Why We Love delivers a scientific explanation for love, shows you how it developed historically and evolutionarily, tells you what we’re all attracted to and where we differ, and of course gives you actionable advice to deal with both the exciting, successful romance in your life, as well as its sometimes inevitable fallout.
Isn’t it funny? Love is one of, if not the most crucial part of a happy life, yet we learn nothing about it in school, aren’t taught anything about it in college (unless you study biology or anthropology, maybe), and hardly pick up a book to teach ourselves – love books don’t perform nearly as well as other self-help books.
Today, we’ll change that. You’ll learn something from the most referenced scholar in the love department. Her name is Dr. Helen Fisher and she’s been researching what makes us fall in and out of love for 40+ years.
Why We Love explains the most complex thing in the world from a biological, historical, evolutionary and of course practical standpoint, making it one of the prime books on love.
Here are 3 lessons to help you win the race for romance:
Love is a chemical thing, mostly based on three hormones.
We’re all attracted to mystery, symmetry and difference.
You have your own unique love map, which helps you find your ideal partner.
Dying for some dopamine? Let’s boot the love system!
Lesson 1: Three hormones are responsible for the majority of your love feelings.
For centuries people have sought the source of love. People have looked to the stars, magic powers and mystical oracles, but for a few decades we’ve known what’s really behind the most complex feeling of them all: chemistry.
Depending on which neurotransmitters and hormones are released in your brain in certain situations, you experience love – or not.
Helen Fisher has identified three primary neurotransmitters, which make you fall in love: dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
You’re probably familiar with dopamine – it’s what makes you happy. When you’re waiting in line at the coffee shop and your favorite song comes on in the radio, which suddenly makes you tap your foot and hum along, that’s dopamine at work. It’s one of the most powerful mood changers, as it controls your attention, motivation and has addictive capacities. In fact, the response your body shows when you’re with the one you love is not that different from taking a drug like cocaine – no wonder love drives us crazy, huh?
Norepinephrine makes you feel thrilled, excited and constantly “on”. You know, those butterflies in your stomach or when you can hear your heart beating in your chest. It’s also what causes you sleepless nights and makes you lose your appetite (I remember falling so hard for a girl once, that I ate almost nothing for a week – my family thought I was sick haha).
Serotonin then completes the bunch as it makes you feel restless, so you pace back and forth in your room, while your beloved does the same in your head, as you can’t stop thinking about them. However, when this happens your level of serotonin aren’t higher, they’re lower than usual.
Lesson 2: We’re all attracted to people who are mysterious, different and visually symmetric.
So what triggers the release of these three hormones? Three things we’re all attracted to, no matter our gender or personal preferences, are mystery, difference and symmetry.
Mystery triggers your curiosity and ancient instincts to maximize variety in your life (just as with food), because experiencing something new always releases dopamine.
Difference makes sure our offspring stays healthy, as mixing DNAs with a big difference creates a healthier, more balanced DNA in our children, which puts them at less risk of getting sick.
Symmetry speaks to the eye, because when we look at symmetric bodies and faces, which are considered to be more beautiful, more dopamine is released in our brain.
But in the end, we don’t all go for the same types of people, so where do we differ in our quest for love?
Lesson 3: You have your own unique love map, which helps you find your ideal partner.
Helen Fisher calls it a love map. It’s a set of characteristics, both physical and non-physical, like eye color, hair style, height, pitch of voice, kindness, motivation, and so on.
Combined, these make up your ultimate partner, the person you find most attractive. This love map is developed over time and it gets more and more refined as you get older and learn more about yourself and how you love. It unconsciously guides you, for example when you enter a crowded room, and instinctively tells you who you’re attracted to and who not.
Your love map is absolutely unique to you, and no two people have the same, which was found when observing identical twins. Even though they usually have very similar values and interests, their tastes in love are often completely different.
Note: As a fun exercise, try to write down everything you think is on your love map. You’ll be surprised at how specific the idea of your perfect partner is, that you have in your head already. It’s good to get these things out and become aware of what you’re looking for.
My personal take-aways
This book doesn’t break love down to an exact science, and that’s a good thing. It educates you. It expands your knowledge in love and once you close it and put it down, that slowly seeps in. I believe this book has a very strong, but subtle power to influence your unconscious in a way that’ll make you behave more aligned with your love map.
No one learns enough about love, I’d actually suggest this to you before a whole bunch of other books on success, productivity, or finance.