No love lost.

The Neuroscience of the Honeymoon Phase.

Ah, young love. Tingles. Butterflies. Fireworks. The beginnings of falling in love are truly a sight. A delicious sickness.

Yet it suddenly seems like everything...stops? They no longer seem infallible. We no longer feel those dire palpitations. And had they always had that slightly annoying sock-getting-strewn-in-the-bedroom habit?

The honeymoon phase is a recognised state of mind, also known as limerence.

But how does it actually happen, why does it stop and what can we do about it?

Love on the brain

The honeymoon phase can actually be traced back to the brain, thanks to novelty and chemistry. And with some more thanks to these fellas, some important chemicals are released. Dopamine (remember this guy?), adrenaline and norepinephrine are some of them. Well, that explains the high.

In a study done, higher levels of these substances were found. But it was also noted that certain pleasure areas of the brain were lit up as there’s an increase in the blood flow to them.

“The honeymoon phase is special in that it brings together the relief of reciprocated love with the excitement of a future still to be created.” - Esther Perel

Clearly Rihanna was on to something. It really must have been love on the brain.

The beginning of the end?

But as with all things, good or otherwise, there comes an end.

And so, the honeymoon phase ends.

“But the honeymoon phase can be often revitalised with one word: effort. As it was in the beginning, perhaps so should it continue to be? We started off making the effort.” - Anon

Yet, is that such a bad thing?

Because while it would be nice to live with butterflies all day (will it though?), we would never be productive, never get anything useful done. Other than make heart eyes all day. But the end of this phase doesn’t signal the end of love as we know it (although it does for some people who say they’ve “fallen out of love”).

This will eventually give way to oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” (previously mentioned here). This essentially allows attachment and settling into a deeper and perhaps, more mature love.

At the end of the day, the truth is that love goes through a series of phases, each one equally important to its solidification. Chemistry gives way to attraction which then gives way to attachment. It’s why when you tell someone “well, just leave him!”, it’s simply not that straightforward. 

So I guess all we can do is enjoy the rollercoaster! And hope to not puke!

Anyhoo, who knew love was so complex? Right. Yes. Literally all of us.

NB: I’m aware we’ve barely scratched the surface here, so there’s more to come in the later weeks.

See you next week!