Picture this. It was a beautiful summer night near the water. He held her close as he gazed into her eyes. She stroked his face before leaning into his kiss. That night, they fell in love. Or did they? While the idea that the couple was destined to fall for each other is enchanting, chances are there are other reasons for human attraction (feelings of falling in love). And some are quite interesting.
As it turns out, the reasons people fall for one another may have less to do with destiny and more to do with biological, psychological, and environmental factors such as attraction, timing, and...owning a dog?
1. Ring by spring. Love forecast.
Is it possible for warm weather (read: springtime) to have an affect on your love life? Some say yes. A recent blog post shared research from neuroscientists who claim that springtime is the best season for a new relationship to bloom. Naturally, as the days get longer, skirts get shorter, meaning not much is left to the imagination in the fashion department. People wear less clothes and thus, sexual attraction/desires increase. Have you ever noticed that more than flowers bloom in the spring? Online dating app, Zoosk, compared data from ten major cities to see how changes in the weather affected their users.
2. Sex, passion, and physical touch.
Listen, you had me at sex. Not that we actually needed science to tell us that sex produces feelings of love, but as it turns out, there actually is science to support this claim. Well, kinda. Our bodies churn out chemical messengers known as pheromones when we are in close proximity to one another. Therefore, physical contact where there is an exchange of bodily fluids such as sweat or saliva is present manufactures these chemicals. Additionally, sex produces oxytocin, commonly referred to as the love hormone during orgasm and replicates feelings of love but is more likely creating an attachment than actual love.
While this may seem obvious, there's actually a more biological reason why kissing increases attraction. Male saliva contains trace amounts of testosterone which can boost the sex drive of a woman. Additionally, evolutionary scientists believe women can detect genetic compounds that are essential for the immune system and will increase their chances of having healthy children. Now if that's not a good reason to spark a makeout session, then I don't know what is.
4. Menstrual cycle (for women).
Did you know that changes in your hormonal levels at different points in your menstrual cycle can trigger certain urges/outcomes? For example, women that are ovulating are rated as being more attractive by men. That's certainly an ego-boost if nothing else, especially when we feel anything but attractive while coping with cramps and excessive water retention. But that's not the only weird side effect of menstruation. A 2012 study found another useful occurrence in women who were strongly bonded to their partner and experienced more intimate physical contact with them during high fertility days of their cycle.
5. The Holy Trinity of Intimacy.
Robert Sternberg's triangular theory of love proposes that love consists of three elements: passion, intimacy, and commitment, with commitment as the foundational basis and passion being the most unstable. Intimacy refers to the closeness between partners with regard to emotional connection, while passion is more aligned with feelings gained through a sexual connection.
The element of commitment is when partners make a decision to "stop looking" for other partners and pursue a relationship with each other. While each component is separate, they can influence each other. For example, having greater intimacy can lead to more commitment and vice versa. Sternberg's theory can be summed up with the idea that a relationship can exist with a combination of any two (or less) elements, but for a consummate love, all three aspects are required.
6. Tug of war.
There's a popular saying that opposites attract, but the Bible says you must be equally yoked. So which one is? Actually, it's both. Communication theorists call this interplay relational dialectics. You can email me to learn more about that, if you're interested, but what it primarily focuses on is how individuals deal with contractions in their relationship. Generally speaking, attraction grows when you have something in common with a person. This can be liking the same type of music or eating similar kinds of food, or it could be something more substantial like having the same values or beliefs.
But relationships also benefit when partners are not too much alike and can offer something new to each other. The most common contradictions in relationships are the dynamics between introverts and extroverts, affectionate and non-affectionate, and clingy versus independent individuals. The key to a successful relationship is to find a happy medium.
People think commitment starts with desire, but it actually begins with necessity. Yes, people commit when you're able to fulfill a need they have. Sometimes it's sexual, emotional, intellectual, even financial. But generally speaking, people stick around when they feel like they have a reason to. I've spoken to hundreds of women who have no problem dating and meeting new men, but when it comes time to take the relationship to the next level and commit to each other, they're left wondering why he walked away.
Experts say there are three things that people consider when deciding to commit to someone: how satisfied they are with their partner or the relationship, the availability of options outside of the relationship, and how much they've already invested into the relationship.
8. Looking like your partner’s parents… Say what, now?
Greek mythology relays the tale of a mythical king, Oedipus, whose tragic demise resulted in him killing his father and marrying his mother. From this tragedy, the world-renown psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud coined "The Oedipus Complex" to describe a child's feelings of desire for his or her opposite-sex parent. Recent studies have latched on to Freud's ideas claiming some folks are attracted to people with similar features as their parents such as skin tone, hair/eye color, and the age range they saw at birth. So if it's any consolation for why your ex's new girlfriend is frumpy-looking like his mom, this might explain why. Sigh.
9. Eye contact.
In 1997, Arthur Aron and a group of psychologists conducted an experiment to see if they could "create" intimacy between couples and ultimately make them fall in love. One study consisted of about 50 strangers, a series of 36 questions followed by a two-minute period of complete silence while looking into each other's eyes. Their experiment resulted in an almost 60 percent success rate with several couples going steady and two successful marriages.
10. If you own a dog.
Several studies have concluded that dogs contribute to social interaction among strangers. A 1992 study by Kelly Ann Rossbach & John P. Wilson showed that the presence of a dog can make a person appear more likable. Research shows that people are more likely to attribute positive characteristics such as being caring, patient, and nurturing to dog-owners. These qualities are commonly cited as reasons people fall in love, thus making them more desirable to date.
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