion, and ecstasy. However, for better understanding the whole concept can be broken down into five stages: attraction, romance, passion, intimacy, & commitment.

Attraction is an initial positive response to a person beyond friendship. It can be physical attraction or emotional attraction. Physical attraction happens when the body reacts to another person and manifest with rise in heart rate and temperature; sweaty palms; fluttering stomach and tightening in the throat. This is the most superficial of “loves” and represents the first contact. On the other hand emotional attraction develops next if the circumstances are right. If you find you have things in common — hobbies, ideologies, career, education, or some other common ground — then an emotional attraction starts to form. An emotional attraction can also occur even when a physical attraction does not.

Stage 2 is the stage of romance. It is essentially an act of trying to influence others by lavishing attention or gifts upon them. It can be a selfish romance or selfless romance. Selfish Romance is when the aim is to get personal favors and selfless romance involves acts for the enjoyment and pleasure of your partner. You receive your enjoyment and pleasure through their happiness. Selfish romance (& love) will quickly die out. Selfless romance (& love) will endure and lead to the third stage of Passion.

Passion is a desire for another person, which has grown to an intensity that can’t be ignored. This is often where an emotional relationship turns into a physical relationship. The passion stage is very important. It’s a plateau. From here, the relationship will fork into two roads, and the couple must decide which path to take. The relationship will either burn itself out or will move onto the next stage the stage of Intimacy.

Intimacy is a close association with another person of the deepest nature. One share thoughts, feelings and dreams. In true intimacy, there is nothing that one does not share.

The last stage is the stage of Commitment – a pledge to remain true to your mate throughout good and bad times.

Others define euphoria, reaction, adjustment and liking as the four phases of any relationship. You get married you are euphoric, once the honeymoon is over you react with each other, over a period of times you start adjusting with each other and it may take seven years before you start liking each other.